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INDIA: Year of Scandal

by Maloy Krishna Dhar


(January 21, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) Corruption in India is synonymous with the molecules of national character. Cheating, deceiving, thieving and plundering are characteristics of over 70% Indians. Theories abound and the pundits say this is a result of feudal inheritance, The British had taught corrupt practices and absence of social and moral codes never filtered down to India psyche. These remained as story books, part of religious monotony and the thuggy mentality in modern India was not less cruel than the historical thuggy movement. Some pundits now admit that scandals in public and political lives are as common as dust particles in the air. We have to live with that.

India’s first scandal era ended with Rajiv regime. The phase of scandals ended during the UPA coalition has rocked the country. Besides ministerial aberration, bureaucratic bungling and political ineptitude the nation was appalled the way the united opposition had succeeded in stalling the proceedings of the Parliament on the issue of Joint Parliamentary Committee to investigate the huge fraud committed by the minister for communications in liberally selling the mobile phone spectrum. The case is now being investigated by the CBI and other agencies. The OM has also been accused of overlooking the huge loot that was committed brazenly by a DMK minister.

 (NOTE FROM AUTHOR:- Dear Readers: I was silent for nearly a month as I was unwell. Resting on hospital bed I was more shocked by spates of scandals than the state of my health. After some reflection I rummaged the history Congress government scandals since 1969. The present flood of corruption and financial mismanagement has exceeded earlier limits. I bring you this small essay just as a reminder that we should now refuse to live in poisoned political ambience)

The nation has faced tremendous pressure on unprecedented inflation and price rise. With 18.5% increase in prices of almost all essential commodities, the common people of all strata have faced financial crunch. Yet, Manmohan Singh and his finance minister keep on announcing that price tags would fall down in next three months. Several such hoaxes have passed by and the trend is continuously inflationary. Financial pundits forecast that in 2011 price rise would exceed 30%. What are the reasons behind sudden jump in the prices of essential commodities? It is better not to speak about the minister in charge of food and cricket. To him ICC post is more lucrative than controlling the inflationary trend in the market economy.

Whenever he speaks of food grains, sugar and onion these commodities disappear from the market. It is suspected that by making advance announcement the minister provides elbowroom to the traders and hoarders to constrict the supply line hoard the commodities and kick up the market prices. The government wakes up only when onion prices shot up to Rs, 80 a kilo and tomato sells at 60 per kilo. In simple language the UPA government has become a friendly tool in the hands of the hoarders and speculators. Such unprecedented failure has not witnessed by the nation in last 30 years.

The PM assures the nation in his New Year eve speech that his government will take adequate steps to lower the prices and control the market. Lo and behold! A day later CNG price was jacked up adding fillip to more price rise and erosion in the personal and family budget. Who controls the affairs of the nation? The PM or other forces which run the establishment? It appears that Union Cabinet and the ruling party supremo have lost control on the affairs of the nation.

The CAG report on Commonwealth Games and related expenditures and quality of work have taken away the shine out of India’s impressive medal tally. The government has refused to order a JPC enquiry into the irregularities and the ball has been finally pushed to the dustbin of the CBI and other agencies. Certain visible actions have not met the expectations of the people. The government of Delhi, it appears, has been exonerated and there is no constructive approach towards accountability of the Chief Minister and officers of different departments. The Commonwealth Games scandal is as colossus as the 2G spectrum scandal of A. Raja, minister in charge of telecommunications. The PM was in the know of deliberate misdeed by the minister but he preferred to remain silent on grounds of political convenience. Sonia Gandhi, who actually runs the show, had also not shown any concern. The PM has now gallantly offered to appear before the PAC, though he is fully aware that the PAC has no mandate to examine a PM on such issues. The bait has not been swallowed by the common people. Several spokesmen of the Congress have tried to turn the table on the opposition by alleging that they had not allowed the 2G issue discussed in the parliament on the plea of JPC enquiry. Attacking the opposition is not the only solution to aberrations of the ruling party. This Hitlerian political approach may silence the opposition and mislead the people for sometime but in the long run political history would call the bluff.

Political outlook of the ruling coalition has been stymied by pull and pushes of the coalition partners. In West Bengal, the fire spitting leader of the Trinmul Congress has linked up with the Maoists and any attempt by the state government to fight the red menace is trumpeted by the TMC leader as oppression of common people by the Harmad Bahini, armed junta of the ruling Marxist government. On the one hand union home minister agrees with the state government and dispatches central forces to launch joint operation with the state police forces. This has alarmed the front facades of the Maoists headed by Kishenji, a Maoist guerrilla leader from Andhra Pradesh and Mamata Banerjee equally. Under her pressure the home minister wrote stinkers to chief minister of Bengal. Delhi has surrendered to Mamata abjectly.

