By M D Nalapat
THE 2G scam has its 40 thieves, and if the country is to escape the pit that is being dug for it by the crooked, it is necessary that these forty spend at least six to ten years in jail each. Should this happen, the climate of VVIP immunity that has so afflicted India will get diluted, and more and more people will get empowered to give evidence against even the powerful. After decades when the people of India followed the dictates of the Election Commission and avoided any criticism of those in power, finally the dam is beginning to burst, and these days, even the powerful are facing open charges of corruption. Reports are appearing about the sudden wealth of sons and son-in-laws, although, of course, as yet neither the Income Tax department nor the Enforcement Directorate has dared to question these fortunate offsprings about their new found wealth.
All over the country they are purchasing land and other assets. All across the world, they are holidaying in super-expensive resorts. Their parents are flying by corporate jets within India and to foreign countries. Although we claim to have a "free" media, the widespread misuse of corporate jets by politicians and high officials goes unreported.
Those caught in the scam are hopeful that in months, if not in weeks, the brilliant bench of Justices Singhvi and Ganguly will get shifted to other cases. Hopefully, this will not happen, and the duo will remain in the 2G bench until the top scamsters in the loot get sent to jail for long prison terms. There are many questions that have as yet not been investigated by agencies who are clearly under pressure to protect the powerful rather than obey the Supreme Court and go after the guilty. The Rule of Law in India seems to have been replaced by the Rule of the In-law, definitely for the past decade, if not more. There are reports that a senior Law Officer personally took an interest in one of the telecom companies under investigation. If true, Law Minister Veerappa Moily needs to remove him from high office. There are reports that the son-in-law of a prominent politician and the son of a Chief Minister were beneficiaries in one of the many CWG scams. Thus far, neither has been questioned. The IAS officer who was the administrative head of the CWG is out playing golf while Suresh Kalmadi has been sent to jail. Why such indulgence? Who is being shielded?
A culture of immunity has spread across India, so that VVIPs feel that there is no chance that they will be held to account for the multiple crimes that they commit against the national interest. Some—such as ONGC bosses since decades—ensure that potential oilfields in India remain untapped, so that the country may continue to depend on foreign oil companies for essential fuel. Others purchase expensive—and unused— weaponry that has only a single purpose, that of filling the coffers of Swiss banks, while a few spend their time fashioning the high interest rate policies that the Finance Ministry and the RBI have jointly implemented so as to choke the ability of Indian corporates to compete against international rivals. In the process, hundreds of thousands of crores of rupees gets misspent, even while the people starve.
It is the head of the snake that contains the poison sac, not the parts lower down. While the CBI, the Ed, the Income Tax and other agencies of the government go after the lesser levels of the administrative, business and sometimes even the political apparat, almost never is someone high up bothered. Indeed, a web of protection cocoons them, such that even the ruling and opposition party leaders refuse to entertain even the thought of exposing the corruption of higher-ups. And why should they? The children of the opposition leaders dance and revel in the same discos, in the same 5-star hotels, as do the offspring of those ruling at the moment. They form a bond of comradeship that reaches upwards to their parents, who too are usually good friends in private, even while they fool the people by pretending to be rivals in public. Indeed, a new doctrine is being propounded by some prominent opposition leaders, which is that the Nehru family ought to be given immunity from criticism. In exchange, presumably, their own shenanigans will be kept covered and unpunished.
The Income Tax department has done everything short of disbanding itself in its efforts at protecting individuals such as Hassan Ali, who was enabled to withdraw $8 billion from Swiss bank accounts by a mysterious de-freezing of his accounts in 2009. The ED pretends to take strong action against those cheating the exchequer, but in reality follows the dictates of its political masters in pretending to enquire when in fact covering up evidence of wrongdoing. Of course, when as whistle-blower emerges, the ED can always trump up a false charge against that person, such as accuse him of offering a bribe. Today, the Home Ministry and the Finance Ministry are the two Doberman beasts that deed, these days, the volume of loot has begun to exceed that endured during the days of the British raj. Much of this gets sent abroad, often through relatives with foreign nationalities.
That Sonia Gandhi has overpowering influence in decision-making is no secret, an authority that will soon be strengthened when loyalist Pulok Chatterji takes over as either the Cabinet Secretary or the Principal Secretary to the PM. This versatile individual made no secret of his loyalty to Sonia Gandhi, helping in the past to ensure that government decisions got taken that met her needs, and that the activities of the state-funded mega-institutions headed by Sonia Gandhi remain undisturbed by audit or media teams. Such dedication mandates a reward, and Chatterji is likely to soon take over one of the two prize posts mentioned above, as will another individual now in the Planning Commission, who ensured that his nephew (known to the Vadras as Ashok Uncle) took over as chief of an intelligence agency, which he promptly ran to the ground. In the process, he acted as the courier for funnelling cash to members of a certain family who were visiting London. It was only during the time of the Nephew that the chief of an intelligence agency acted as a courier himself, but this so pleased a certain Family that the Uncle will soon be given an even better post than that which he is presently luxuriating in. Needless to say, both Nephew and Uncle are favourites of both the ruling as well as the opposition benches, so incestuous is the power elite in Delhi
It is only with the arrival of Chief Justice Kapadia on the scene that this culture of immunity seems to have been affected. That and the fact the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seems finally to have woken up to the fact that his great-grandchildren will have to hide in shame, should he refuse to at least attempt to clean up the putrid system over which he presides. In his second term, the PM seems much more pro-active than during 2004-2009, so that agencies such as the CBI ( which is often called the Criminal Bureau of Investigation because of the misdeeds of its officers, many of whom are hand-picked for their pliability) are being forced to bring at least a few top officials, politicians and businesspersons to account. In the past, these would have escaped because of their political connections and cash hoards. However, at long last, a few VVIPs are finally on their way to justice. Of course, even now, it is very probable that these may escape, the way many others have in the past. They may spend just a few months in jail rather than the many years that are required if the ends of justice are to be met.
Prime Minister, if you want your great-grandchildren to be proud of you rather than ashamed, make sure that the 40 thieves of the 2G scam go to jail for long periods of time. Only thus will you ensure that the corruption that is constraining India will get weakened. No matter how high, the guilty must pay the price mandated by law for their misdeeds.