Thursday, December 08, 2011

Rs 585,000,00,000 ? ONLY ?

Money has always been money, with the same magnitude of importance. Whether you talk about it now, or say, 30 years ago.  The concern was the same.  All this holds true, if you belong to the unfortunate tribe classified as "general tax paying public".

When I started working,  particularly  in a government organization, 35 years ago, I was at one point introduced to the concept of "someone in audit, raising an objection ".

It's not as if millions in funds were being squandered here and there.  I was simply directed to go attend an  IT workshop at a place  about 25 kilometres away for 4 days. This was not a residential program, and would involve daily commuting.  While I was well versed in the science and art of creative bus and train travel thanks to my previous job in the city,  I was advised by "experienced folks" to check out what my transport "entitlement" was .   I was told that I was entitled to taxi fare.  Wow !

I duly attended the aforementioned workshop, kept track of  number plates of taxis , and jotted down the details, of those, the time, and the fare paid , faithfully.   On return,  in addition to doing a report for those who had recommended me for the workshop,  I had to fill up some forms for conveyance expenses.   And send them to what was referred to  by everyone I know, as "admin".

I was duly called one day, and informed, that taxi fare was simply not for me, and I was being granted rickshaw fare .  Granting  me a closed vehicle with 4 wheels, for transport, would be objected under audit rules . And I was being given the expenses for an open three wheeler .  Not that this made a dent in my meagre nonexistent  fortune, but this was my introduction to a bunch of people called "Audit".  The conscience keepers for expenses incurred and submitted for justification.  

Towards the end of my career in the aforementioned job, I once noticed a discrepancy in salary, and checked up the rules in the  book of service rules.  My doubt was confirmed, and I approached the admin types with my doubts.  The whole thing was pooh-poohed in the manner a brilliant scientist would pooh-pooh, say, me writing about  subtraction-with-carry.   I was told the various steps, that were followed ,before a decision was taken. How things went through "audit",  before implementation.   And how they couldn't be wrong.

That same evening I ran into a friend from Audit in a wedding reception we attended ,  and  between jeera rice  and  hare-bhare kababs, we chatted about this . Corporate types do the same stuff and call it networking.  Just saying.  

Something must have a rung a bell and my friend said she would check and get back to me.  The next day, I heard from her. I was right, and admin was wrong. They owed me. Some. And when I asked her if I should write out an application with n copies for redressal , she told me, that things were in process, a note had been put up by audit, and I would be getting my dues, without raising my finger, pen or voice. 

And so  I ended up having immense respect for "audit", as someone who ensures money is being spent as per rules, points out anomalies and discrepancies, and defines how to right them.

Turns out, in some cases it is never so.

The Unique Identification Authority of India, initiated its UID card project under the experienced stewardship of Nandan Nilekani, who ventured into government after a very successful lifetime innings at Infosys.   We even ended up going for our biometric  cards  thing a few months ago, and I even blogged about that !

Today, I read in the papers, that after spending Rs 585,000,00,000 (give and take a couple of zeros here and there, I am sure),  the Parliamentary Committee on something or the other has moved that this project  be abandoned/stoppedThe Home Ministry has problems with it, the Finance Ministry has problems with it.  And so,  because Parliament decrees so,  the project will be stopped.   Just like that.  And no one ever bothered about how much has already been spent on the project.

There have been loud whispers in the press about certain sections of government being unhappy with it .  Simultaneously, there were also news items indicating how so many millions of people have now been covered under this, how anyone  could open a bank account  based on this single citizen identification,  how folks get buy their grains from the public distribution system, using this , and so on and so forth.

Did someone, doing and auditing job for the government take cognisance of this ?  No.  Did so many auditing agencies of the government that operate at state and even lower levels  think of looking into this? No. Did anyone ever get National audit types like Comptroller and Auditor General  (CAG) into the picture as all this money was being spent ? No. Must we wait while all the money is completely wasted before  some watchdog wakes up and demands a report on the costs and benefits? 

Are wishes of Parliament subject to audit ?  When doubts are being expressed , occasionally in the press and elsewhere about the veracity of information , and biometric security aspects  of the UID, do we have a national auditing entity that says, "Wait. Lets look into this before we spend any more money"....?

They say the Rupee is losing its value.

Maybe in the eyes of the Reserve Bank, Ministries, and those who are , as I call them, zero-enabled (ie every additional zero enhances them). Maybe in the eyes of those to whom it is just a statistic.  Maybe in the eyes of those , for whom everything in life is paid for.

To me , the rupee still has value.

It doesn't depend on the dollar.  I keep track about what it buys for me.  How much or how how little. I am careful about how I spend it.  I  pay my taxes, like so many others of my ilk. And I agonize when I get cheated.  Because one has worked honestly and for long to earn it. 

What is really sad, is when  folks think of the magnitude of scams currently being investigated,  and say, that this quantity Rs, 585,000,00,000 "isn't that much" !

   Even half that would have built some bridges across rivers, where children have to wade through water to reach school, or built a hospital in an area where normal medical help is 24 hours and a mountain away.

What has really lost value,  is not the currency, but those folks that purport to rule us, and represent us , and  decide  how to spend the money earned from the taxes that I pay. 

I guess we stay tuned for the next. Scam, that is. 


  1. Hmmmm sounds remarkably like the US these days. Different terms/words, same problems! It isn't the currency of any country, it's the politicians, the rulers. Great post as always.


  2. you please tell me I understand correctly that the UID thing is being trashed ?
    Please please please tell me !

    you cant imagine so many people I have to go and tell this... I used to tell all to wait... whats teh hurry adn what guarantee this will not be pulled back !!!!!!!!

    I tell ya I have GODLY FUTURE VISIONS !

  3. OMG! Hitchy you know RD said the same thing after the last post which I did on UID! he said, they will scrap it..and he actually told my dad 'appa, dont bother, may be in your lifetime it wont even come' and there now they are thinking of scrapping it!

    Its crazy totally crazy!

  4. >> give and take a couple of zeros here and there>>

    That is how I always feel about the scams!

  5. Shocking! And now these people are trying to stop us from sharing such information about how much money they waste or mismanage! (maybe to pocket some of it?)

  6. Will we ever get out of the morass that we have got ourselves into.

    In the networking circuit or in the government. For that matter ?

  7. What I want to know is what they're going to do with all the data they have now. If that is not safe, by god....we have a real problem. Because of course in India, money will always be a problem, so much so that we don't even think about it any more.

    And just to defend the function of an audit person (having been one myself), it is only designed to find issues when a system isn't working as it is meant to. An after the fact function - by definition.

  8. And I was upset about a colleague who missed getting photographed for the UID card at a place near our college and advised him to watch out for the next nearest place or may be during vacations our own college would be a venue. I explained to my servant how helpful this card would be and gave her a day off to go through the process. All this only to be fooled into believing that things were being streamlined. Sickening I say...

  9. I am sure i heard that its not happening any more or am i wrong .

    things are never what they are promised in our lovely nation there seems to be a hidden agenda over everything ..