Prime Minister rendra Modi’s latest mantra is: Be swachh first if you want to be smart. This is in the context of the different criteria set for identifying the 20 cities that will receive funds from the Centre under the Smart Cities Mission from this fiscal year that were announced on Thursday. There are marks to be allotted under 13 criteria (given in brackets) that will go towards the selection of the 20 cities to be recognized as the smart cities. Some of these criteria are: number of sanitary latrines under the Swachh Bharat programme (10); percentage of revenue spent on capital expenditure in 2014-15 (10); revenue collection (10); interl revenue collected as percentage of municipal budget (10); percentage of population covered by water supply (10); payment of salaries to civic staff till the last month (5); punishment of officials behind delayed service (5) and so on.
The Prime Minister’s latest detailed plan for achieving swachh cities that alone can aspire to be rated as smart cities does place the desired emphasis on cleanliness for a cleaner India. However, this confronts us with the question of whether the Prime Minister is aspiring for mere physical and visible cleanliness to the exclusion other more important aspects of cleanliness in administration and governce that relate to far more vital concerns of cleanliness in public life. Right now, the Prime Minister and the BJP itself have given clear indications that they are reluctant to work towards any cleaning up in the government despite matters relating to the issue of British travel papers to a fugitive and crimil Indian by the me of Lalit Modi and immunity ensured to him due to the overreaching and uncalled for initiatives of Exterl Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje. The kind of initiatives taken by the two ministers are well known by now. Sushma Swaraj skipped all protocol and procedures in seeking British travel papers for a fugitive Indian “on humanitarian grounds” so that he could travel to Portugal to sign necessary papers for his ailing wife to have medical treatment. So far, no one seems to have missed the conflict of interests. Lalit Modi did everything necessary for Swaraj’s nephew to receive legal education in Sussex, and Sushma Swaraj’s daughter Baansuri was on the panel of lawyers defending Lalit Modi. Vasundhara Raje, sought every kind immunity for Lalit Modi from the British government but insisted that her activities in this regard should not be made known to the Indian government. Some of the documents attributed to her were unsigned, but Times Now eventually put out a document that was signed by her. And despite all the publicity assertions made by her that much of what has been said against her have been politically motivated attempts at tarnishing her image, there has so far been no statement to the effect that the signed document referred to did not bear her sigture. There is now also indisputable evidence to indicate that Lalit Modi advanced crores of rupees in black money to help her son in his business. Union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani has been served with a notice by a Delhi court that she had misled the Election Commission about her educatiol status by mentioning different qualifications in different poll nomition papers. There is also Maharashtra minister Pankaja Munde who has bypassed the process of tenders to award huge contracts to one firm. It is thus quite clear that the BJP too has quite a lot of filth in high positions of power that needs to be cleared in order for the origitor of the swachh movement to clean up its corridors of power and become swachh at the level of governce. BJP president Amit Shah has refused to speak a word on what action the party contemplates for Sushma Swaraj, Vasundhara Raje and the two other ministers. Prime Minister rendra Modi, who was so articulate and vehement against corruption during his pre-election speeches, has also maintained stony silence over the fate of the errant ministers. It is important that he takes firm action against them because people are bound to hold him to his words and say that he is as averse to punishing corrupt ministers as the UPA government was. This is also going to make his criterion about punishment of officials behind delayed service for smart cities look quite silly if he fails to punish errant ministers with far more serious offences.