Saturday, January 29, 2011

Gurcharan Das, Pratibha Patil and Manmohan Singh

In his copiously researched book, "The Difficulty of Being Good : on the subtle art of dharma", Gurcharan Das writes:

       " A similar conspiracy of silence (reference here is to Bhishma's silence when Draupadi was getting humiliated) diminished the office of the President of India in the summer of 2007. The official candidate for the largely ceremonial office was a woman Congress party leader, Pratibha Patil, against whom there were extensive corruption charges that were widely reported in the press. She had started a cooperative bank in Maharashtra whose licence was cancelled by RBI. Her bank had given 'illegal loans' to her relatives that exceeded the bank's share capital. It had also given a loan to her sugar mill which was never repaid. The bank waived these loans, and this drove it into liquidation. The government liquidator of the bank, P.D.Nigam, said, "The fact that relatives of the founder chairperson (Pratibha Patil) were among those indiscriminately granted loans and that some illegal loan waivers were done has come up in our audit." Six of the top defaulters in Pratibha Patil's bank were linked to her relatives.

      In July 2007, the nation had a Bhishma-like person of unquestionable integrity in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. But he remained largely silent, deferring to his party's choice of the presidential candidate. In passing, he called it 'mudslinging' by the opposition, and the nation believed him. In any case, the Congress had the votes and Pratibha Patil replaced perhaps the most upright and popular president in Indian history. After that, the charges were never investigated."

        Gurcharan Das deserves kudos for his fearless expression of facts. He is not cowed down by adharmic authority. Manmohan Singh has a history of remaining silent when the nation's interests are thrown to the winds. His acquiescence in the appointments of P.J.Thomas as CVC and K.G.Balakrishnan as Chairman of NHRC  should not therefore surprise us. In July 2007, the nation believed Manmohan Singh. Does anyone believe him now ? It is also obvious that he is acting at the behest of someone else. It suits the interests of that someone else if dubious and hence pliable persons are placed in crucial positions. It is shocking that over a billion "intelligent" people are led down the garden path by a scheming alien.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pranabda's black humour on black money

The income tax department raised a tax demand of Rs.71846 crore (nearly US $ 15 billion) on the Pune-based businessman, Hasan Ali  in December 2008. This VVIP is under the scanner of Mumbai Police, IT department, SEBI, RBI, Ministry of External Affairs and Enforcement Directorate from the year 2008. He is believed to have huge deposits in German and Swiss banks. Unsurprisingly he is treated with kid gloves by our government.

A PTI report datelined New Delhi (25th January) quotes the Union Finance Minister  saying in a press conference, "One account (of Hasan Ali) where $ 60000 was deposited, and next day the amount was withdrawn. There was no trace of that." What a profound information ! GOI is tracing (that too unsuccessfully) the trail of $ 60000 in an account of a multi-billionairre. I am sure that GOI will be bold enough to fine Hasan Ali for a petty traffic offence and then claim that law will take its own course.

Sonia willing, Pranab Mukherjee will be our next prime minister. He is not wasting any opportunity to prove that he will be a worthy successor to Manmohan Singh.

The Karnataka drama

The no-holds-barred entertainer starring Bhardwaj and Yeddyurappa is now at yet another climactic best. Yeddy's immoral but lawful acts (to quote the BJP president) are as unacceptable as the governor's political ploys. (One wonders what is lawful about extending government largesses to one's relatives. Is the state property the chief minister's asset?) That the worthy governor is a former Law Minister makes the development tragi-comic. BJP's double standards are shocking.

Information on secret Swiss accounts

Pranab Mukherji, the Union Finance Minister keeps on arguing that the government cannot divulge the names figuring in the list available with it since any such disclosure will violate the inter-governmental agreement. Even if we accept this specious plea, we should demand that the government confirm that the names of Union ministers, their relatives , Ms.Sonia Gandhi and her relatives are not in the distinguished list.

