Despite the tall claims by PM Narendra Modi about maintaining transparency, further added by a separate section on “Quest for Transparency” on PMO website, and “Transparency as the Mool Mantra of Modi 2.0” on Narendra Modi’s personal website, all what has been questioned most in the past 6 years of Narendra Modi government is transparency.
Since the initial days of Modi 1.0, various questions have been raised over the transparency and accountability of the BJP government. Since the time, the government came to power with historic majority, the quest for more power. The, then outgoing CJI RM Lodha made a staunch comment on the government over the lack of transparency in the appointment procedure for Vigilance and Chief Vigilance Officer when the government introduced the bill for National Judicial Appointment System instead of prevailing judicial system.
From that day to the Rafale deal and now to current situation on Ladakh and health ministry working with Corona pandemic, the government has been questioned a lot many times than ever over the lack of transparency and accountability.
During the campaign of 2014 Loksabha elections, Narendra Modi and cornered UPA government for corruption charges, but nothing much has changed in the coming years. India had been the biggest under-performer on Corruption Index in the Asia Pacific Region as per the reports by Berlin-based Transparency International.
Much emphasis was given by the central government over digital payments quoting that it will increase the transparency level among various transactions and will help in fighting against black money, but instead instrumented electoral bonds, later termed as instruments for opaque political money laundering.
There have been serious allegations of political interference in data estimations to suppress unfavourable statistics and reports. There has been controversy about the revision of gross domestic product (GDP) numbers, which have been questioned by various international agencies as well, including IMF and suppression of the NSSO data on jobs, which led to resignation of the acting chairman and another member of the National Statistical Commission (NSC).
Despite the previous government being alleged for corruption charges, it introduced a landmark act of RTI, an act dedicated to improve the level of transparency in the governance, aiming to undo the culture of bureaucratic secrecy encouraged by the colonial Official Secrets Act of 1923. The current government not only denied information on various fronts including the current PM-CARES under RTI, every effort has been made by the government to dilute the law.
Many claims have been put forward regarding direct money transfer under the welfare schemes like Ujjwala, MGNREGA, housing for all etc, but many allegations surfaced regarding Ujjwala scheme during corona lockdown as per the reports by News-18 group.
Similar incidents have been reported for MGNREGA as well where people who have already died have been put on the muster roll in the portal, which claims to make the system more “transparent”.
Similar concerns have been raised even during the time of health emergency. Not only questions have been raised on testing on international passengers over the tall claims as made by PM himself during his addresses to the nation during lockdown, the prices at which ICMR purchased rapid testing kits were also questioned. Adding to the tragedy, health ministry and ICMR stopped daily media briefing on corona after the fiasco of testing kits from China.
Digital India needs to be redesigned in such a way that a lame individual could access the information whatever he seeks as per the needs. The problem is not capacity – it is intent.