Scandals galore


It is shameful. One scandal of corruption after another is coming out in the open. The scale of the monies involved is mind-boggling. There is a variety too, in these scandals. All kinds of people seem to be involved in them. There are politicians and bureaucrats, as usual. There are major industrial houses and super-wealthy businessmen.

 A breed of persons and organisations, not much known to the general populace, called the ‘lobbyists’ or lobbying firms i.e. the go-betweens have now suddenly surfaced into the public view. Until now the media -- print and television -- were known for exposing scams; now some persons from the fourth estate are also are under cloud. There are large real estate interests, mega sports interests and huge industrial interests.

It looks like the size and level of the reported corruption is commensurate with the scope of growth of the particular industry. Telecommunications have skyrocketed in this country -- from 12 million telephones in 1996 to 545 million telephones today (mainly mobile phones) and growing further. The scale of the recent 2G Spectrum affair matches these figures claiming an undoing to the tune of Rs 1.76 lakh crore.

 With the growth of the economy, the real estate market is booming once again. The alleged real estate scandal of Adarsh Housing is said to involve nearly hundred crore rupees. Of course, it is just one such project or building. So, the amount of deals in the entire sector could be very huge. Civil aviation has also taken off very rapidly in our country, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 18 per cent. This sector too is under a cloud with allegations of kickbacks and misappropriations bleeding our national carrier.

Public sector companies have been showing profitability in the recent times. Unfortunately, this is the time when the government is seriously contemplating disinvestment i.e. part or full sale to the private sector. The assets the public sector units possess such as the land, productive machinery and plants are very lucrative and could attract much attention from deal-makers and scamsters. The scale of money to be made without producing an additional unit of item is very huge -- probably running into hundreds of thousands of crores.

The other plunder is in the mining sector. Licenses or leases could be had for a song and the mineral wealth could be exported for a large sum. Many a time, good forest land is given away for mining, raping the forest naked, with the forest never having a chance to return to normalcy after that. This was and still is an easier thing to do since there are few people to raise any questions, because the people directly and immediately affected by it are the hapless, voiceless tribal folk living on the edge of the society.

Hotbed of scandals

Take any project and there is rotten corruption. There was some entertaining cricket in the name of Indian Premier League (IPL) and it became a hotbed of scandals. The tangle of issues raised is yet to be unraveled. There was the Commonwealth Games 2010 and it was tarnished with huge rackets of corruption and inefficiency. Some say it cost Rs 70,000 crore and some others say it was only Rs 15,000 crore. CWG became synonymous with bad quality of work and corruption.

Corruption may be said to have achieved its depth when the corrupt are never caught, let alone punished. The issues remain in the semi-frozen state where there are no convictions possible. All the figures, even those of the magnitude of Rs 1.70 lakh crore, remain in the realm of speculation.

 The perpetrators will go scot-free or, at the worst, remain suspects and will never be brought to justice. Quick redressal to the problem would be too much to expect. A state of suspended animation is wantonly created. Umpteen enquiries will be conducted with little result. Parliament can come to a halt for days on end over heated debates on how to investigate these scams. A thick smoke or smog hangs over the scams until the common man is tired of it all or forgets over time. It serves everybody’s purpose.
Any corruption is in a class of its own when there is not an iota of guilt on the part of the accused. Why should he or she only be an ‘accused?’ There were the ancient days when, the mythology says, Sri Ram would give credence to the doubt of a washer-man. Queen Sita had to go to the forest. Today, no such moral stand is necessary.

Major railways accidents keep happening, but nothing happens to the concerned minister. There is neither individual nor collective responsibility. Now people have stopped asking questions on those mishaps. Sports scandals surface, but the sports minister is least worried. Land scam is reported and the concerned political party finds it difficult to relieve the chief minister. A huge telecom scam is being discussed nationwide, but the concerned minister was reluctant to leave his seat. The supreme court wills, but the CVC would not quit.

As a nation, we are sinking fast in corruption and lack of morality, perhaps matching or exceeding our celebrated economic growth rate.

(The writer is a former professor at IIM, Bangalore)

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