Monday, January 24, 2011

"Wake-up call for Sibal"

The Hindu has, in an editorial, raised some very important issues relating to Kapil Sibal's intemperate outbursts. The leader is reproduced below :

 " Defending the indefensible may be part of the lawyer's trade but this doesn't extend to a flagrant distortion of easily verifiable facts. Union Communications Minister Kapil Sibal, who shocked everyone with his claim of zero-loss to the exchequer in 2G spectrum allocation, was rapped on the knuckles by the Supreme Court — which asked him to “behave with some sense of responsibility.” Mr. Sibal, in an egregious overflow of enthusiasm to defend his predecessor, A. Raja, and the United Progressive Alliance government, sought to debunk the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the spectrum controversy. Just as the Central Bureau of Investigation seemed to be getting serious about its investigation into the 2G spectrum allocation scandal, and a one-man committee was starting to look into the procedures and policies of the Department of Telecommunications in granting 2G licences since 2001, Mr. Sibal presented himself as an omniscient authority on the subject and prejudged the case. The Supreme Court registered its concern over the impact the Minister's statement might have on the CBI's investigation. Mr. Sibal, a distinguished lawyer, will hopefully realise the full import of the Supreme Court's observations against him. The court's larger concern of course is to ensure independent investigation, without fear or favour, by the premier criminal investigation agency.

With the highest court in the land now monitoring the investigation into the 2G spectrum scandal, the CBI should have the nerve to get on with the investigation without allowing any intervention or improper inputs from its political masters. But this is easier said than done. Clearly, there is no systemic protection for India's investigating agencies. In several criminal cases that have the potential to hurt those in power at the centre, the CBI has handled the investigation in a way that achieves the end-result of aborted or failed prosecution. The Bofors case, which is synonymous with political corruption, is a notorious case of investigators acting in the service of their political bosses. If the UPA government has any intention of getting to the truth in the telecom scam, Mr. Sibal should publicly retract his irresponsible, over-the-top comments made at a sensitive juncture. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh owes it to the nation to dissociate his government from his Minister's act of egregious folly, and to provide credible assurances that there will be no further political obstruction of efforts to get to the truth. If he fails to do this, the perception is bound to grow that yet another cover-up of big league corruption is afoot. "

Responding to the Supreme Court's observation that "the Minister is supposed to behave with some sense of responsibility" , the honorable minister has asserted that " as a Minister he was aware of his responsibilities, obligations and duties". It is time that he translated his awareness into practice.

Sibal's indecent and unbecoming recalcitrance is betrayed by his innuendo that while welcoming the Court's observation that no one should comment on the CAG report "I wish that the Supreme Court had made this observation earlier as that could have prevented an unnecessary controversy". It is a pity that an eminent lawyer expects the court to remind him that he ought to behave responsibly and that he has no right to condemn a constitutional authority's finding as "utterly erroneous".

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Our Italian friends

The following article from the Indian Express speaks for itself:

Why Digvijay concerned about Mr Quattrocchi

A Surya PrakashExpress News ServiceFirst Published : 11 Jan 2011 12:07:00 AM ISTLast Updated : 12 Jan 2011 12:34:22 AM IST

Congress leader Digvijay Singh’s concern for Ottavio Quattrocchi, the Italian businessman who knocked off $7.3 million as commission from Bofors when we bought field guns for our army, is truly touching. Obviously he believes that the concept of Atithi Devo Bhava (guest is god) should extend to all guests, be they crooks, wheeler-dealers or commission agents.

According to him, the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) order naming Quattrocchi as a recipient of commissions, is suspect on three counts. First, the timing of the order is ‘highly intriguing’. The tribunal, Singh claims, advanced the date of the order from January 4 to December 31; Second, the tribunal made the order public on January 3, a day before the chief metropolitan magistrate was to take a view on the CBI’s plea to close the criminal case against the Italian. This ‘haste’ raises doubts about ITAT’s motive; third, the tribunal was hearing the plea of Hersh Chadha, son of Win Chadha, who was the agent of Bofors. Yet, it paid so much attention to the commission paid to Quattrocchi.

The conspiracy theory set afloat by this Congress general secretary is worthy of close examination. First of all, even if this were to be true, why is an Indian citizen like Singh troubled by the fact that the ITAT advanced the date of the order regarding tax liability of a foreign agent? Further, does he not know that the ITAT order has come a good 22 years after Bofors deposited the kickbacks in Quattrocchi’s Swiss bank account? Second, why is Singh complaining that the order was made public on January 3? On the other hand, an alert citizen ought to ask why the order was not uploaded on December 31 itself. Those who care for transparency and accountability in Indian institutions should be troubled on this score. Finally, we need to ask why this Congress worthy, who holds an important office in a party which was at the vanguard of India’s freedom movement, is so stressed about the fact that the tribunal made a clinical analysis of the illegal payments made by Bofors to Quattrocchi?

