Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Commonwealth Games Unveil India’s Culture of Corruption

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                                                                                                            11 August, 2010


Commonwealth Games Unveil India's Culture of Corruption  

; Greek Economic Crisis follows $ 12 Billion 2004 Athens Olympics


The extent and depth of corruption in the organization of 2010 Commonwealth Games (CWG) by the Committee led by the Congress politician Suresh Kalmadi , the Ministries of Sports and Urban Development ,the Congress ruled Delhi administration , the Municipal Committee and others being unveiled by Indian media led by Times-now and the brazenfaced stone walling by India's corrupt ruling elite is a symptom of the decline of the Indian state . More than 5,000 athletes from 71 countries and thousands of visitors are expected for the games, the 19th such event for countries formerly colonized by Great Britain and scheduled to be held in October. But the preparations are behind schedule , with terror security threats looming in the background.


The can of worms of the corruption in CWG was opened by former Minister of Sports, Mani Shankar Aiyar , who said that he would not be unhappy if CWG failed as it would stop bids for organizing Asiads and Olympic games (and more corruption ) which India can ill afford . As the Minister , Mani had opposed the bids for Asiad and other games . It would be a waste of money , he said .This money could be better utilized by creating sports facilities in villages and districts to cast a wider  net for talent hunt and to nurture and train it ( as did the Communist states before the Fall of the Berlin Wall.)Mani's sports portfolio was taken away .Earlier his portfolio of oil and gas was taken away since Washington did not like his efforts to create energy security by tying up with Iran and Maynamar.US ambassador in Delhi publicly demanded his removal. Germany and others in Europe have tied up energy supply from Russia and even possibly Iran despite regular admonitions from ally Washington .But Manmohan Singh administration remains beholden to US and has caused immense harm to India's strategic and vital interest and continues to do so.


Total Expenditure to be $ 20 billion?


When work on the CWG began in 2006 the mega budget was Rs 22,000 crores (4.7 crores = US$ one million.) Now it is Rs 30,000 crores and balooning ! The Delhi government increased taxes and rolled back crucial subsidies. The CWG Village budget of Rs 465 crores in 2004 is now Rs 1400 crores. Traffic and communication infrastructure budget doubled from Rs 40 to Rs 80 crores. The budget for 11 stadia ,Rs 1200 crores in 2004, has risen to Rs 5000 crores. The construction is shoddy and way behind deadline. Work on flyovers altered mid-way several times and new unplanned additions made the budget jump to Rs 1,650 crore.  Another unplanned expenditure is Streetscaping , Rs 1000 crores.

It is easy to inflate costs of construction projects and siphon away money. The various agencies had enough time but delay and then urgency provides a cover for corruption.  Security will cost Rs 370 crores, thanks to terror scare .Events planning has increased from Rs 920 crores in 2004, to Rs 2307 crores  now. Indian Express quoted a figure of around forty five thousand crores around 10 billion US dollars. Everyone is making hay (money ) under the sunshine of political cover , with major money going to the political bosses .The general public perception, rightly ,is that barring a few exceptions all politicians have their fingers in the public till. According to media reports a lion's share of this money had moved out to the bank accounts of the officials of Organizing Committee and others and not for the games.

Sharad Yadv, leader of the opposition Janata Dal (United) party claimed in the Parliament that one lakh crores Rs ($20 billion) would be spent on the Games .In a typical Indian rope trick style , no one knows how much money will be spent and where the buck stops . Media reported from time to time that huge sums were demanded by the Committee and others and accepted . The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights and the Housing & Land Rights Network disclosed that the Delhi government even diverted over Rs 740 crore from funds meant for SCs and STs (Dalits ) to the games .

CBI sleuths are investigating allegations of bribery, over-billing, illegal commissions, improper contracts, substandard construction work - and perhaps millions of dollars siphoned off to secret bank accounts.  Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), which investigates government corruption, has found irregularities after inspecting 186 Games-related projects , ie construction of five stadiums, upgrades of six old ones, and building of a Games village and about 20 training venues.

A CVC report states that "almost all" quotations for the Games have been inflated but still there was, "poor site management, delays and quality compromises and frauds like fake certificates ,tampering with sealed bid documents." The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Comptroller and Auditor General are scrutinizing 16 Games-related projects for corruption, including contracts to buy overpriced goods. Sports equipment, stadium chairs, air-conditioners, even soap dispensers and umbrellas, were marked up over market prices by an eye-popping 800% to 1,000%.


