A glass house, cracked

India has been witnessing a series of scams, unearthed by the media But, very little action is taken against the guilty.

‘Transparency International’, an international body that works towards making governments, political parties, corporate/business houses and civil societies free of corruption, in its ‘Corruption Perception Index’ published in 2011, rated Austria and India 16th and 95th respectively, out of 178 countries.

Despite being in the top 20 countries, Austria endeavored sought to improve its ranking and brought in tough bills to make political funding and the income of the country’s lawmakers transparent and improve corporate governance to checkmate multiple scams that had hit the country.

India has been witnessing a series of scams, unearthed by the media in the last two decades. But, very little action is taken against the guilty. As new scams surface, the previous ones are quickly forgotten. Harshad Mehta’s stock market scam amounting to approximately Rs 4000 crore was the first major scam to burst on the scene in the early nineties, with the connivance of select banks.

He was convicted for 72 criminal offences and 600 civil action suits. In 1995, he created a major uproar by alleging that he paid one crore bribe to the then-president of the Congress party. While the case against Harshad Mehta was still on (he died in December 2001), the stock scam of Ketan Parekh surfaced in February 2001, during the NDA regime.

This scam led to the bankruptcy of Global Trust Bank and Madhavpura Cooperative. He was debarred from trading till 2017, but it is rumoured that he still operates through non-descript companies.  In both cases, fingers were pointed at political nexus in letting the stock scam perpetrators get away lightly.

‘Satyam Computer Services scam’ of 2009 by Ramalingam Raju, the chairman and promoter of the company, is an interesting example of lack of transparency and inadequacy of action against the financial culprits. Raju was released on bail in 2011, after CBI failed to file a charge sheet against him after 33 months. Pwc, the chartered accountant of Satyam, got away by saying that its audit report was based on the input provided by Raju. Pwc continues its accounting business in India without any retrograde impact.  Though no political nexus surfaced in this case but viewing the bigger picture, it could not be ruled out.

Of late, we had politicians like A Raja, Kanimozi and Suresh Kalmadi involved in some mega scams and now they are out on bail. The citizens of India are helplessly watching them being again part of decision making bodies in Parliament. It is high time that the people of India rise and stop this hara-kiri of our laws by the political-corporate nexus - the new feudal lords of independent India.

Apolitical stance

In the last year and a half, the country witnessed the rise of civil society under the banner of ‘India Against Corruption’- led by Anna Hazare. In the beginning, the movement witnessed a large surge of support from all parts of the country. Unfortunately, the movement lost steam with its inability to maintain apolitical stance, as stated in the beginning. Now the breakaway group of Kejriwal has launched a new political party giving new dynamics to the fight against corruption.

Kejriwal’s re-opening of the old report on Robert Vadra’s questionable financial gains from DLF – a major player in the field of real estate - has again brought into focus the political-corporate nexus in India -- the main cause of our poor International Corruption Index. Plea on the case has now been admitted in the Allahabad High Court. Congress Party’s statement of equating Robert Vadra with an “ordinary businessman” appears hollow when viewed in light of his name appearing at the airports and toll-gates along with the President and other dignitaries, who are exempted from security check. This is so when such a privilege is not granted to our honourable citizens like Lt Gen (Retd) K S Brar who is under serious security threat- Robert Vadra has it all!

Be it Coalgate, 2G Scam or ‘Dam-gate’ in the drought prone region of Maharashtra, all political parties across the board are known to be indulging in unethical, questionable practices. The long arms of the law seem to be too short for the culprits in India and those in power have come to believe that they can get away with anything and everything. The speed, with which Rajat K Gupta, the erstwhile managing director of McKinsey & Company was sentenced by the US authorities for inside trading within a span of two years, should be the bench mark for the financial and criminal offenders in India. It is unlikely to happen till the political reforms are launched and our political system becomes transparent, accountable and decriminalised.

The people of India have lost faith in the current breed of politicians. The government and the opposition are both sides of the same coin. Kejriwal and his team are like a new ray of hope and sunshine. Hopefully, if voted to power this new party would usher political reforms leading to financial transparency of our political parties and weed out corruption and criminals from Indian politics. At the same time, Anna must retain control over ‘India Against Corruption’ and not let it be high jacked by Kejriwal’s political party.

The movement should be revived and people must continue to apply pressure on the government to come out with political reforms, a strong Lokpal Bill and time-bound trials of those involved in financial irregularities and criminal offences. All those involved in financial irregularities should be kept out of the government machinery, irrespective of their elected position.

(The writer is a retired Major General)

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