Published On : Sat, Dec 23rd, 2017

2G and the ‘notional loss’ caused by Yoga Guru Ramdev

Has the Government and the nation suffered any ‘notional loss’ because of the enormous tracts of land given away for the Yoga Guru’s FMCG business at throwaway rates?

Has Yoga Guru Ramdev caused any “notional loss” to the nation? The question acquires significance in the wake of the reactions from certain quarters to the CBI special court exonerating the accused in the 2G case. The idea of ‘presumptive loss’ or ‘notional loss’ was made popular by the former Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Vinod Rai, who pushed through a report that said that had the UPA Government auctioned 2G spectrum in 2007, the GOI could have earned Rs 1.86 lakh Crore.

Curiously, the concept of ‘notional loss’ was no longer heard after the Central Bureau of Investigation arrested many of the high-profile accused and filed the charge sheet in the 2G case; a charge sheet that was dismissed this week by the CBI special court.Nobody has of course calculated the ‘notional loss’ to the exchequer caused by Baba Ramdev. And nobody, one dare say, will till a hostile government in future or a CAG on the mould of Vinod Rai comes along. But in the meanwhile media reports in the public domain suggest that hundreds of acres of land have been given away at throw-away prices to Patanjali Yogpeeth by BJP-ruled states.

If not auctioning the spectrum caused a ‘notional’ loss to the exchequer, not auctioning the land through a competitive bidding process should also have caused a ‘presumptive’ loss to the public exchequer. The BJP can take the plea that even non-BJP governments have handed over land to private interests at nominal rates. But then Patanjali Yogpeeth has been allowed to acquire land for its commercial enterprises for a pittance, making the respective government’s decision dubious.

The Modi Government, if media reports are to be believed, has even offered Ramdev an island in the Andamans. Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari was quoted in the media as saying that the Centre was keen to give Ramdev an island there to develop a Yoga resort.

Land is as valuable a national resource as spectrum, possibly much more because of the varied use land can be put to. And when governments bend over backwards to allocate land to the ‘ Yoga Guru’ for his FMCG ( Fast Moving Consumer Goods) business, questions are bound to be raised. Maharashtra Government has reportedly allotted 600 acres of land to Ramdev in Nagpur for an orange processiong plant. The BJP Government in Assam too has been prompt in offering land to him.

Nobody really knows how much land the Baba has acquired and at what rates. The anti-corruption Guru who never tired of talking on transparency before 2014, is not very transparent about his business enterprises. What we do know, however, is his seemingly insatiable hunger for land and Forbes putting his partner Balakrishna in the list of the richest Indians.

Few have questioned these dealings and are unlikely to do so until there is a CBI inquiry ordered by the CBI or the court. Even in that eventuality, the BJP ministers, chief ministers and the Baba himself may get exonerated of charges of criminality. Like A. Raja, they may also plead that they masterminded a revolution.

But surely they cannot escape the charge of having caused a ‘ notional loss’ to the exchequer. Imagine how much more the land would have fetched from a multinational corporation or an industrial house given the land at market rates !

The irony is that a right-wing party like the BJP, which swears by the market and begins the day by scoffing at ‘ socialist’ ideas, finds it necessary to give away land cheap to the Baba. If Robert Vadra made a profit through his land deals, surely so would have the Guru of contortions. But while Vadra does not seem to have caused any loss, notional or otherwise, to the public exchequer—at least not yet—-one waits for the CAG to nail the ‘ presumptive loss’ caused by the land given away to Ramdev.

—As Published in National Herald