That Singh’s concerns are grossly misplaced becomes obvious when one reads the order of the ITAT. The tribunal notes that despite a ban on agents, Bofors entered into a fresh consultancy agreement with M/s A E Services Limited of UK on November 15, 1985 “at the behest of one Ottavio Quattrocchi”. According to this agreement, if Bofors was awarded the contract before March 31, 1986, it was to pay a fee equivalent to 3 per cent of the total value of the contract pro rata with the receipt of the payments. By a strange coincidence, the Bofors-India contract was signed on March 24, 1986, just a week before the deadline. Bofors deliberately suppressed the fact of this agreement in their letter dated March 10, 1986 to the Ministry of Defence. The ITAT noted that Quattrocchi remained in India from February 28, 1965 to July 29, 1993, except for a brief interval from March 4, 1966, to June 12, 1968. He was a certified chartered accountant by profession, working with M/s Snamprogetti, an Italian MNC. “Neither Snamprogetti, nor Quattrocchi had any experience of guns, gun-systems or any related defence equipment”.

Based on bank documents obtained from Switzerland by Indian authorities, the tribunal concluded that after India paid Bofors SEK 1,682,132,196.80 (`29,615 lakh), equivalent to 20 per cent of the contract value, on May 2, 1986, Bofors remitted a sum of SEK 50,463,966 ($7,343,941.98) on September 3, 1986, to A/c No 18051-53 of M/s A E Services Limited at Nordfinanz Bank, Zurich. This was 3 per cent of the amount of advance paid by Bofors. Thereafter, Quattrocchi transferred funds from one account to another, all of which were operated by him and his wife Maria Quattrocchi. The tribunal also noted that Quattrocchi gave a fake address in India (Colony East, New Delhi) while opening one account.

The ITAT appears to have anticipated that some pro-Quattrocchi politicians like Digvijay Singh would raise questions about the order. Therefore, the ITAT has said that “Indian income tax is leviable on all types of income, including legal and illegal income, whether recipients are Indian or foreign residents”. It has therefore expressed surprise that though Win Chadha was proceeded against, “no action seems to have been taken” against Quattrocchi and other related entities. “In our view, to enforce the rule of law, these steps were desirable to bring all the relevant income tax violations to a logical end by the income tax department. Inaction in this regard may lead to a non-existent undesirable and detrimental notion that India is a soft state and one can meddle with its tax laws with impunity”. Will any citizen who cares for India question such an order?
Fortunately, despite politicians like Digvijay Singh, who try to wreck the system from within, there are individuals and institutions in the country who help us keep the faith with the system. Among them are the two members of the ITAT who passed this order and chief metropolitan magistrate Vinod Yadav who has rubbished the CBI’s plea for closing the case against Quattrocchi and observed that there were malafide intentions in defreezing the bank account of Quattrocchi. The judge has also questioned the CBI’s decision to approach Interpol for removing the red corner notice on Quattrocchi.

Obviously, the ultimate test of loyalty within the Congress is to genuflect before the Italian friends of the expatriate who is the party boss. To them, every Italian atithi is devo bhava! It is citizens like Digvijay Singh who turned India into a slave nation for over a millennium. He has given us a glimpse of the depths to which sycophants would sink if Sonia Gandhi became PM. This was exactly the concern of those who raised the foreigner issue a dozen years ago. Singh has now proved that those concerns remain valid to this day.

Copyright © 2009 Expressbuzz

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tunisia and India

The Arab country, Tunisia is in the news now. Its President has fled the country and the Prime Minister has assumed total leadership. I was curious to know what kind of country Tunisia is. I stumbled upon a Wikileaked cable from American diplomats in Tunisia. Here is a part of the cable : (Is India much different?)

--------------------------------------------- --------

"The Problem: A Sclerotic Regime and Growing Corruption

--------------------------------------------- ---------

6. (C) Despite Tunisia's economic and social progress, its

record on political freedoms is poor.  The GOT can point to some

political progress in the last decade, including an end to

prior review of books and ICRC access to many prisons. But

for every step forward there has been another back, for

example the recent takeover of important private media

outlets by individuals close to President Ben Ali.

7. (C) The problem is clear: Tunisia has been ruled by the

same president for 22 years. He has no successor. And,

while President Ben Ali deserves credit for continuing many

of the progressive policies of President Bourguiba, he and

his regime have lost touch with the Tunisian people. They

tolerate no advice or criticism, whether domestic or

international. Increasingly, they rely on the police for

control and focus on preserving power. And, corruption in

the inner circle is growing. Even average Tunisians are now

keenly aware of it, and the chorus of complaints is rising.

