Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Ex-BJP chief minister: Why is Gujarat govt afraid of releasing findings of inquiry into corruption under Modi?

Suresh Mehta
By Our Representative
Amidst fresh charges of misappropriation flying high against Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel over giving away land off Gir lions sanctuary in Junagarh at throw away price to partners of her daughter, Gujarat's civil society groups have put up a strong demand to make public findings of the MB Shah Commission, set up in 2011 to investigate into allegations of 14 corruption cases involving state government officials and ministers.
The decision to set up the Commission was taken by the then chief minister Narendra Modi following a Gujarat Congress representation to the President of India to inquire into allocation of land at a highly subsidized rate to industrial groups such as Adanis, Essar and Tata, apart from several scams related animal fodder, supply of fortified flour to anganwadis, oil-and-gas exploration by the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation, and construction of Sujalam Sufalam recharge canal in North Gujarat.
The MB Shah Commission handed over its Interim Report to the state government on September 27, 2012, and  final report on November 6, 2013. The only official statement so far on the findings of the report is by Cabinet spokesperson Jaynarayan Vyas, who said on September 27, 2012 – the day electoral code of conduct came into force for the assembly polls of December 2012 – that the Commission had given “clean chit to the Modi government."
Addressing media on Tuesday, former BJP chief minister Suresh Mehta, who backed the civil society groups’ demand, said, even today “nobody knows whether final report of the MB Shah Commission has been placed before the Gujarat Cabinet.” 
Others who addressed the media to demand release of the report included Gautam Thaker, General Secretary, Citizens for Democracy; Prakash Shah, President, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Gujarat; Mahesh Pandya of Gujarat Social Watch; and Hemantkumar Shah, who teaches economics in a Gujarat University-affiliated college.
Media persons were informed, several Right to Information (RTI) pleas for making the report public were rejected on the ground that, under the Commission of Inquiries Act, it should first be placed in the state assembly after being approved by the Cabinet. 
While the state government maintained that the report was “lying with the Raj Bhawan”, one reason why it was not being made public, in reply to a RTI plea, the Raj Bhawan said, the report is not with the Governor, but with the General Administrative Department of the state government.
“We don’t even today know where the report is”, Mehta said, adding, “This is not the only report which the state government is refusing to make public. There are in all five inquiry commission reports, lying idle with the state government, one of them being the final report of the Nanavati-Shah Commission, set up in 2002 to inquire into the Gujarat riots.”
Answering a query on what purpose it would serve to make public the report as it is unofficially learnt there is “there is nothing in it", Mehta said, “The MB Shah Commission cannot hope to give clean chit to the state government on handing over cheap land to industrial houses, because everything is on record. Similarly, facts on Sujalam Sufalam recharge canal scam are on record.” Added Pandya, “Shockingly,the Congress, too, is refusing to make it an issue.”

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