September 24, 2020
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Open Letter

Some Questions For The Home Minister

Sir, why do you suddenly seem to be the greatest opponent of the Jan Lokpal bill?

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Some Questions For The Home Minister

Dear Shri Chidambaram,

Your interview on Doordarshan to justify the brutal crackdown at Ramlila maidan —timed to perfection with Anna's fast at Rajghat —raised more questions than it answered. Sir, why do you suddenly seem to be the greatest opponent of the Jan Lokpal bill?

Why is it that you, more than anyone else in the government, appear so desperate as to have allowed attacking peaceful fasting people in the dead of the night?

Is it because, as is being widely suggested and perceived, you are worried that the Jan Lokpal would affect your political career?

There have been allegations that the finance ministry, under your watch, is responsible for allowing not only the generation of the largest amount of black money, but also guilty of the fact that it was generated through corruption.

The loss to the exchequer during your tenure, as you are undoubtedly aware, has been tentatively pegged at over rupees two lakh crores divided equally between the 2G scam and the iron ore scam. Sir, is it for this reason that you are being perceived as the greatest opponent of Jan Lokpal?

Prima facie, there seems to be a huge conflict of interest in your continuation on the Lokpal panel and the eradication of corruption through an independent Lokpal as envisaged in the Jan Lokpal bil as would be clear from some of the following questions that keep surfacing:

  • Is it not true that Essar were paid Rs 1700 crores by Hutch for the purpose of getting the government clearance from FIPB (under finance ministry) for the Hutch Vodafone deal by a particular date?
  • Was it a coincidence that the government gave the clearance within the time stipulated by Hutch, despite Hutch violating the foreign investment ceiling norms, and forgot to collect Rs10,000 crores of income tax before giving the clearance?
  • Is it not true that you as finance minister failed to ensure that the pricing of spectrum/ license took place at market determined price through a cabinet decision and not be left to the corrupt ministers of the DMK?
  • Can the polite letters written at the time absolve you of the guilt of the loss of around Rs 80,000 crores (pan India spectrum price calculated at Rs10,000 crores, the price at which they were sold) caused by M/s Raja and Maran? How could you have allowed M/s Maran and Raja to sell the pan India spectrum/license for Rs1600 crores in 2007 and 2008, when Vodafone bought Hutch shares for a valuation of Rs 75,000 crores announced in Feb 2007? Can you claim to be so ignorant of the law and valuation so as to allow the deal to take place? Did you, Sir, take any steps to protect public interest and public revenue?
  • Did you not, instead, choose to look the other way knowing fully well that the black money will help DMK and the Congress win the election and bring them back to power?

In fact, Sir, apart from the above questions on the 2G scam, are you not disturbed by the questions that keep cropping up about your electoral victory during the last Lok Sabha? The petition pending in the High Court challenging your election will probably not be decided till your tenure as a MP and Minister is over, but when you question the representativeness of the civil-society members on the panel, do you ever pause to think about the question marks over your own? When you talk about the supremacy of Parliament, would you concede, Sir, that in such circumstances, perhaps your own right is, at the least, questionable?

Sir, would you not agree that the if the Jan Lokpal Bill Draft (that you seem so committed to bury) were to be in operation, your continuation in the cabinet would have become untenable? Would you not concede that an independent CBI, as envisaged under the Draft, would have at least treated you as culpable as M/s Maran and Raja?

Now, Sir, let me remind you of some of the questions about the iron ore scam:

  • Is it not true that during your watch as finance minister for four and a half years, corporates raked in profits of over Rs 2,00,000 crore through legal and illegal mining, mostly in the iron ore sector? How was this profit shared?
  • Is it not true that the mining royalty is to be revised every three years as per section 8 of MMDR Act? Is it not correct that it came up for revision in Oct 2004 but was deliberately was low and fixed and not ad valorem? Why was this done when profits in the mining of iron ore had soared manifold and were giving a 50% return? Why did it remain at a ridiculous Rs 7 to Rs 27 per tonne (depending on the type and grade of iron ore) with the average of around Rs 15 per tonne. This royalty was neither made ad valorem nor was it revised from year 2000 onwards when the international price of iron ore rose to dizzying levels. Not just that, will you please explain why you did again not revise the royalty in October 2007 by when the rate of iron ore had doubled in three intervening years and profit was 80%? Why did you just not revise the royalty as long as you remained the finance Minster?
  • Would you agree that an independent investigation under the Lokpal could investigate the sales record of the iron ore miners to show that they were grossly under invoicing the sale price and under reporting the profits? Would you agree that huge amount of black money was generated and salted away? Would you think it would be a fit case to conclude that there were pay offs for not imposing export duty? Or that even when imposed, the duty was negligible?
  • Have you not served on the Board of Vedanta and been a corporate lawyer and a tax expert? Could you therefore argue that you were you ignorant of the stupendous profits being made by the mining industry?

Sir, there are some other persistent questions as well:

  • Would you agree that you were the common factor in the leak of Justicre Pathak Inquiry Committee report and Justice Liberhans report?
  • We all remember how Mr Natwar Singh was made the fall guy and made to pay for his role in the Oil for Food programme. But is it correct, as has been alleged, Sir, that you deliberately did not refer the three contacts (M9/35, M10/17 and M11/25) of Reliance to Pathak Committee which were obtained by paying bribes? Likewise, Sir, did you go out of your speech in Parliament to shield Mr Mukesh Ambani?
  • Why have we still not heard satisfactory answers to the killing of Azad, a Naxalite, and Pandey, an innocent journalist?
  • And of course there are disturbing questions in the wake of dirty tricks to defame the former law minister and the co-chairman of the drafting committee, Mr Shanti Bhushan. Sir, a fake CD was certified as true and its report leaked. But a report which certified the same CD as fake was not revealed. Sir, will you be willing to subject yourself to an investigation on any role you may have played in this? Sir, would you agree that the CD did not need any examination because it contained snippets of a conversation which were already in a different CD inolving a different conversation, in possession of the Court?
  • Sir, despite your elaborate interview to Doordarshan yesterday, even if we believe all your claims, why was it necessary to swoop down on sleeping followers of Baba Ramdev so brutally? Whether or not the whole campaign was an RSS-conspiracy, why not at least treat them as other citizens, deserving of all the rights? Do they not have the right to protest peacefully? Why not give enough notice and make them leave peacefully? Is it also true that there was an advisory issued to the electronic media not to cover Anna’s fast at Rajghat on June 8?
  • Sir, you have often asked the Maoists to abjure violence and express dissent peacefully. Do you think that the brutal crackdown on Ramlila ground sends the right message to the Maoists or all those who wish to protest peacefully?

Sir, after all this, you still think that you have the moral right to lecture the nation on corruption and democracy?

In the interests of fairness, Sir, why don't you step down from the Lokpal Bill panel to allay concerns that your conflict of interest may be causing a negative public perception?

Yours sincerely,

A.K. Agrawal

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