The CWG paid over Rs 3 crore without a written contract to a little known firm in the UK—AM Films of Ashish Patel —for cabs and audio-visual services during the Queen's Baton Relay function in London. In defence, Kalmadi said the Indian High Commission recommended the firm. He produced an e-mail from the high commission, which the Ministry of External Affairs said was doctored. As is usual Kalmadi had threatened to sue for defamation but has now piped down. India's Enforcement Directorate is investigating payments of over Rs 50 crore to two firms—Switzerland-based Event Knowledge Services and an Australian firm, Sports Marketing and Management.


India has laws against all crimes and evils .In fact too many laws , which cannot or are not implemented or in fact become a means for bribe taking or extortion of money and other corrupt practices by regulatory authorities. All across the Indian polity and the country there are clear signs of the state reverting back to the corrupt and feudal ways of the last days of Mughal empire ,ie when every job is for sale ,emergence of medieval practices of Khapps (Caste councils) ordering killings of couples for marrying against the obscurantist injunctions , continued burning of brides for dowry, or the widespread apartheid like caste system .Outside urban centres the Dalits continue to be maltreated and victims of criminal acts in spite of laws galore.


Were Athens 2004 Olympic Games , the beginning of the Greek Economic Crisis

Even at the time of the 2004 Athens Olympic, the Greek media was full of reports of massive corruption ie, inflation and rigging up of the costs and wrong doings. There appears to be similar pattern in 2010 CWG .

Writing in Aljazeeranet of 10 May 2010 Mark Cochran said that in the biggest multilateral economic bailout ever attempted over the next three years, Greece will receive $146 billion from Euro-zone countries and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to lift the bankrupt country out of its debt crisis. But Greece's fundamental problems remain unresolved: corruption and massive tax avoidance which fuels the black economy. Popular anger is growing because of the tax rises, wage reductions and savage public spending cuts required as part of the Eurozone/IMF deal.

Blaming the Olympics

Many Athenians believe their economic downfall began with the 12 billion euros spent hosting the 2004 Olympic games. The world-class sporting facilities now lie largely abandoned.

Costas Bakouris , now the corruption watch dog who ran the Athens Olympics Committee said,.

"I have seen many assessments of what it takes to make, let's say, a 15,000 seat stadium and I have seen how much it cost Barcelona and Atlanta and how much it was in Sydney and the estimate we used to have in Greece for some of those, it was anywhere between 50 per cent more to four times more," he says.

"So therefore I knew that there was probably a lot of corruption and other things and therefore it cost a hell of a lot more."

There is a saying that Greece is a poor country full of rich people. As the good times rolled through the 1990s and soft loans and grants poured in from the European Union, fashion was just one industry that boomed.

What makes news is how many Porsches, Bentleys, Mercedes and Ferrari were sold in Greece. It is the easy money from EU 1980s which created a culture of wheeling and dealing rather than hard work guaranteed wealth. He says that a generation or more of Greeks have been lost to that mentality. ( In India , where 70% of population subsists on less than a dollar per day, with India's neo-liberal policies favouring the rich and the crooks , you have private jets , helipads ,yachts and huge mansions costing US$ Two billion).

Tax evasion is now a national sport and fuelling the black economy. "The rich people don't pay taxes. There's an old saying in Greece – the more money you steal the better off you are. If you steal a few euros, a few hundred euros you go to jail ... you steal thousands of euros, we'll talk about it ... you steal a few million euros you become a hero," said  Kyriakousis , a taxi driver in Athens.

Such people do not understand that consistent hard work, competitiveness, efficiency, and  innovation which pays not wheeling and dealing

'War against governments'

Greece's "nonsense bureaucracy" means that in certain instances, 25 people have to vet one piece of paper to get something agreed to and they have to be bribed . Small business permits, even basic services, such as getting a drivers license or treatment in a public hospital often require an illegal payment called fakelaki

The government has now announced a range of austerity measures - wages and pensions will be cut, taxes increased and government spending slashed. Public servants face 10 per cent pay cuts and an end to early retirement in their forties .Tens of thousands of Greeks have taken to the street to protest against the government's measures.

India's culture of total corruption


The Congress led government has stone walled the removal of Kalmadi , though some chinks have appeared .The Congress party General Secretary Digvijay Singh suggested that if there are prima facie charges established by CBI , Kalmadi should resign . But Sports Minister MS Gill defended Kalmadi in the Parliament and stonewalled by suggesting that information could be obtained by using Right to Information (RIT) law leading to a walk out by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP). "Is the RTI more important than Parliament?" asked BJP Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj.


