India’s new untouchables

The mafia exists and thrives in almost every economic activity in India, be it mining, liquor licences, real estate, irrigation work, kerosene...

Andhra Pradesh is in the news, but for all the wrong reasons. Jagan Mohan Reddy, son of former Andhra Pradesh chief minister and chief of YSR Congress, was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation on May 27 in a disproportionate assets case.

He has remained in Chanchalguda jail for most part of the campaign period for bypolls to the Nellore Lok Sabha seat and 18 Legislative Assembly constituencies. Politically, the CBI’s timing was impeccable. With Mr Reddy in jail, and his mother Y.S. Vijaya and sister Sharmila campaigning in his stead, it’s no wonder that trends indicate a sympathy wave for YSR Congress in almost all constituencies except Parkal in Telangana’s Warangal district.
In the lead-up to the polls, the Election Commission authorities seized more than Rs 42 crore in cash, besides another Rs 12 crore worth of gold, silver, liquor and other valuables from persons representing various political parties contesting the byelections. And as if this was not enough, an all-time record of sorts was set when the income-tax department recovered Rs 35 crore in cash from the house of Vishnu Prasad, son-in-law of superstar and now Rajya Sabha MP Chiranjeevi. Mr Vishnu Prasad is married to Chiranjeevi’s eldest daughter. This huge sum, recovered from Mr Vishnu Prasad’s house in Chennai, was attributed to business dealings that had nothing to do with the Congress MP.
Who does all this money belong to and what action has been taken against the offenders? None, because Andhra Pradesh is busy slipping into chaos as the rule of law doesn’t seem to apply to it.
Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Jharkhand are controlled by huge financial interests and many other states seem headed in the same direction. The alarming number of RTI activists murdered is a testimony to the fact that threat of violence, even death, is very real for anyone who resists them.
If not checked now, the stakes will get bigger, like they did in the United States, Italy, Russia and Japan where the government had to eventually crackdown on the mafia.
I remember my last visit to the USSR as Union commerce minister in 1990. On a mission which had little to do with trade, I was to meet President Gorbachev and his key advisers at a time when the country was on the brink of an economic collapse. There was visible chaos as systems were breaking down and normal life was disrupted. I was very surprised that at a time of crisis the KGB and the security forces were focused on fighting the criminal mafia gangs across the country. The USSR, in six short years from 1984 to 1990, had gone from glory to utter chaos under the charge of a charismatic leader like Mr Gorbachev. Supplies were scarce and there was anarchy till President Vladimir Putin appeared on the scene and restored law and order.
Intelligence reports indicate that a sizeable portion of the loot in Jharkhand has gone to the Maoists and in the recent coup attempt in Orissa there is talk of illegal mining funds being used to dethrone chief minister Naveen Patnaik.
The mafia exists and thrives in almost every economic activity in India, be it mining, liquor licences, real estate, irrigation work, kerosene and diesel adulteration, fake currency, drugs, fake medicines etc. And as cash seizures in Andhra Pradesh indicate, mafia will get more entrenched in the political sphere as the cost of the Parliament, Assembly and the municipal elections escalate. We can sit back and allow the mafia to run our lives and our country, or we can deal with the situation firmly.
A TV channel last week broke a story about Anil Bastawade — associated with former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda, an accused in the Rs 4,000 crore mining and money laundering scam — now living in Jakarta, Indonesia. No one in the CBI, the enforcement directorate or income-tax department was even aware of this. I am not sure if they were even trying to trace him because, if they were, the Indian embassy there would not have ignored the red corner notice against him and issued a passport. Mr Koda stole Rs 4,000 crore from Jharkhand treasury. Could he have done this alone? Sanjay Chaudhary, Mr Koda’s key aide and an accused, is in Dubai and extradition efforts are on to bring him back to India to stand trial.
I’d be surprised if anything happens in these two extradition cases. Because if something does then in this uncertain atmosphere the guilty can spray dirt in several directions, tarnishing more than one party.
Mr Koda, an Independent MLA, became the chief minister of Jharkhand with the support of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Nationalist Congress Party, the All India Forward Bloc and by the Congress from outside. Even the state governor, Syed Sibtey Razi, came under a shadow of suspicion and was retired in a few months.
The only reason the DMK in Tamil Nadu did not get away with their sizeable assets was that a viable Opposition existed in the state, the AIADMK. The margin of victory with which J. Jayalalithaa’s party was voted to power is a fact that political parties and their leaders can’t ignore.
Despite the gloom, we have not yet become a banana republic. Had we become one, then Anna Hazare, who picked the right issue but the wrong approach made worse by his intemperate language, would have succeeded and Baba Ramdev would have us sitting in very complex postures on the issue of black money. But I do not think Team Anna will be successful because they preach anarchy and have no respect for our democratic institutions. That said, the issues raised by them cannot be dismissed lightly.
But now there is news of former Army Chief V.K. Singh joining the movement. Notwithstanding minor indiscretions like the date of birth issue, his presence will surely boost the anti-corruption movement.


too little but still in the

too little but still in the right direction,we surely are heading to be the worst story of modern times,every govt institution is compromised,just for personal or political gains.

you are correct sir. in

you are correct sir. in andhra pradesh, people are supporting ysrc. because they want to fight against leaders who are ruling like dictators. the sympathy waves towards jagan

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