‘Mr C & AG, where is the Rs 1.76 lakh crore?’
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This question was asked on television last week by Manish Tewari and he spoke for many people including this columnist.
Ever since the grand auction of 2G Spectrum brought in less than Rs 9,407 crore, instead of the thousands of crore rupees that the government was dreaming of, I have heard the question asked a lot. And, especially in Mumbai by stockbrokers and businessmen as they worshipped the Goddess Lakshmi in the hope that she would smile again upon the stock market.
There should have been an answer from Mr Vinod CAG Rai. But, the man whose vanity and reckless arithmetic have made him the most famous Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) ever, did a vanishing trick. Where are you now, Mr CAG? It is time for you to come forward and take responsibility for your role in harming the Indian economy.
When Kapil Sibal said, soon after the hysteria began, that the figures in the CAG report of losses from the sale of 2G airwaves were notional, he was sneered at by media pundits. It was at the height of Shri Hazare's anti-corruption movement and people were prepared to believe any old rubbish. When a handful of more sceptical analysts (including your humble columnist) tried pointing out that the CAG report seemed to be based on an imaginary idea of losses, the response was vicious abuse.
To this day my mailbox fills up daily with people who shriek hysterically about how my bills are paid by big corporate houses. One of the responses to my most recent column went so far as to declare me 'DEAD'. This was for daring to suggest that the crusaders against corruption had gone too far and were harming instead of helping their cause. Not even in the days when I crossed kirpans with Sant Jarnail Singh himself have I got the kind of hate mail I have received for saying that the figures I have read in CAG reports make no sense to me. I am willing to bet, by the way, that when coal blocks are auctioned, in accordance with the policy laid down by CAG, we are likely to discover the same imaginary losses.