Gill did not cover himself with glory when after retiring from the prestigious constitutional post of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) of India , he went around and got himself nominated as a Member of Rajya Sabha ( Upper House) . This sent a wrong signal which the politicians exploit .Like Jimmy Lyngdoh ,another CEC, he should have kept away from any position of profit .MS Gill was probably brought in to tackle a  strong willed Gill , KPS , who as the Police Chief had eradicated terrorism in Punjab.KPS Gill was entrenched as the Hockey Federation Chief .This battle between Gills has only uncovered the mess in the hockey administration in India , once a top dog in this game .


Incidentally, in recent elections to Rajya Sabha , state legislators , who elect them, had demanded Rs 50 lakhs ( one million is 10 lakhs) to one crore for the vote .Rich industrialists reportedly spend up to Rs 50 crores to get into the Rajya Sabha . As MPs and ministers , they can easily manipulate the policy and decisions to favour their companies .Indians have little concept of conflict of interest . A striking example is the Reddy brothers of Karnataka who own and mine iron ore and are ministers in the state government .Quite obviously they use their official positions to browbeat any opposition to their schemes or illegal mining and exports as alleged by the Congress members and the media . Similar illegal mining is being done all over India.


Apart from CWG scams , there are other scams like handouts of G-2 telecoms bandwidth, Jharkhand's ex- chief Minister Koda's corruption scam running into billions of US dollars, the old Bihar fodder scam and Telgi stamps scam. These are just some tips of the icebergs in India's vast polluted ocean of corruption. With inordinate delays in dispensation of justice amounting to a denial of justice , along with the power of the corrupt ruling classes , their henchmen officers and a greedy rampant corporate and business community, there  seems little hope or relief for the aam aadmi (common man).

There is something rotten in the (Judicial) State of Denmark .

At a seminar in Chandigarh two years ago on the 'Responsibility of Judicial System towards the Society', Supreme Court judge G S Singhvi said that the judicial system had become a business in the eyes of the people. He said that due to the harassment suffered by the common man in his struggle for justice, 95 per cent of the people do not go to courts at all, suffering silently. "Those 5 per cent who do go, wait in queue for many years, empty their pockets to hire a lawyer. It's a nightmare for the common man --," adding that this was the reason people had started taking law in their hands. ( The judicial system is therefore openly and brazenly misused by the rich , the politically powerful and the criminals)

Recently in the case of the former Karnataka High Court Chief Justice P D Dinakaran, who was promoted to the Supreme Court had his promotion challenged following confirmation by the Tamil Nadu government of land grabbing allegations against him. Still he has now joined as Chief Justice of the Sikkim High Court.

The collegium, headed by Justice KG Balakrishnan had promoted Justice Dinakaran but leading advocates including F.S. Nariman, Shanti Bhushan, Ashok Desai and Ram Jethmalani had suggested the reconsideration of the decision . Justice Balakrishnan had defended his decision on a TV channel . The Advocates Association of Bangalore Thursday threatened to boycott the court of state Chief Justice Dinakaran in view of the allegations against him. There are many cases of corruption against high court Judges.

Justice Balakrishnan has now taken over as the Chairman of the Human Rights Commission .Quite often retired judges with tainted reputations are routinely used by sly politicians for commissions and enquiries to get the desired opinions.

Central Bureau of Investigation


It is pathetic to see on Parliament TV channels , well fed and opulent opposition members shouting hoarse about the poverty and misery of the people but when in power they are equally venal .When criticized about the pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat under Chief Minister Narendra Modi , his BJP party leaders point to the killings of Sikhs in 1984 after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh body guards .Some justification . It is sickening.


Day in and day out opposition members in the Parliament complain about the misuse of CBI by the government of the day .But all attempts to make CBI an autonomous constitutional body have been thwarted by the political parties themselves. Even measures suggested by the former Chief Justice of India , JS Verma to grant autonomy were throttled .Since forty years ,attempts to create and appoint an Ombudsman to look into corruption charges against politicians have been stonewalled by the politicians .The political class is not interested in free and fair investigations and trials .Period .


The cancer of abuse of political power


The political classes across the political spectrum have taken control of all levers of power in the country. You cannot recruit, transfer or promote civil servants even at the lowest level without in most cases the political masters having a cut in which their henchmen bureaucrats join hands. I was told by police officers that a bribe of Rs 3 to 5 lakhs must be paid to join as a police constable .A few years ago a chief of a state recruiting commission was charging Rs two and half crores for the post of a deputy superintendent of police and equivalent jobs in other departments .It was reported that the home minster of Mumbai auctions the post of the city police chief to the highest bidder .


