People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 46

November 14, 2010



Speedy Probe Needed Into Mega Corruption


EVEN before the hype of president Obama’s visit could ebb, the winter session of the parliament took off on a stormy note.  Corruption in high places was the focus with the exposure of mega scams in rapid succession.  The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the sale of 2G spectrum by the telecom ministry has resoundingly vindicated the allegations that this column has been exposing during the last three years.  The Adarsh housing society scam in Mumbai and various scams associated with the recently-concluded Common Wealth Games (CWG) figured in demands for thorough investigation  and bringing culprits to book.  These are the latest entries in the volume of scams that has already been fattened by earlier scams like illegal mining and illegal exports of our mineral resources. 


At the outset, it must be recognised that all these scams are part of the vastly growing crony capitalism under the neo-liberal economic reforms dispensation.  Nepotism in awarding contracts, sweet heart deals in cheaply disposing off public properties  and creating illegal and new avenues for money laundering are some of the forms that crony capitalism takes.  The prime minister is, on record, to say that India can `ill-afford’ crony capitalism.  Yet, his own cabinet has members against whom serious charges of corruption through crony capitalism remain. 


Hoping to take the steam out of the opposition in the parliament before it assembled for the day on Wednesday, the Congress party removed its Maharashtra chief minister. It hoped that this move would take the sting away from the Adarsh housing society scam in Mumbai. This is, however, grossly misplaced.  Similarly, the removal of Suresh Kalmadi as an AICC secretary cannot cover-up the various scams associated with the CWG. 


This notwithstanding, the telecommunications minister continues to hold office even after the CAG report has revealed that a total sum of Rs 1,76,379 crores was the loss to the government’s exchequer due to his ministry’s decisions on the sale of the 2G spectrum.  CPI(M) MPs who had been raising these issues since February 2008 had estimated  a loss of Rs 1,90,000 crores due to the manner in which the 2G spectrum was sold.  Now that evidence has been furnished by the CAG to the president of India, it is clear that the matter must be thoroughly investigated, if needed, through the constitution of a joint parliamentary committee (JPC). 


The scams associated with the CWG have been subject matter of public discourse.  The CWG organising committee has now put out full page advertisements in all national dailies justifying their expenditures and suggesting that everything was transparent and clean.  However, the figures available on the CWG website then showed that the cost of renovating the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium was a whopping Rs 961 crore.  Likewise, the renovation of the Indira Gandhi Stadium was Rs 669 crore; the Dhyan Chand Hockey  Stadium was Rs 262 crore; the Karni Singh shooting ranges was Rs 149 crore and so on.  A total of Rs 44,459.48 crore was spent on renovations.  Compare these figures with the fact that the construction of a brand new state-of-the art stadium in Nagpur cost only Rs 84 crore!  It is absolutely necessary that all the allegations must be thoroughly investigated and those guilty  of misappropriating such huge amounts must be punished.  Various agencies are already investigating some of these charges.  A toothless committee has been formed by the UPA-II government to investigate the allegations.  This may end up doing more of a cover-up job than bringing the guilty to book.  What is required is that the government orders speedy investigations by its agencies like the CBI to ensure  fast  and punitive action against the guilty. 


The  Adarsh housing society scam points to a sordid saga of connivance between retired military bosses, the Maharashtra state bureaucrats and ruling class politicians.   Prime land in the high-end Mumbai district of Colaba,  earmarked for Kargil war widows,  was cornered by this nexus  to build a 31-storey residential apartment house.  It is shameful that this is the way some in our country honour the families of our martyrs.   In a brazen act of nepotism, the kith and kin of the powerful were allotted flats at throwaway prices.  The damage control exercise  of asking the chief minister to resign cannot be the excuse to sweep the matter under the carpet.  Since sections of the armed forces and the Maharashtra state government are involved, it is imperative that a high level enquiry by a central agency must take place to identify and punish the guilty. 


In addition to these latest scams, appropriate action in the scams exposed earlier like illegal mining etc still remain to be taken.  Clearly, while the prime minister decries crony capitalism, the UPA-II government with its aggressive pursuit of neo-liberal economic policies is only nurturing and promoting such crony capitalism. 


The question of corruption in high places has reached such a level that  in the 2010 ranking of various countries by Transparency International, India figures at the 87th place.  There is a cleanliness index on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 10 (very clean). India ranks at 3.3. This state of affairs is simply impermissible.  A vast majority of our people today suffer from malnutrition, hunger and deprivation.  While the government’s invoke the inadequacy of resources excuse  to meet the legitimate needs of our people, they nurture such expressions of crony capitalism where thousands of crores are being looted.  Once again, it is being proved that India is a rich country that breeds poor people to make the rich richer. Apart from legitimate issues of morality, curbing corruption in higher places is absolutely necessary to channel resources to improve the livelihood of the vast majority of our people. 


In the coming days, while the parliament will be engaged with these scams, it is necessary to intensify popular struggles to put pressure on this government and force it to take effective action against those found guilty. 


(November 10, 2010)