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Pussyfooting over panama

By PREM CHANDRAN PANAMA PAPERS LEAK, involving classified documents of Panamanian law firm and corporate serving agency Mossack Fonseca, occurred .....




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Old 08-16-2017
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By PREM CHANDRAN

PANAMA PAPERS LEAK, involving classified documents of Panamanian law firm and corporate serving agency Mossack Fonseca, occurred in 2015. An anonymous source leaked the over 11million documents to a German journalist, and from there the trail started. Teams of media professionals went through the papers and by April 2016, the first reports started appearing about money being hoarded in tax havens abroad and shell companies being floated to turn black money into white by businessmen, politicians, celebrities and others from various countries, and prominently from India and Pakistan. Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, DLF owner KP Singh, promoters of Apollo Tyres and Indiabulls, Gautam Adani’s brother Vinod Adani were among the prominent names from India, while the politicians’ names are yet a subject of speculations. It would now appear that India took the matter lightly. There's egg on the face of PM Modi and the government he runs. In Pakistan, names of (then) Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family prominently figured in the documents and reports thereof. In just a year’s time, the Pakistani Supreme Court has passed strictures against Sharif, making his continuation as PM untenable. Sharif quit as Prime Minister on July 28. What about the scene in India? The government of PM Modi did a half-hearted job. The Enforcement Directorate and other agencies were tasked with investigations into the allegations. The investigations are going on and on—without any result – as has been the case with most such investigations in India. The men involved in the investigations are simply not serious about their job; and the politicians who lord over the officialdom are not serious either. They all have their vested interests to promote.

THE BOFORS CASE

The Bofors case related to a Rs 1,437crore arms deal done in 1986 by the Rajiv Gandhi government for supply of Swedish Howitzer guns to the Indian army. It was reported to have involved a bribe payment of Rs 64 crore to “politicians and officials” in India – as was first revealed by the Swedish Radio in 1987. The Congress suffered a loss of face – but not Sonia Gandhi, as events in future would testify – and the Indian agencies investigated the case for decades, spent thousands of crores in the name of investigations, and the case reached nowhere. Expenses involved in the (abortive) attempts to facilitate the extradition to India of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi itself cost the Indian exchequer Rs 250crore (four times the reported bribe amount), as was informed by the government to the Delhi High Court in 2011. Quattrocchi who fled India in 1993 could never be brought back. Upon a review of the matter, the high court asked the CBI not to spend anymore of the nation’s hard-earned money, and the case was closed. Fact is, more than the money spent for the guns has been spent in the name of (fraudulent, deceitful) investigations. The case came up in the Supreme Court in 2016 by way of an appeal against the high court order, when the CBI has informed the apex court that the former UPA government had denied permission to it to go in appeal against the high court order. The case, thereon stood closed. A fresh move is now on to revive the Bofors case. In other words, politicians and governmental investigation agencies colluded in the act of sabotaging the case, and nothing came out of it. This is the way investigations progress in the world’s most corrupt land called India. Pakistan, chaotic in many ways, stands head and shoulders above India, as Nawaz Sharif’s ouster from the PM post showed – it happened in just about a year’s time after the Panama reports became public. The way Indian investigations go round and round, what can one expect from these agencies?

MODI AS CARBON COPY

Question is, what difference a Narendra Modi government has made to India in such matters? It is turning into a carbon copy of the Congress governments that perpetrated corruption and an elitist exploitative culture in this country through the institutions of bureaucracy and political establishments, to which, of late, has been added the judiciary. Judiciary in India, unlike in Pakistan, is now seen to be promoting all the vested interests through the interpretation of laws, the suspectedly deceitful ways of “protection” of individual rights and much else. Almost every governmental measure in terms of infrastructure development gets stalled by not just the judiciary citing flimsy grounds like the right of individual over land, and also by the overzealousness of new institutional mechanisms like the environmental agencies, the human rights organizations, the Green tribunal and the like, who have been provided with quasi judicial powers as well. Multiple centres of power are coming into being, their collective interests being to promote the vested interests in this country. Essentially, they are all there to stall development in what is now a rudderless India, set against the likes of China where governmental and party agencies act in unison and push development. In India, they work at cross purposes, stalling progress. This is also the India a Narendra Modi has inherited from the Congress. Modi is proving to be a status-quoist, another side of the Congress coin, one who is not willing to outrightly confront situations or take the bull by its horns – characteristics so prominent in the Sonia-Manmohan Singh era. If Modi acts tough, for a change, the "intellectuals" are here to confront him; the elitist English media is here to take on him; and the elitist of the elitist Communist party leaders --best communicators in English among the politicos -- are there to frown upon him, and the courts are there to stall his moves in the name of protecting "people's rights." So, India can continue growing at snail's pace set against the dragon in its backyard.

