Speaking for the first time after the 2G spectrum note controversy blew up in the face of the UPA government, the PM has effectively called for a dilution of the RTI act.
“I think we need to remember here that a point of view brought under public scrutiny and discussion in an isolated manner may sometimes present a distorted or incomplete picture of what really happened in the processes of making the final decisions,” he said at the sixth annual convention of information commissioners in the capital.
The thing, according to Singh had been presented out of context. He went on to make other points against the RTI, it hampers the government from working effectively for one:
“A situation in which a public authority is flooded with requests for information having no bearing on public interest is something not desirable. We must, therefore, pool all our wisdom, our knowledge, and our experience to come to a conclusion on how to deal with vexatious demands for information, without at the same time hindering the flow of information to those whose demands serve public interest,” he said.
He was also worried about the privacy issues involved. “This assumes added significance in the context of an increasing number of projects being taken up in Public Private Partnership mode… I hope the discussions (at the conference) would also cover the commitment and the responsibility of private sector companies for the dissemination of certain basic information related to their operations,” said Singh.
Exposing the government’s duplicity, or inefficiency, or its downright fraud, according to Singh is something that actually may hamper the work of the diligent public servant. To his eyes the solution does not lie in making the bureaucracy more efficient, or the government more honest, it lies in curtailing the exposure of such misdeeds.
Sweep it under the carpet, says the Prime Minister, and everything looks clean and tidy. One must remember of course that he was speaking in the context of the 2G note controversy. The note had exposed that P Chidambaram was in the loop for the pricing of the spectrum.
Which of course he must have been, and like any good cabinet minister who has to do business with nasty colleagues (I am assuming the best case scenario for Chidambaram here, and that may not have been the case) had looked the other way. The PM tried getting Raja out, but had to give in given coalition politics. We know how these things work, but the occasional exposure is a good thing because it ends up getting the bad guys out, right?
Sometimes there is a price to pay, in the form of a Chidambaram, but the way forward is to pay it, and get on with politics. Because of course the government can’t up and say, that the 2G is part of the payoff for DMK support, which of course we wouldn’t know otherwise.
But why did Singh have to bad mouth a revolutionary tool because it had brought into daylight the creeping cockroaches beneath the carpet? That is going a bit too far. That is taking the defense of the indefensible a little too seriously. That is almost as if Singh actually believed all that he is saying. Which is very, very sad, and ironic. Singh is essentially a clean politician, who was earlier having to defend the corrupt ones under duress, but now he seems to have started taking the task seriously.
When we pick leaders we often choose those we feel would be able to change the way government works. Perhaps what we should instead look for people who would not be changed by government. The last five years have given as at least two examples of honest upright men who came to power with the object of bringing about transformative change, but were unable to resist the pressures of governing. One is President Obama, and the other is our own PM Manmohan Singh. With his statement the PM has now effectively completed the transition to another cog of the political machine.