In remote Tamilnadu, the ruling DMK is fretting and fuming over the issue of G2 spectrum scandal by A Raja. Direct and indirect threats were conveyed to Delhi to withdraw support. The PM himself had to rush down to Chennai to met and placate the old fox Karunanidhi. Initially the PM was rebuffed but alter some ramshackle truce was arrived and the PM and the Tamil supremo finally met to put healing touches to the bleeding image of the DMK.

The impotent omnipotent home minister feigns to know the root causes of all the evils haunting the country. Over the issue of combating the Maoist threat in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Maharashtra etc states he made tall claims, deputed more forces, convened meetings after meetings and yet he has failed to take off from the springboard for the final sprint. He flies in and out by air, indulges in pep talks with local officials and diagnoses that the disease has been effectively combated. Never before in the history of the country had the union and state governments allowed a cancer to grow and spread infection without any coordinated challenge from the governments. One the one hand Delhi enters into the cocoon by saying that law and order is state’s responsibility and the centre can only help them with resources. In the same breath the PM and HM alert the country that Maoist threat was the biggest challenge to the nation. People are in disarray to understand what the policy shift is and why joint state and union forces cannot fight the menace!
The big bang of the past-Bofors kick back issue has again resurfaced. CBI’s closure report and government agreement with this policy has now bounced back by the revelation of the Income Tax Tribunal that declared Quattrochi, a crony of Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi and his cohort Win Chadda had received a kick back of 41 crore from the Bofors. Several such Rajiv era scandals can be dug up, if a non-Congress government takes initiative. Sonia Gandhi’s 5.5 point formula for fighting corruption may see or not see the light of the day. Such pronouncements by the government (Congress) are like astrological predictions. One hit may be accompanied by 100 misfires. We have the experience of Congress slogans like Garibi hatao, Congress ka hath aam janta ke sath (actually in their pockets, oven and hearth). In fact, since Indira day garib has become poorer, the poor has become destitute and the political class has emerged as new barons and tycoons.

I knew a middle grade deputy superintendant of police, who suddenly managed to secure a party ticket, His goodwill and reputation helped him winning the polls and become a member of the parliament. Eventually he was inducted in the cabinet. As his superior in service life he revered me and invited to his ministerial bungalow. From a low salaried policeman my friend ended his tenure with a wealth vault of 2000 crore. He is small tycoon now and aspires to be a minister in Delhi.

The shameful incident of missing of strategic files from the ministry of defence that pertained to procurement of aircrafts and later discovery of the same from roadside speaks loudly about corrupt practices in the higher echelon of the bureaucrats. It was their duty to preserve and protect the key papers, over which several countries-USA, UK, France, Russia and Germany were competing, to protect government interest and interest of the country. Now a terse statement that an enquiry has been initiated is likely to end in whimper, as the senior IAS bureaucrats are above the laws of the country.

The other ghotala involving Adarsh housing society has rocked the country and revealed the dirty skeletons inside the higher echelon of the armed forces, deep rooted corruption that has penetrated the “seemingly incorruptible force”. The baboodom can be stinking corrupt. But a corrupt higher formation of the armed forces is alarming. Along with them, top level political leaders of Maharashtra and bureaucrats have been involved. The ministers and chief ministers have failed to protect the trust of the people and the defence forces. Some day some “Natwarlal” like state functionary may order construction of apartment blocks inside the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Nothing can be ruled out in the strange land India. The CBI, a handy tool in the hands of the union government, has been enquiring into the mess.

Corruption has seeped into the marrow of the country. A vast area of land near Hrishikesh and Hardwar earmarked for public utilities was overnight changed over to a housing complex by the colluding politicians, builders and officials. Eventually, there will be another enquiry and soon the matter will disappear from public memory.

In the south shameful activities are taking place in Karnataka. The so-called purist party BJP had failed the people of the state. The Yeddurappa government has survived after plenty of horse trading. It is alleged that Rs. 50 lac to 3 crore was offered to the dissidents. Illegal mining leases, illegal activities of the Reddy brothers have shocked the country. Yet the BJP is behaving like Congress and allowing the corrupt practices to continue unabated.

In personal life I could see the sea change. A marginal garib MP had managed to amass 60 crore over 5 years. When asked about the secrets he candidly replied that people were ready to give gratis, money was flowing in the air. He did nothing wrong by managing to pick up few suitcase full bills and other assets. In the free venture melee of plunder and thievery there was no wrong if he managed to gather some straw for the future.

Unfortunately, there is no mechanism in India to study the wealth accumulation by the politicians and key bureaucrats and make such information public. In our dysfunctional democracy accountability is the key factor that was not coined by the constitution and ever practiced in public life.

