India & Corruption; Who is to be blamed – Part I

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Corruption in India

(MS Shanker)

That corruption in India is an age-old menace, is to repeat a truism. Corruption seems to course through the veins of our society. One may not come across many countries where dozens of spurious drugs find their way into chemists shops; milk, flour, ghee, just about any substance is adulterated with impunity and without any fear of retribution; where palm-greasing is a must for files to move; where dozens of bureaucrats amass wealth and assets far beyond their means and go unpunished and where our political class takes the cake when it comes to looting the country’s resources.

An “honest politician” is a misfit in the system. How many incorruptible politicians can we think of among those who belong to the political class? That is precisely the reason why there is such widespread unease and discomfort at the actions of the Enforcement Directorate, Income Tax, CBI and other investigating agencies. from the 70s if not from the early two decades of Independence, politicians believed that they were above the law when it came to probes into their corrupt actions or criminal deeds.

Therefore, Rahul Gandhi‘s call to save democracy from the “dictatorial Modi”, using Gandhiji’s “Do or Die”, sounds not only hollow, but comical. But then,  trust the Crown Prince of Congress to entertain us constantly and provide comedy every day of the year. Neither he nor his mother can answer any of the questions related to National Herald, Young India and AJL, asked by the ED officials.

All that they were believed to have said is that all the actions related to National Herald were taken by Motilal Vora, who is no more. The mother and son find themselves in a pickle because, apparently, there is not a single paper that bears Motilal Vora‘s signature in any of the transactions related to the alleged scam.

The scams which have eaten into the vitals of the system and the impact of which we have suffered silently: here is a small list, by no means comprehensive,

It all began in 1947, the year India got independence with the INA treasure chest disappearance scam. What is this?  The INA treasure controversy relates to the alleged misappropriation by men of Azad Hind of the Azad Hind fauj, recovered from belongings of Subhas Chandra Bose in his last known journey. The treasure, a considerable amount of gold ornaments and gems, is said to have been recovered from Bose’s belongings following the fatal plane crash in Formosa (present-day Taiwan) that reportedly killed him.

This was followed by the Jeep scandal case, where only 155 jeeps were delivered out of 2000 jeeps ordered for Rs 80 lakhs in the following year, i.e., in 1948. Then the following year it was the Gems Graft case involving then Industry Minister Rao Shiv Bahadur Singh, father of Arjun Singh. He was also jailed for three years for taking a bribe of Rs 25,000 from gemstone trader Sachendubhai Baron for renewing his diamond mining lease.

In 1950, it was the Mudgal scandal or cycle scam. On September 24, 1951, the country’s nascent Parliament, which made way for the first elected Lok Sabha in 1952, expelled an MP from Bombay, H G Mudgal, for accepting a bribe of Rs. 2,000 to lobby for the Bombay Bullion Merchants Association.

This was followed by BHU funds misappropriation (Rs 5 million) in 1956. It was considered one of the first instances of corruption in educational institutions, where Banaras Hindu University’s (BHU) officials were accused of misappropriation of funds worth Rs 50 lakh.

1957: Haridas Mundhra Insurance company scandal (Rs 12 million).  The Rs 12.6 million Haridas Mundhra-Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) scandals of 1957, billed as independent India’s first corruption scandal in business, which can be compared to the Rs 4 billion Harshad Mehta-State Bank of India (SBI) scam of 1992, the first scandal post economic liberalization and to the Rs 127 billion Nirav Modi-Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam of 2018.

In 1959 Ramakrishna Dalmia, chairman of Bharat Insurance Company, was arrested for misappropriating around Rs 2.2 crore from the company and was sent to jail for two years.

In the 1960s, Dharma Teja reportedly managed to get a Rs 22 crore loan from the government to start a shipping company and then siphoned the money out of the country. He was then arrested in Europe and jailed for six years. It led to Pratap Singh Kairon’s resignation in 1964 for favoring his family. (….to be continued)