Kalmadi like most politicians heading majority of sports bodies is not a sportsman, like elsewhere in the world except dictatorships . Colin Moynihan, chairman of the British Olympic Association, is a former Olympian and Sebastian Coe, who won the 2012 Games for London, is an all-time great of the world of athletics. Even Jacques Rogge, current president of the International Olympic Committee, is a former Olympian. Unfortunately, in India ,politicians , most with little ability in sports or expertise and their civil servant henchmen head almost all sporting organizations and remain entrenched for decades using their political clout . In cricket where the revenues run into tens of billions of US dollars huge amounts of money which are siphoned off .The control of sporting boards is used for patronage and political gains .It leads to waste and suppression of talent , when favourites are selected .There are scandals galore but suppressed .Recently  following complaints of sexual harassment , sporting officials in women's hockey and wrestling had to resign. Like in other sectors of Indian polity little punishment is likely to be meted out finally.


The politicians turn up for photo ops and have little to show in terms of advancing the games and sports .Many of us in diplomatic service remember how some politicians in charge of sports travelled  to East Europe whose athletes did well in Olympics .They would then request that a coach be nominated so that India could beg an Olympic medal or two . The pernicious system of misused and abused reservation system makes our politicians to think on these lines. The level of performance by Indian athletes in international arenas , except cricket , which has become almost a religion with the masses ,is abysmally low bordering on the pathetic .But more officials travel to international meets than Indian athletes , the latter being generally from poor strata of society are made to share the accommodation and food with the officials .I remember in 1972 Munich Olympics an AP journalist telling me that Indian wrestlers did not get their due since the Indian officials were away and their cause went by default .Fair amount of hanky panky goes on everywhere.


Scams and the Indian Economy.


Indian economic decision makers led by PM Manmohan Singh and Chairman Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia , both imbued with the theories and practices of Washington Consensus outfits like the IMF and the World Bank , created to safeguard US interests ,are more or less following US policies , except perhaps with some modifications like not letting normal banks in India to function as investment banks and invent and create hundreds of trillions of crazy financial instruments , benefitting only the banksters . US economic policies brought down the prestigious institutions like Lehman Brothers and Meryl Lynch among others in 2008 and will certainly lead to US economic denouement sooner than later.


Americans believe that they can loot money from wars and by other means like globalization. They can create money on computer screens as they have done in last few decades . Indians believe that when God gives them opportunity for amassing wealth by fair or foul means , they should embrace it . One can get away , since rule of law can be outflanked, since legal institutions can be exploited to delay and obstruct any punishment after financial wrongdoings and venality . Apart from the ongoing CWG scam, let us look at some other recent scams.


In early 1990s there was Harshad Mehta , an Indian stockbroker. Known as the 'Big Bull' , he triggered a rise in the Bombay Stock Exchange in the year 1992 by trading in shares at a premium across many segments. Taking advantages of the loopholes in the banking system, Harshad and his associates triggered a securities scam diverting funds to the tune of Rs 4000 crore (Rs 40 billion) from the banks to stockbrokers between April 1991 to May 1992. He died of a massive heart attack in 2001, while the legal issues were still being litigated. He was very popular and a hero for  the public .Everyone wanted to become rich overnight like him .


Then there was Abdul Karim Telgi , a convicted-counterfeiter. He earned money to the tune of several billion dollars by printing counterfeit stamp paper. His 300 agents sold the fakes to bulk purchasers, including banks, FIs, insurance companies, and share-broking firms. His monthly profits were estimated in the neighbourhood of Rs 202 crore (slightly more than US $40 million). The size of the scam was estimated to be more than 43,000 Crore Rupees.


Such scams can not be operated without the support of the politicians as kingpins. Under the influence of the truth serum, Telgi is said to have blurted out the names of some prominent Indian politicians which he was coerced to recant.


Then there is the perennial Bihar Fodder Scam , with an alleged embezzlement of about Rs 950 crores  (US$ 206.15 million) from the government treasury .This theft involved many Bihar state government officers , business people and even chief and other ministers belonging to various political parties led by Lalu Yadav , Dr. Jagannath Mishra and others  .It involved fabrication of "vast herds of fictitious livestock" for which fodder, medicines and other equipment was supposedly procured. Although the scandal broke in 1996, the theft was spread over two decades. It revealed, and is an example of the mafia rule having penetrated several state-run economic sectors in the country.


