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After the hue and cry

AFTER THE HUE AND CRY By Prem Chandran So, a CBI team is flying to Italy, and we are engaging .....




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02-17-2013
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AFTER THE HUE AND CRY

By Prem Chandran

So, a CBI team is flying to Italy, and we are engaging lawyers there. The government has formally written to the Italian authorities and the court there, urging them to part with the documents and help identify beneficiaries of the helicopter bribe. There are a whole lot of high-pitched action; and there are more of promises.

Importantly, the government is ready for any kind of investigation to find out who the beneficiaries of the bribe are. The Defence Minister, who presents himself as the cleanest politician and is yet under a cloud, declares no one will be spared; and he, we hear, wants to scrap the deal to restore his, the family’s, and the government’s image – though he chose to keep quiet when complaints arose locally in the past. The Opposition is making a lot of noise, as is its wont. So, we are doing all we can. Or so it would seem.Are we satisfied? Or is hoodwinking the name of the game? Are we sure we would, in the minimum, get to know CONCLUSIVELY and only too soon as to who all benefited from the bribe from the Italian helicopter company --over and above what is already reported?

Nothing is a starker example, in this context, than the Bofors scenario. Three decades have passed since the Bofors scam exploded on the Indian political and defence horizons, and our governments were going all out to get at the truth. But, we are nowhere nearer the truth, or in fixing the responsibility on anyone, much less punishing the guilty. There, yet, is little hope of a breakthrough in the Bofors scam, despite the fact successive Congress and BJP governments were claiming they were after it.

For crooks here, much like the Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, it could be Open Sesame every now and then, when it comes to looting the national wealth. What else to expect in a country where politicians have blatently reduced themselves to the levels of commission agents or dalals, taking a pick from every deal big or small?

Will it help if the Congress shifts the blame on the BJP, for the reason that the specifications for the VIP helicopters were changed during the time when the latter handled the affairs, in 2003? Or, if the BJP keeps shouting from rooftops that it was done with the good intention of widening the scope for selection, rather than accepting the offer from only one helicopter company which produced such high-flying aircraft as a fait accompli? Truth has many faces; and lies have many shades as well. The unalloyed fact, however, is that commissions are payable when a deal is struck: and the deal was signed in 2010. There could be more to it, but we do not know; and we might never know.

We are here neither to give a good certificate to the BJP nor to sympathize with the plight in which the Congress party is finding itself in. The crux of the matter is, across the spectrum, politicians have been taking us, the voters, for a ride down the road to disaster.

The job of the Opposition, as per established norms, is to keep a watch on the performance of the government, find faults with it, and get it to correct them, so that the governing process is strengthened on the right lines. Yet, what has the BJP, the main opposition, done to keep a watch on the performance of the government, that is widely believed to have been knee-deep in corruption, other than making howls of incoherent, ineffective protest, like when the CAG comes up with an expose, or when someone, somewhere, outside the parliament, makes an expose – as has happened in the case of the helicopter deal? Now, what do you make of the men and women who don the leadership role? The Opposition has created records of sorts by disrupting the functioning of the two houses of parliament for unending days, on various corruption issues, but the question is how much did these disruptions help fix the corrupt, or protect the people’s interests?

Why harp on the BJP alone? What about the rest, and in particular the communists? Have the reds made any effective interventions in parliament in recent years, or even outside of the parliament, other than on the occasional dramas they stage on the streets against issues like price rise? Can we, the public, be faulted if we take it that these leaders are so busy fighting American imperialism, tooth and nail, and restoring the health of a leader in Cuba, that they have little time and even interest left for local issues? This, when even the most noteworthy communists of the day, the communists of China, have made peace with capitalism and imperialism, and have adopted a few principles from them to set their (Chinese) economy in proper form – and with great relish and greater results. In India, if anything, the Naxalites have made a success out of the slumber of the Communist leaderships which have feet of clay.

India’s political class as a whole might be inept, but they have their strong points. For one, they are able and crafty enough in protecting themselves from harm. For this, there has been perfect collaboration between all sides. They know all about what the diversionary tactics are in a given situation, know how to beat around the bush and skirt the real issues, make the media play along, and above all how to hoodwink the country’s large mass of illiterates and even the educated, the more knowledgeable, with slogans like the Garibi Hatao or Ram temple. So far, the men who landed up in jails for their misdeeds are , per se, some dalit leaders, with the exception of say, an undefendably footloose Suresh Kalmadi.

By now, we know how billionaires are made in India, a nation which proves sweat plays no part in the making of billionaires or the filthy rich. Political relations help, and help best.

In a nation that thrives on a parallel economy spawned by black money, where politicians are the dalals themselves, the helicopter deal must perhaps be the tip of the ice berg. It so happened it got exposed. Blame might be on the no-nonsense Italian judicial officials, who are giving real headache to the politicians and administrators there for quite some time. Their perceived uprightness is worth a look. Businessman-turned power wielder Berlusconi might not be able to defend himself before them, though he is taking pains to defend the bribe in the helicopter deal. Agreed that bribes are part of the international deals, but why, on the surface, is the Indian establishment insisting there be no bribe (on record) for its multiple international deals -- and yet, in questionable ways, looks like facilitating the role of middle men?

All our outcries might make little impact, and the helicopter deal might meet with the same fate as of the Bofors. And it will not be long before the men who allegedly made money out of the deal smile ear to ear. Where, we might ask, are the anti-corruption crusaders after their big-ticket performance lasting a few months? -- premcee@gmail.com

Last edited by Premchandran; 02-24-2013 at 09:17 PM
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