Coping with the aftermath of a massive scam
Nov 2011 | DELHI |Votes scandal adds to Manmohan's woes
After a series of corruption cases, WikiLeaks cables revealing that India's United Progressive Alliance government bribed lawmakers to pass a 2008 confidence vote have further damaged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Though he is widely viewed as incorruptible, the public is tired of his weak response to scandals and reluctance to punish officials.
- Sudha Ramachandran (Mar 23, '11)
Welcome to the scam capital
Multi-billion dollar scandals in India such as the 2G telephone license and Commonwealth Games scams this year are only the tip of graft riddling the system. The Supreme Court's high-profile attempt to prosecute the cases indicates it is finally strong enough to stare down the executive and bring a modicum of justice. However, the courts cannot act as parliament and police.
- Gautaman Bhaskaran (Mar 23, '11)
Even Manmohan Singh has been tarnished....
Japan's nuclear disaster spooks India
India's nuclear agency has defended existing reactors and planned new plants as Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant teeters towards meltdown, claiming safer designs and locations ensure they will withstand earthquakes and tsunamis. The disaster, though, has reawakened fears over accident preparedness, as well as over "unproven" technologies to be implemented at a proposed plant set to become the world's largest.
- Sudha Ramachandran (Mar 16, '11)
SONIA GANDHI, the head of the ruling Congress party, laments that India’s “moral universe” is shrinking, as newspapers fill with ever more galling cases of political corruption. Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, says he feels like a schoolboy facing a series of agonising tests as scandals break one after another. Ratan Tata, head of the Tata Group, hints that the scourge is hurting the economy; officials’ expectations of bribes, he said, put him off launching a domestic airline. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/MB24Df01.html
It is tempting to hope this “season of scams” will concentrate the minds of India’s leaders. This month Congress sacked two prominent officials over graft. Suresh Kalmadi, who oversaw the Commonwealth games in Delhi in October, was sent running on November 9th as evidence of dubious contracts emerged. On the same day the party also toppled Ashok Chavan, chief minister of Maharashtra state, over a housing scam. His relatives and associates had taken flats in a new tower block that was supposedly set aside for veterans and war widows...
The fallout from the dodgy sale of 2G mobile-telephone licences nearly three years ago will be much worse. On November 14th Mr Singh at last forced a coalition ally, Andimuthu Raja, to quit as telecoms minister. Mr Raja had refused to auction the licences, preferring to dish them out in an underhand and chaotic way, awarding 120 in a single day. Favoured companies bought permits for a song. In the process, the state may have forfeited revenues worth a staggering 176,000 “crore” rupees (a crore is 10m: almost $40 billion in all), to judge by their resale value and by the sums raised by the auction of 3G airwaves.
Even Mr Singh, who is generally seen as a saintly technocrat floating above the fray, has been dragged down into the muck. Most unusually, the Supreme Court chided him last week. His sin was to act too slowly against his coalition partner. Congress, lacking a majority, relies on Mr Raja’s party, the DMK, for parliamentary support.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) scents blood. It has blocked parliament to force a public inquiry into the 2G affair. More than 20 years ago a similar investigation seemed to show that a Congress government was bribed by Bofors, a Swedish artillery supplier. They lost the next general election.
But Congress retorts that the BJP’s record is no cleaner. It has been trying to show its resolve against corruption by pushing for the resignation of one of its own, B.S. Yeddyurappa, the chief minister of Karnataka state. He stands accused of giving away public land and taking money from a mining firm. Yet on November 24th he defied the BJP’s national leaders and stayed on, casting doubt on the BJP’s credibility in any fight against corruption....
The ex-boss of an anti-graft commission, Pratyush Sinha, threw his hands up in despair in September, saying his job was thankless and lamenting that increasingly materialistic Indians were becoming “utterly corrupt”. His complaints were writ large this month in a report by an American think-tank, Global Financial Integrity, which suggested that since 1948 India had lost over $460 billion in illicit financial flows, much of it through corruption.
The report concluded that the problem would worsen as the economy grows and incomes become more unequal. The moral universe may be getting smaller but, despite the shifting of a few high-profile figures, it seems that India is ready to do little more than shrug....
Miserly Indians see the light
A recent trip to India by American billionaire-philanthropist Warren Buffet threw a harsh spotlight on the contribution being made to the poverty and inequality-stricken society by corporate India and the wealthy. While philanthropy has been part of the Indian psyche and culture for centuries, such kindness has been eclipsed in recent years by ruthless ambition to amass individual wealth.
- Gautaman Bhaskaran (Mar 29, '11)