A trader friend advised me to join the “supply” business. What’s that? It was a simple process. Purchase huge quantities of essential commodities-sugar, onion, garlic and tomato etc and join the cartel of hoarders. Manage to hoard for six months and within that period you can make 100% profit. If you invested 50 lac, you will get back 1 crore. This is the best way of cheating the government and plundering the people. But you must have enough lubricant to grease the palms of the bureaucrats, inspectors and some political leaders. With a minister like Pawar, things become easier for us. Any lobby can accost him and buy his connivance.
That there exists a different kind of university that teaches cheating, looting and plundering was not known to me. Another honourable member of parliament educated me how to earn Rs, 100,000 per day without making extra efforts, How? Endorse petition of people to ministers etc and charge 5000 for each endorsement. Some parties are ready to pay 40 to 50 thousand for asking questions in the parliament. As a representative of the people it was his duty to ask the questions and bring out reply from the ministers.
Why blame the political class alone? Small and medium grade officers demand gratis freely for getting a legal and mandatory job done. Their fancy plea is—we have to share with the top and other layers. Unless you pay where from shall I collect the money? If I do not pay my job becomes insecure. Only a few months back one of my friends suffered a painful loss. His son was kidnapped and murdered as he could not mobilize the ransom money of Rs. 10 lac. He requested me to accompany him to the police station as the station house officer had declined to register a FIR into the heinous crime committed by certain known miscreants. The SHO was a real goon. He directed me to meet his havaldar for registering a complaint. Unusual of me, I lost temper and called up the Commissioner of Police to lodge a complaint that his SHO was demanding 2 lac for lodging a FIR. The SHO was unnerved and prostrated on my feet. His plea was that his station was required to raise rupees 10 lac per month. A major part was paid to the “higher formation” and some was used by him and staff for maintenance. Later a senior police colleague explained that the SHO was not incorrect. He has to pay to Dy. SP, ACP, Addl CP and other formations. Very often he was required to make free collection of commodities like TV, satellite dish, and consumable products for his seniors. Top to bottom, policing meant extortion and forcible collection. Obviously one has to pay the protectors for purchasing peace. The huge money that the government spends on them is for maintaining the outer facade. The entire system stood on corruption; with some minor exceptions.

It is not my intension to take tours of health care, education, and public works departments. The society is fully aware of the existence of stinking corruption in every sphere of national life.

Shaukat Hussain, a university contemporary, and a medium size trader visited me one fine morning with a box of sweets. What’s the sweet for? God is great. In our constituency both Congress and BJP are strong. There are about 16% Muslims who normally decide the result after Hindu votes are equally divided. They never cast block votes. But the Dalits and Muslims generally cast block votes. In the final calculation Congress found out that the Dalits going with a lady chief minister, Hindus weighing more in favour of the BJP it was decided by them to field a Muslim candidate hoping that 16% votes would soar up the chances of a Muslim candidate. A short list was prepared but finally the fortune smiled on me. I was a favourite teacher, now a businessman and even the local maulanas were in favour of my candidature, as I was regular namaji, offered substantial zaqat and patronized some of the ulemas. Once my name was announced money started flowing in. Within 2 months a kitty of 30 lac was raised in addition to party funding to the tune of 5 lac. I am sure to win.

My friend Shaukat was correct He won the election and managed to secure a minister of state assignment. I lost track of him and he also did not rush to my place with boxes of sweet. After four years I was invited to his village home on the occasion of a family marriage. Shaukat had a palatial home, six cars and a retinue of about 40. He certainly did very well. I felt uncomfortable to ask him how. On the eve of my departure for Delhi Shaukat expressed two grievances. I had cut off all links after he became a minister and I never asked for any favour. I explained that by nature I prefer to maintain distance from politicians and after retirement and demise of my wife I have very little to expect. Friends know me more as an author than a retired sleuth. I was happy with my life. Shaukat was stunned. What kind of a creature I was who had no craving for wealth and hunger for the arc light. We are still friends. Shaukat often drops in to have a meal. He offered Rs. 5 lac when I was admitted in hospital. I declined. His very presence in the hospital had spurred up the doctors to take special care of me. In his second stint as minister, I understand Shaukat has acquired a helicopter and a sprawling house in Delhi This is an illustration how politics and power transform a person and how he becomes fatter at the cost of starving millions in the country. Hats off to Indian democracy.

I must put an end to the endless litany of India’s woes and wounds. But a reference to my former minister boss should be fitted in this gibberish lamentation. One fine morning his personal secretary called me to say the minister wanted to see me. What for? He had no idea. To honour my old association I visited his office and waited for two hours to meet him. There was no lack of warmth and bonhomie. He suddenly asked a bizarre question. Was it true that I was writing a book portraying the skeletons of corrupt politicians? Did I have any intension to include his name? He was not a corrupt person. In politics money was required to contest election and amass wealth for next generations. That’s what he did. Would I favour him by excluding his name? He was ready to compensate me and ready to offer Rs 20 lac.

I had nothing but pity in my mind about the political dirt, who in ten years amassed wealth over 16000 crore. A campaigner for J P movement, a pauper in private life was now swimming in wealth. I left him with a determination that this minster must find a place of honour in my forthcoming book.

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