Like it or not, India the elephant can only walk. It cannot run, it cannot leap, and it cannot jump. Such is the weight it bears and what it’s good at is carrying a lot of flesh and flab on it and of course dragging a few logs of wood a day; what cranes can do with meagre costs to it. Quick action is not among India’s strengths not only as its majority Hindu population is fed on a diet of vegetarian food but also on a social and cultural ethos that promotes the spirit of inaction, set against the urge for action. Its religious ethos is guided by the sages of yore who lived in caves, meditated and wrote down a code of conduct for the society which, in essence, encourages complacence against competence. Little wonder then that the Indian soldiers took repeated hits from its neighbouring armies – be it in the 1962 Sino-Indian war or in the wars with Pakistan in later years. In the process, India lost land to China, and half of India’s Kashmir is with the Pakistanis, which is now known as Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. Pakistan is fighting a proxy fight through elements of terror to get the other half of Kashmir too for it.

Under the circumstances, is there any wonder that the man with a 56-inch chest who ended up as India’s Prime Minister has two-thirds of his five year term over, and is struggling to create a report card for him and his party for the next Parliament polls in 2019? It’s not that Narendra Modi as Prime Minister since Mid-2014 has been a failure. It is simply that his governance is progressing at snail’s pace. An India set against a Dragon in its neighbourhood can ill afford to have this kind of a governance. Finishing off the political opposition by itself is not an end in itself. How far has he taken the nation forward, is the question. Modi was expected to not only perform, perform well, and also to catch up with the lost time India spent under two spells of Manmohan Singh as PM and Sonia Gandhi as an inexperienced, cocooned empress around. India has failed miserably to keep its powder dry. Our defence preparedness during the UPA period was to the minimum, as a patently sleepy defence minister sat through his term and held back files on equipment acquisitions. And, when he saw files through, there arose scams of the size of the VIP helicopter deal. New Delhi, in those times, took for granted that neither Pakistan nor China can have any evil eye cast on India.

CHALLENGE FROM CHINA

Common sense dictates that trouble is in store when a nation in the neighbourhood is on a weapons/fighter jets acquisition spree, as China kept doing through the whole of the past decade and a half. China had demonstrated its potential for mischief against India in the past. It is by far the most untrustworthy neighbour not just to India but to others in its neighbourhood as well. That’s so with Mongolia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and even Vietnam down the line. It has its problems with Russia as well. There was nothing to show it will not play mischief against India again. Neither Manmohan Singh nor Sonia Gandhi took note. They were in blissful ignorance of what was shaping up around this geopolitical region. It is here that the need arises of having someone with a strong nationalistic spirit to run India. Narendra Modi and the BJP have their flaws; or the RSS for that matter. But, they are in the reckoning today because there is a realization among large sections of Indians that India cannot be handed over on a platter to the likes of an inexperienced Sonia Gandhi to decide on its destiny.

MODI THEN, MODI NOW

Narendra Modi came on to the national scene as a whiff of fresh air. He was different from the corrupt lot that was in the saddle in capital Delhi and in state after state. He’s the anti-thesis of the dynastic principles that guided much of Indian politics today. He has the strong nationalistic spirit a la his close association with the RSS. And he had a report card of good administration in his home state of Gujarat, other than for the flaws in his policing at the height of a series of communal riots in the state around 2002. What was also noticed that he’s different from the kind of anachronisms that populated the RSS headquarters in Nagpur, “gau rakshaks” and the Pravin Togadias, men who live in the medieval times and harp on themes that are outlandish, hackneyed and unacceptable to the wider society. Modi’s push for renewable sources of energy and his drive to further industrialize Gujarat and provide both peace and political stability for three terms in governance there were matters that could not be overlooked. Modi, it appeared, was the man India was looking for. His jet-set campaign for the 2014 hustings gave him the added aura. His energy, it appeared, was legion. Little wonder then that India voted wholeheartedly for a new government and a new Prime Minister. A question is will the Indian voter look at Modi the same way in 2019 as they did in 2014?

No doubt, three years down the line, Modi and his BJP are still on a winning spree, election after election, and they have not just conquered the North, but the North-East as well, while the West has been their strong base. Central India, with Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra in the lead, is with the BJP. Where Modi and Co failed to make a mark yet is the South. The twoTelugu states are with the regional satraps. Kerala is with the Communists and Tamil Nadu with the Dravidian parties. An election in Karnataka six months hence is unlikely to give the BJP a winning chance as chief minister Siddaramaiah is seen to be playing his cards well. So far so good for him and by extension the Congress, while the BJP in Karnataka remains a divided house. Banking on Yeddyurappa might not necessarily be the way forward for the BJP in the state. BJP is not able to fathom the social dynamics at work in all the four southern states. The party is in the wrong hands in all of these states. The North-East is going the BJP way. It would sooner or later be a washout for the Congress if the present trend continues. It’s already happening.