Tunisians intensely dislike, even hate, First Lady Leila

Trabelsi and her family. In private, regime opponents mock

her; even those close to the government express dismay at her

reported behavior. Meanwhile, anger is growing at Tunisia's

high unemployment and regional inequities. As a consequence,

the risks to the regime's long-term stability are increasing."

No doubt India and Tunisia are not comparable. But monumental corruption is a common denominator between the two. Even if nothing else , the caption of this cable applies with equal relevance to India also.

Cho Ramaswamy's Annual Meeting

Cho Ramaswamy, editor of the Tamil weekly magazine "Thuglak", addresses his readers on the eve of the Pongal festival every year. Yesterday this meeting was held at the Music Academy, Chennai. Predictably the hall could not contain all the attendees and hundreds of people had to stand in the open space outside the hall. As the event was on, it became difficult even to spot standing space. The present political situation in the country resulted in larger than usual number of participants. The well known columnist Gurumurthy also spoke on the occasion.

There were repeated references to secret bank accounts maintained in foreign countries by our national leaders. Coincidentally, on the same day the Supreme Court has asked the Central Government why it hesitates to reveal the names of those who have deposited their black money in the Liechtenstein Bank in Germany now that the German government had furnished the details. Rumours are rife that Sonia Gandhi and her relatives have stashed away huge deposits in such banks. It is incumbent on the Government of India and also the Congress party to come clean on this issue. If the rumours happen to be true, the party should be sensible enough to disown her leadership. Such a step is indispensable if the party wants to regain credibility.

However such things are unlikely to happen when even supposedly honest persons like Kapil Sibal have decided that it is worthwhile to defend the indefensible and that morality is alien to politics.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ratan Tata, Right to privacy, Media ownership and Governmental inefficiency

Ratan Tata continues to be a victim of government's inefficiency (or is it a deliberate ploy of the government?). His conversations with Niira Radia which were tapped by the government while monitoring the latter's conduct are in the public domain causing deep embarrassment to Tata. Government should have ensured  that the tapes did not fall into unintended hands. It is most unfortunate that the government bungled over the issue.

Once the media got hold of the conversations it could not be expected not to make them public. Media cannot be held accountable for government's mishandling, deliberate or otherwise. However the government is answerable to Tata. One can understand Tata's discomfiture and annoyance.

Unfortunately Tata is barking up the wrong tree. He has started questioning the conflict of interest arising from ownership control of some sections of the media by some business groups. His argument that "the right to freedom of expression cannot be a euphemism for waging surrogate corporate wars" is over the top. Paranoia is a near cousin of sensitiveness.

One hopes that the Supreme Court which is seized of the matter will pass strictures on the government for its irresponsible behaviour in the matter.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Kapil Sibal's egregious outburst

We had occasion to comment on Sibal's rantings in the post dated 25th Sept.,2009. His diatribe against the CAG for the latter's quantification of loss to the exchequer on account of the 2G scam is totally unbecoming of a decent minister. This outburst is a crude attempt to derail the CBI investigation and a brazen challenge to the authority of the Supreme Court.

If CAG's arithmetic is outrageous, the members of the Parliamentary Affairs Committee could have sought his clarification. We do not know whether this was done when the CAG appeared before the PAC. Unfortunately, PAC's discussions are not released to the public. So much for the transparency of our political system !

It is obvious that the Congress party is under pressure from the DMK to ease the pressure on Raja. Kapil Sibal could not have obliged more. Of course, he could have gone one step further. Not only there is no loss to the government on account of the telecom scam, the government actually gained the goodwill of those companies which are the unlawful beneficiaries of Raja's munificence. If Kapil Sibal monetises the goodwill thus generated, he may well say that the government in fact earned a super profit of say Rs.176000 crore ! Is the honorable minister reserving this gem for a future occasion?

In a democracy as we had understood so far, ministers should have their say in private in the cabinet meetings and after decisions are taken, they should have their way in public. What we are witnessing now is the ministers have their say in public and their way in private. This is a total inversion of principles of political governance.

Is the prime minister in agreement with Sibal's latest innovative theory? We will never know since the Minister for Silence and Inaction continues his sphinx-like behaviour.