Reality Check India

Corruption across the spectrum

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on September 14, 2010

Terror : Saffron, Green, and Red

Corruption : Across the spectrum

India today under the dominant political party

I have blogged extensively in the past about the so called 2G spectrum scam. What really sets this scam apart in a nation wallowing in corruption is the scale, the brazenness, and the role of the media (we want clinching evidence Prabhu Chawla).

Today, the Supreme Court has issued a show cause notice to Union Minister A. Raja and other branches of government while hearing a PIL filed by various agencies like the Telecom Watchdog, the CPIL,  and veteran journalist Pranonjoy Roy Thakurta.

The CBI’s failure to file a chargesheet or arrest any person in the murky 2G spectrum scam came under scrutiny in the Supreme Court, which on Monday directed Union Telecom Minister A Raja, the Centre and the CBI to respond as to why not the probe be monitored by the apex court or a special investigation team be set up to go into the scam.

Source : Daily Pioneer

In legal terms, the notice itself is fairly routine. At the very least,  it flies down the news wires and brings the corruption scandal into the media again.

The appointment of new CVC : Heads I win, tails you lose

In this light, Pranonjoy Guha Thakurta as a must read piece in the Deccan Chronicle today on the recent appointment of the new Central Vigilance Commissioner Mr PJ Thomas. Please go and read it now. Here is an excerpt of how serious this government is about pursuing the alleged theft of billions of dollars of the scarcest natural resource.

How Manmohan Singh and P. Chidambaram of the Congress completely overruled the fair objections of Sushma Swaraj of the BJP, even when a unanimous alternative choice was within reach.

It is hardly surprising that the appointment of Mr Thomas as CVC by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union home minister P. Chidambaram by over-ruling the objections raised by Sushma Swaraj (who, incidentally, also holds a Cabinet rank as Leader of the Opposition) raised a big hue and cry, since he had just demitted office as secretary, DoT.

About how the new CVC appointee secured a note pre-emptively clipping his wings in what would be his new job.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has alleged that Mr Thomas was chosen because he would not rigorously pursue investigations into the 2G spectrum scandal since he “secured” a note from the law ministry while he was DoT secretary which argues that the allocation of electro-magnetic airwaves, or spectrum, used for telecommunications was part of official “policy” that cannot be questioned either by the CVC or the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India.

Source  : Deccan Chronicle

Observe how fast the files flew through various offices – as if his appointment was a foregone conclusion. This would automatically mean Manmohan Singh and P. Chidambaram viewed Sushma Swaraj as a mere dummy – who believes friendliness can sway a regime such as the Congress.

The DoT note to the law ministry on the spectrum allocation issue apparently moved with remarkable alacrity between August 10, 2010, and August 12 from official to official before the signatures of minister Mr Raja and secretary Mr Thomas were appended. That’s not all. Within a day, on August 13, the law ministry responded to the DoT’s queries. Such expeditiousness is hardly the hallmark of Indian bureaucracy.

Source  : Deccan Chronicle

On behalf of the citizens of India who are open to an alternative conventional wisdom, Reality Check India would like to extend a Thank You to Mr Pranonjoy Roy Thakurta for this excellent piece.

Role of the media: Take spotlight off the beneficiary

Recently, a leading media channel organized another Business Awards night. The usual suspects were awarded. This year, some brown people holding mid level positions in Obamas cabinet too were honoured. They in turn duly regaled the crowd with their funny accents. The anchor beseeched Mr NR Narayana Murthy once again to step into public life, straight into the office of the President. Mukesh Ambani received the ‘last but not least award’, then cocktails flowed and the crowd dispersed into the Mumbai night. Nothing wrong with these awards.

You would expect that a couple of young entrepreneurs who crashed into the Forbes India Billionaires list at position #49 and #50 would find at least a mention. Not to be.  Is this how we treat our young entrepreneurs and start ups ?

In the answer to this lies a great secret.

Our media these days is very careful to screen beneficiaries of corruption. They would rather prefer a top-down approach to coverage of corruption stories because inevitably this gets lost in bureaucratic  ‘octopus-ink’.  In contrast, a bottom up pursuit will act as very potent entry points into the scam and have a high human interest angle. All Indians, including Maoists, really hate others getting rich on their money.

Lets put the scam in terms of the actors (underlined) :

Foreign firms paid market value to Indian middlemen for a natural resource who in turn paid peanuts to the government.

So does the media give equal airtime to the three actors. Lets see.

We have a spectacle of an  interview with Telenor CEO, who plainly said his firm is used to doing business in “countries like India”.  We also have the cursory interview with the government officials and ministers. But, you never hear from the “middlemen” who now command companies with market valuations in the billions of US dollars.  I have another example of a inspirational entrepreneur. They are a venture capital firm which sold their stake for 350 Crores – more than a 1/2 of all private equity investments in India in 2009 – yet we did not have one interview with their management and not one award. Contrast to the constant air time and awards given to sundry silicon valley venture capital firms who talk big over puny investments of 1-3 crore.  How are our young supposed to get inspired ?

Forbes India quite obviously has a lot to learn about India.

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2 Responses

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  1. Arjun said, on October 4, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Thank you for this excellent article!

    Your blog is one of the few sources of news as it should be, tempered with sobering views.

    It is only a matter of time before this last medium of truth passes into state control.

  2. […] 24 2010, Corruption across the spectrum I have blogged extensively in the past about the so called 2G spectrum scam. What really sets this […]


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