It is said that the government of India is really not interested in extraditing the notorious Mumbai gangster Dawood Ibrahim, resident in Karachi, Pakistan and now a collaborator with Pakistan aiding ISI in various terrorist activities in India in general and Mumbai in particular. His interrogation, if extradited would indicate his linkages with many prominent politicians in Delhi and Mumbai .


The biggest recent corporate scam in India involves one of the most respected (!) businessmen. Infotech Satyam founder B. Ramalinga Raju resigned as its chairman after admitting having cooked up the account books. He showed "fictitious assets with real ones" through Maytas acquisition which failed, and he decided to confess to the crime. It involves a fraud of about Rs 8,000 crore (Rs 80 billion). The government stepped in and with help of another private sector company set the affairs right ie sweeping the misdeeds under the carpet .But suspicions remain ! Who knows what is hidden in various accounts of other private companies all over India.


Quoting the observations made by the post and telecommunications audit office in a memo to the department of telecom, senior opposition CPM leader Sitaram Yechury said the issue of 2G spectrum licence to private telcos "lacked" fairness and transparency. He claimed that the exchequer has lost a staggering Rs 1.9 lakh crore from the 2G spectrum sale. The government dare not dismiss the tainted minister A.Raja of the ruling coalition's DMK party , whose leader flew to Delhi and forbade thought of any action against Raja. Period

What about the Madhu Koda scam , a tribal labourer pitch forked as the Chief Minister of the mineral rich state of Jharkand .The ingenuity of Koda and his associates continue to surprise investigators probing what is the Great Jharkhand Robbery. Charged with laundering a whopping Rs 4,000 crore through hawala transactions and secret bullion trade, Koda stands accused of having a business empire, from Africa to Dubai to Mumbai, ranging from mines in Liberia to bullion companies in Mumbai and a hotel in Thailand.
Then there is the case of Syed Mohammed Hassan Ali Khan , a 56-year-old stud farm owner based in Poone ,India ,who is reportedly worth US$ 8-9 billion or more according to police-authorities. Disclosing the list of defaulters of income tax in the Rajya Sabha on 4th August 2009, the Minister of State for Finance S S Palanimanickam said in a written reply that Hassan Ali Khan tops the list of tax defaulters with an outstanding arrear of more than Rs 50,000 crore. Another Indian miracle .It could really open a can of big and stinking worms.
But do not hold your breath. It will involve the high and mighty in politics across the political spectrum , industry, bureaucracy and others. So nothing is likely to ever happen.

Will the suffering masses across India ever revolt ? There is a major Maoist movement in the backward but tribal dominated states across India , where  tribal lands are being taken by an axis of evil consisting of politicians ,corporate houses ,bureaucrats and other middlemen .This well organized  robbing of India's poorest is called development by Bhagidari – yes, shared looting .


Will an India wide large scale revolt ever take place and succeed ! Going by the past record , unlikely .Till then India will remain a collection of people and not a nation , whose identity is based primarily on caste and clan , religion, language , region and such feudal ideas .The nation is a European concept and construct , evolved over centuries after  bloody warfare between Popes, holy emperors .kings, barons and revolutionaries during which kings were guillotined , Czars killed, Caliphs and Shahs and rulers like Chiang kai Siek  made to flee . Only then begins the equality before law and the rule of law, abundantly missing in the sub-continent .Equality before law has to be won by force .

As in the story of the Pied Piper , New Delhi India is obediently following Washington's policies, which like the engine in the film 'Run away train' is leading the globalised world towards economic upheaval and worse. US treasury has created over US$ 2000 billion on computer screens without any real intrinsic backing .With the industry in USA , except the military Industry in decline , huge sums are sloshing around the stock markets around the world including Mumbai .After all the Indian Sensex had rock bottomed to around 8000 in the wake of the October , 2008 ( first shoe ) collapse of Lehman Brothers and Meryl Lynch. This hot money created in 2009 has again taken Sensex to over 18,000 now .The stock markets are behaving like a Casino out of control.

What will happen when the second shoe falls. The so called Indian economic growth of over 8% with 12-15% inflation is hitting everyone in India very severely , except the rich and upper middle classes, further widening the inequality in wealth to obscene levels. Except the ruling coalition , all opposition political parties had organized an all India strike against price rise last month with heavy participation by the suffering masses of India. Does the Indian government has an acceptable road map for equitable economic growth .The current economic decision makers are blindly following Keynes. Said Hyman Minsky.


"Keynes's collective work amounted to a powerful argument that capitalism was by its very nature unstable and prone to collapse. Far from trending toward some magical state of equilibrium, capitalism would inevitably do the opposite. It would lurch over a cliff,"

K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. Copy right with the author