As per a report by IANS, Public sector undertakings (PSUs) like the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd (ONGC), the Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), the Gas Authority of India Ltd (GAIL) and State Bank of India (SBI) made donations almost every year to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was in power from 2004 till 2014.
The Sonia Gandhi headed foundation has been under controversy for the last few days for receiving donations from the Chinese Central Military Commission, fugitive Mehul Choski, and diverting funds from Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF).
Now, it has been revealed that public sector undertakings, like LIC, SBI, IDBI Bank, ONGC, Bank of Maharashtra, etc are also listed donors to the RGF, run by Congress. Mehul Choksi too, has been a donor of the foundation.
The donations from these companies are suspected to be aimed at lobbying for favourable reviews from the government, thus, blocking the path for their privatization. The management of PSUs does not want the company to be privatized given the kind of perks and benefits they enjoy as public sector employees. But, given the lethargy of the public sector, most of these companies are loss-making units, and therefore taxpayers subsidize employees’ salaries.
There is consistent public demand to privatize the loss-making PSUs but these companies escaped privatization by lobbying with government authorities and making donations to influential and partisan think tanks like Rajiv Gandhi Foundation.
The foundation was opened in 1991 with a 100 crore rupees allocation by the Union government when Manmohan Singh was the finance minister. Despite being a privately held organization headed by Sonia Gandhi, the organization received funds from the taxpayer’s money through budgetary allocation as well as through PSUs.
Despite receiving huge sums from government bodies, the foundation refused a CAG audit. “People of India want to know why the accounts of Rajiv Gandhi foundation refused for the CAG auditing? Why was RTI not applicable to the foundation?” asked BJP president JP Nadda.
“Why did you take donation in Rajiv Gandhi Foundation from Mehul Choksi and give loan to him? The country wants to know as to why the foundation took money from Mehul Choksi and what is the relation between Mehul Choksi and Rajiv Gandhi Foundation?” he added.
As per the RGF annual report of 2005-06, the PSUs who were donors included GAIL, Oil India, ONGC, the Oriental Bank of Commerce, the SBI, and SAIL. In the next year, 2006-07, the PSU donors were GAIL, Housing and Urban Development Corporation Ltd (HUDCO), the Industrial Development Bank of India Ltd (IDBI), Oil India, ONGC, SAIL, the SBI and Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd.
In the year 2007-2008, RGF lists the PSU donors as the Bank of Maharashtra, GAIL, and ONGC. In 2008-09, the donors were the Bank of Maharashtra, GAIL, ONGC, Garden Reach Ship Builders & Engineers Ltd, SBI, and SAIL. In 2009-2010, the repeat donors were the Bank of Maharashtra, ONGC and SAIL.
In 2010-2011, the donors were GAIL, ONGC, SBI and SAIL. For the year 2011-12, the RGF lists donors as GAIL, HUDCO, National Buildings Construction Corporation Ltd, ONGC, SBI, SAIL and UCO Bank. For the year 2012-13, the donors were ONGC, SBI, GAIL, SAIL and UCO Bank. The RGF annual report is for a two year period in 2013-15. The PSU donors were GAIL, ONGC, SBI and SAIL.
Thereafter, the annual reports of RGF do not list any PSU donors for the years 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19. The last available report is of 2018-19. This period coincides with the tenure of the NDA government.
It is very much evident that PSUs donated money to Rajiv Gandhi Foundation as long as Congress-led UPA was in power. These donations were definitely quid pro quo and Rajiv Gandhi Foundation reciprocated favour to these companies. Given the eminent list of its Board of Management and the kind of influence the management of the organization has in the UPA government, these companies definitely won huge favor from the government.
A number of private companies of India were not being privatized despite posting huge losses because they lobbied through think tanks like RGF. Modi government has started privatization of even the better profit-making PSUs like LIC, HPCL, given the kind corruption and inefficiency prevalent in these companies.
One can imagine how the Congress-led UPA government was being run through ‘quid pro quo’ system and National Interest was last among its priorities. Therefore, lobbying, doing a favour for money and corruption was an essential trait of 10 year-long UPA regime.