Sonia's advice to minsters for shedding discretionary powers
Pawan Kumar Bansal | 05 Jan 2011

An open letter to UPA Chief Sonia Gandhi congratulating her on asking Chief Minsters to shed discretionary powers in allotment of land.

I READ your speech made at the opening day of Congress Party’s two-day plenary session held at Burari situated on outskirts of national capital asking all party CMs and ministers at both the Centre and states to set an example by reviewing and relinquishing all discretionary powers, particularly in land allocation. You deserve a thank you for this. This will definitely be a step towards checking corruption which is eating up our economy.

Discretion of any sort breeds favouritism, corruption and nepotism. You will be doing a great service to the country if you ensure that your call is implemented in its letter and spirit at least by CMs and ministers of your party. You can easily ensure this as nobody will dare to disobey your call. Chief Ministers of non-congress states and Union Ministers belonging to coalition partners should also follow suit. NGOs, citizens and media should launch a campaign for this purpose. Although it a is a million-dollar question whether the UPA partners will set up example by relinquishing their discretionary powers at a time when Sharad Pawar openly defends controversial Lavasa project describing the project close to his heart and coming out with the argument in their favour that they have already sold thousands of flats and tainted and now ousted Telecom Minister A Raja using his discretionary power in allotting spectrum despite objections by the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh.
Even if the Union Ministers and Chief Ministers belonging to Congress party follow Sonia Gandhi’s call others will also have to follow sooner or later as public pressure will mount on them.
Controversies regarding discretionary powers in the matter of allotting land, flats and plots have been hitting the media headlines lately. The word discretionary itself means that powers given under this scheme will be used to oblige favorites. Successive Chief Ministers of Maharashtra have been using their powers for allotment of flats to their near and dear ones. Discretion was used in case of Adarsh Society scam which is a glaring example of politician-officers and land mafia nexus. Haryana hit the media headlines three decades back when then Chief Minster Bhajan Lal had allotted thousands of residential plots carved from the government-owned Haryana Urban Development Authority to journalists, High Court Judges, IAS and IPS officers and even the employees of All India Congress Committee. His successor CMs have also used these powers to oblige their close associates. Even when the matter reached to apex court it has asked for making some guidelines.

Former Army Chief Deepak Kapur also got residential plot at Gurgaon from his Kunjpura school days friend Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Hooda has justified his action on the ground that Kapur is son of soil further adding that he will not mind allotting plot to present Army Chief, who also belongs to Haryana, if he demands. Sonia madam, you have rightly stated that corruption will not be tolerated. You have rightly advocated fast-tracking of corruption cases involving government officers and transparency in pubic procurements and contracts .You should also ensure civil reforms. The Bihar Special Courts Act which provides confiscation of property of those accused of corruption should be followed in other states also.