Controversey surrounds Rahul Gandhi’s MPhil

The Congress party on Thursday served a legal notice to The New Indian Express for publishing what it called “wild allegations and sly insinuations” on the educational qualifications of party General Secretary Rahul Gandhi.

“Deeply distressed by your wild allegations, sly insinuations and self-serving innuendos, all premised on complete falsehoods and steeped in malice, a notice is being issued,” party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi told reporters at the AICC headquarters in the capital.

Singhvi quoted a letter from the University, which stated that Gandhi was a student at the institution as a member of the Trinity College from October 1994 to July 1995 and was awarded an M Phil in Development Studies in 1995.

Earlier, Rahul had also said in a press conference that he will serve a legal notice to the newspaper for writing the article.

Below is the article that the Chennai based newspaper published. Will keep you updated on any further developments on the issue.

(The article, dateline Chennai, was published in The New Indian Express on April 7, 2009. It has been reproduced here with proper permission)

Truth about Rahul Gandhi’s MPhil

Rahul Gandhi appears to have been economical with the truth on his affidavit while filing his election nomination papers in Amethi this weekend.

In the affidavit, he states that he obtained an MPhil from Trinity College of the University of Cambridge, UK, in 1995, in Developmental Economics. A certificate from the University shows that not only has he got dates wrong, he has even got the name of the course he took incorrect.

Worse, the man touted as a future prime minister failed one of his four papers.

Rahul got 58 percent in “National Economic Planning and Policy” (according to the grading scale given in the certificate, 60 percent is the minimum for a pass).

The certificate, shown alongside, was issued a year ago by Diana Kazemi, the secretary of the department of Development Studies (and not Developmental Economics) in which Rahul Gandhi studied.

He enrolled under the name ‘Raul Vinci’, a pseudonym given by the British authorities in a common practice as there are a good number of VVIP wards from around the world enrolled at British educational institutions. The pseudonym came to light during the 2004 elections in the Telegraph and the Hindu.

According to the University, Rahul read for the MPhil in 2004- 05, and not in 1994-95, as stated in his affidavit.

His affidavit’s other claim, to have obtained his Bachelors from Rollins College in Florida, USA, is true (and is a departure from earlier claims by ‘supporters’ that he graduated from Harvard). He also briefly attended St Stephen’s College in Delhi, gaining admission through the sports quota.

His mother (and Congress president) Sonia Gandhi was also in a minor controversy in 2004 over her educational qualifications.

Her nomination papers’ affidavit claimed she obtained a certificate in English from Lennox Cook School, University of Cambridge, in 1965. After it was revealed that the school had no affiliation to the University, Sonia claimed that the error on the affidavit was the result of a secretarial typing mistake.

Rahul Gandhi Certificate

LS Polls 2009: One pricey affair!

The world, including India, maybe facing a severe economic crisis but it seems that the Indian political parties are immune to the global economic slowdown. According to a recently released survey of Centre for Media Studies, around Rs 10,000 crores (USD 2 billion) will be spent on Lok Sabha Polls 2009. This does not include the cost of conducting assembly polls in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

What is surprising here is that the amount to be spent (USD 2 billion) is more than what US President Barack Obama and other presidential candidates spent on their campaigns.

The data provided by the US Federal Election Commission states that Obama and other candidates collectively spent close to $1.8 billion (nearly Rs 8,000 crores) in the 2007-08 Presidential elections. While the US presidential polls were spread over a year, India will witness such massive spending in just over two months.

A close look at the break-up of Poll and Poll-Eve Expenditure provided by the CMS throws one interesting figure.

  • Govt ( EVMs, Booths, TA, DA, etc.): Rs 1500 – 2000 crores
  • Canvassing (Vehicles, aircrafts, fuel, workers, etc.): Rs 3000 – 3500 crores
  • Printed material of all kinds (Posters, banners, advertising, poll surveys, etc of all kind at all levels): Rs 1500 – 2000 crores
  • Other media (Video, audio, cable, cinema, SMS, TV advertising etc.): Rs 1200 – 1500 crores
  • Miscellaneous (public meetings, wages, inter-personal, rallies, etc.): Rs 1000 – 1500 crores
  • Cash paid to voters: Rs 2000 – 2500 crores

As the figures show, around one-fourth of the total money to be spent comes under the ‘note for vote’ strategy of political parties. The parties will pay around Rs 2000 – 2500 crores to the voters in the hope that they would vote for them.

The CMS data further indicates that in comparison to 2004 Lok Sabha polls spending, the amount to be spent this year would be more than double. While Rs 4500 crores were spent in 2004 parliamentary elections, the 1998 and 1996 general elections has cost the country Rs 3200 crores and Rs 2100-2200 crores.

(The post was published on NewsX blogs. You can read it directly by clicking here: http://newsx.com/node/50185)

Biggest ever loot of hard earned public money

Have passed through the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway a number of times but never really thought about the toll tax that I and millions like me pay daily.

Recently, while traveling by DND Expressway, I was surprised to know that the toll tax has been increased by Rs 2. This compelled me to inquire into the system of collecting toll tax and the other details regarding it.

This is when a friend of mine informed me about the massive corruption taking place at the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway.

I would request all the citizens of the capital who pass through the toll plazas to read this.

**************************************************

To,
Mr Ashwani Kumar, IPS,
Director CBI,
CGO Complex, Lodhi Road,
New Delhi.

Sub: Complaint against the corrupt officials of National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), Ministry of Transport and other concerned departments. Request to STOP this open Corruption/LOOT at Delhi-Gurgaon Express Highway.