SOCIAL ENGINEERING WITH A POLITICAL PURPOSE

The BJP was made to eat a humble pie in 2004 at the height of its past glory under Atal Behari Vajpayee, when the India Shining campaign collapsed like a pack of cards. It had also to do with a wholesale consolidation of Muslim votes. Congress reaped a rich harvest in terms of votes and returned to power for two terms. This made majority Hindus learn a lesson in elections as well. The Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh in 2017 showed a Muslim consolidation can no more upset the BJP applecart. The BJP and the RSS, collectively, have evolved mechanisms to counter such eventualities in future. Its effort has been to consolidate Hindu votes, and hence the newfound RSS obsession to woo the Dalits and the Backwards and play down its concern for upholding the interests of Brahmins, that till recently was at the heart of its scheme of things. Social engineering is the name of the game, and the installation of Ram Nath Kovind, a Dalit, as President is the latest in a series of overtures from the Saffronites towards this cause. The idea is to counter a Muslim consolidation in electoral terms. Backwards might or might not stand to gain. Modi himself has been projected as a leader from a backward class community, but this at best is half-truth. His community had been included in the list of BCs only in recent years. But, such strategies helped the BJP reap electoral dividends. Significantly “social engineering” was the reason that Modi reportedly gave to the RSS to justify his selection of Kovind as President nominee of the NDA. The signal it sent out is that those who run India today care for the lowest rungs in the society in at least a symbolic way.

GOOD SIDE OF MODI

Modi’s governance has its good sides. The GST bill, held back for years due to petty politicking in Parliament first by the BJP as Opposition and later by the Congress, is a major step forward in bringing about a proper system to the taxation structure in Indian markets and commercial activities. A market reform of gargantuan scale, it follows the spirit of the economic reforms introduced by the Narasimha Rao-Manmohan Singh team in the early 1990s. This will have its flaws, but it is through rectifications that a system is perfected. The demonetization was another good step forward, and with strong regulations being introduced in the banking systems, it will now be more difficult to hoard money; and it will not be easy anymore to evade tax. Grant Modi and his team the credit to bring in hundreds of thousands more of crores into the exchequer. The government will now have more money to spend, be it on defence or on infra projects. This is the unalloyed truth. Take note also of the way the Indian army stopped the Chinese PLA in its tracks in Doklam. The way the Chinese media is hurling abuses at India day and night these days is proof that the dragon has been made to take a hit. China cannot wage a war with India, as long as it does not want to hurt its own economy badly. The signing of the border treaty with Bangladesh, the way terrorists are tackled, and tackled well in Kashmir, including the way commanders like Burhan Wani and others were exterminated, are part of the good tidings under the Modi leadership.

THE FLIP SIDE

Where the Modi government fails, however, is its slow approach to matters. Time waits for none. And not certainly for an elected government that has a fixed term. Turn to the Panama Papers, that had exposed politicians,businessmen and bureaucrats hiding their ill-gotten wealth in safe tax havens abroad through shell companies and what not. Long ago, the British, the Dutch, the Portuguese, shipped away India’s wealth to their lands. Today, Indians who fattened themselves by exploiting their fellow Indians or looting the exchequer through foul means, are doing it and creating empires for themselves abroad. The Bofors story should have alerted Indians as to where to keep a Sonia Gandhi and where not to allow her access. Instead, Indians handed over the entire nation on a platter to her. That helped several other Congress and coalition politicians to loot India to the hilt as well for over two decades.

LESSON FROM PAKISTAN

Within a matter of a few months, Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif, who along with his family members figured in the Panama Papers leak, has been asked out of office by the Pakistan judiciary. It goes to show the law enforcing mechanisms did a job, and it did a job with due diligence. The chief executive of the nation has been shown the door. In India, the taxation and investigation agencies keep pussyfooting around over the matter. Like in all other cases, investigations hardly moved forward. If they move forward, courts are there to put a spoke into every wheel. The influential men and women in India know how to stall such proceedings. Unfortunately, courts are being facilitators to such acts. The highly corrupt systems block investigations from the word go. A whole lot of vested interests are thriving at different layers of the governance systems in this country, and question is what difference a Prime Minister Modi has made to this scenario? premcee@gmail.com www.indiahereandnow.com

Last edited by Premchandran; 08-16-2017 at 10:38 PM
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