The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) is constructing Highways and Expressways on the principle of BOT (Build-Operate–Transfer) for which toll fee is levied on the users for a period of 20-30 years from the time of allotment of the work. The rate of collection of toll is so high and for such a long period that it has no relation or relevance with the expenditure incurred. Delhi-Gurgaon Express Highway along with its flyovers has been completed at a cost of Rs. 702 crore. A private agency has been given rights to collect toll at three points namely 14 km (IGI Airport) 24 km (Gurgaon-Delhi border) and 42 km (Kherkidaula) plazas for a period of 20 years from January 2003 (collection to commence on completion of construction) up to January 2022. The entire amount is to be retained by the builder up to the traffic volume of 1.30 lac vehicles for each plaza beyond which the revenue is to be shared with the NHAI.

The prescribed rates of toll at present on this stretch are as follows:

Expressway Graph-1

The rates are to be reviewed annually based on the wholesale price index.

The daily collections (official) as per the media reports averaged between Rs. 70 lacs and 1 crore a day or upto Rs. 365 crore a year at the commencement of collections in February 2008. As per the figures supplied by the NHAI based on the statement of the tolling firm, the collections at km 14 and km 42 were over 10 crore a month initially or 130 crore a year, but the Authority did not give out the statistics for the third barrier at km 24. However, the inference is clear from the number of collection points put up at each barrier that puts the traffic volume at km 24 easily more than the aggregate at the other two places. So the total collections can safely be presumed to be 260 crore for February 2008 and with 13% increase in rates on 1st April, 2008, the figures rise to Rs. 293.8 crore.

Two factors that determine the collections are: (a) the number of vehicles that is ever rising and (b) the rate per vehicle which is to be revised annually. Last year, between January and April, the rates witnessed an upward revision of over 13% and the number of vehicles on these points has been rising much more than the available estimated rate of 9%. These estimates are not very reliable as the vehicle population in recent past in Delhi has seen a rise of 15% and Gurgaon 25% respectfully. So the number of vehicles plying on this stretch should go up by 20%, but in the absence of any authentic assessment, even if we adopt the old conservative projected estimates of 9%, the total collections on both counts together will see an annual rise of 22%.This rate of increase in annual collection has been adopted in the table below.

The total investment on the project was Rs. 702 crore. The firm has to pay only interest over and above this principal and nothing more. From the table below, it is clear that even if a very high interest @18 % PA is allowed, in less than three years, the entire amount with interest would stand paid, leaving a surplus of Rs 116.55 crore and the barriers should disappear thereafter.

Expressway Graph-2

There should be no need for any more payments and hence any more collections after three years, but, the agreement authorizes the firm to collect Toll for 15 years up to 2022, if it is not extended beyond that. At the enhanced rate of fee and the rapidly growing traffic volumes, the collection for the remaining 12 years will add to a whooping sum, a minimum of Rs. 23290 crores with an annual raise of 22% as calculated above. Allowing any collection beyond three years time would only be loot of the people to that extent and it would further escalate if actual collections were more than 293.80 crores during 2008 (on the basis of which all other figures have been arrived at), or number of vehicles rises faster or if wholesale price index escalates faster.

Does it appeal to reason that against Rs. 700 crore of investment the nation should pay over Rs. 24,000 crore? If such are the rates, it will be better that Govt make lumpsum payment to the contractor by levying another cess of a rupee or two on every litre of petrol/diesel sold in the NCR to defray these expenses. Incidentally, the entire amount would stand paid in three years for all the toll points that function in this area including DND, the Gurgaon-express Highway and all others.

However, the company is spending about 1-2 crores monthly expenses on management, which is quite negligible. The assumptions and the criteria that form the basis of determining the rates and the time period at Toll Plaza need intense scrutiny for all the 20 odd projects under BOT category all over the country. Detailed information had been asked for through the RTI route, but as usual there is tendency to conceal more than communicate, as the departments feel threatened in informing the citizen for fear of being exposed. The citizen naturally and rightly smells rat and wonders why should there be such a grave fear from information becoming public, if they do not have any bungling to hide.

The information, received in response to my application under RTI, makes two rather surprising revelations. First that “The rates……are being revised for every year starting from 1st April on the basis of Wholesale price index” and second, “the fee shall be collected in perpetuity by the Central Government”. What is the link between a payment that has been frozen after the construction and the price index is not understood. Further, how and why can even the government go on collecting huge money in perpetuity when it is fee and not tax.

Besides, a census for counting the number of vehicles by some neutral agency, in association with some members from civil society, is also very necessary in order to know the exact dimensions/truth as the estimated rate of increase assumed at 9% has been left far far behind. Some journalist confided in me that the number of vehicles at km 24 was 2 lac in place of 1.4 lac being quoted generally.

That the above clearly proves that there is a massive level of Corruption at high and lower places in National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), Ministry of Surface & Transport and other concerned department. Since the open Loot at Toll Plaza of Delhi-Gurgaon Express Highway also indicates towards the various and massive level of corruption at many other Toll Plazas at various highways in the country, which is a serious matter of concern. The hard earned public money is being looted openly by the nexus of some corrupt politicians, officers and the company, without any fear. It seems that this nexus is totally fearless and have no value for our legal system as well as loyal citizens.

So it is humbly requested to you to kindly issue on urgent directions for registering the Criminal Case under Prevention of Corruption Act, Indian Penal Code (IPC), and other relevant acts, against the corrupt officials, ministers for this massive level of LOOT, and arrange to arrest the culprits, in the interest of justice.

With regards

(Vivek Garg)
Advocate