Administration & Management

It's Art of Governance & Not Commerce Alone

WILL The Buck Stop — May be This One Works


Olympic Gold Medalist of Corruption in recent olympics Mr. Suresh Kalmadi-led CWG fiasco became India’s shame; A Raja will have made the CWG affair look petty if it turns out that he has indeed caused national loss and brought global shame for India in the 2G scam as charged. Now B S Yeddyurappa and Janardhan Reddy are BJP’s A Raja, standing accused of being the shameful faces of mafia-like corruption. Now is the time to ensure that buck must stop.

The good news is that citizens are finally refusing to accept corruption as routine anymore and are demanding immediate accountability from those who they elect. Today, for the first time in independent India’s history five corporate CEOs, one IAS officer and several senior politicians find their new address as Tihar Jail No. 1. This could well be dubbed as India’s second  independence struggle, but this time it’s not against foreign rule, but for for freedom from corruption by our own rulers, and has begun in right earnest in 2010.

There are four immediate steps, which can be taken to control corruption.

First, the government must notify the rules for the confiscation of assets of corrupt officers in the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988. This will allow the state to confiscate properties into an escrowed account where no claimant shows up, and if he does, then the tax laws can be invoked to inquire into the source of income for purchase of the property.

 Second, India must enact strong anti-perjury laws to stop frivolous, false complaints under oath; this would be a necessary step to prevent witnesses and complainants from frequent retractions which one currently observes in court.

Third, reversing the onus of proof. The accused must demonstrate why illegal cash
or real estate suspected to belong to them is not theirs or face confiscation. Today, the standard of evidence followed is cumbersome. Taking cues from the US system, one must trace the money trail rather than paper trails of files of decision-making.

Lastly, posting the right man for the right job. When one outstanding officer, Bishwajit Mishra, was posted in Bellary, he disciplined Reddy’s minions and recovered dues of Rs 20 crore in 10 days flat before he was transferred out.

Justice Santosh Hegde, U V Singh, Vipin Singh and their team have done yeoman service. They have painstakingly sifted through voluminous bank records of over 40 lakh entries, reconciling millions of transactions from one benami account to the other, one benami company to the other, till it reached the eventual beneficiary, as is shown in the report.

It recounts how Reddy started the ‘zero-risk system’ whereby he would use government officers to procure permits for other mining companies, ensuring safe transport of illegally mined ore to a destination of their choice. For a payment of 40% of the prevailing global market price of iron ore or sharing an equal amount in volume, he had created a different kind of single-window system – for bribes!

Companies that initially refused were later forced to sign zero-risk contracts with Reddy. Rs 40,92,88,860 was the amount paid as ‘risk amount’, Rs 62,92,36,810 was paid for illegal iron ore trading and about Rs 2,46,62,377 was paid to 617 officials in just five years.

This apart, the report says Rs 4,79,03,917 was paid to “G J Reddy Sir” by cheque (and many times more by cash). Now, the time has come to use the fullest extent of various penal provisions of the law to recover the money. Thus, perhaps for the first time, actual value has been imputed to the extent of bribery in just one sector of the economy, that too in one state.

It also appears from the report that Yeddyurappa brought enormous transparency into bribe-taking by having his sons take the bribe by cheque into a family trust, turning a blind eye to the rape of the treasury by his colleague and his own family.

He was clearly told in writing on file by his outstanding team of officers including the chief secretary and others that denotifying land after a Section 16(2) stage of Land Acquisition Act is violative of Supreme Court judgments. Yet, he brazenly went ahead, denotified it, sold it back to the same mining company and received a ‘donation’ by cheque! Despite L K Advani’s repeated sane counsel and warnings, the misdemeanour continued for he thought the buck would never stop. But it did.

 It remains to be seen that India’s second war for independence would spread further or soon the principal culprits will be forgotten, witnesses will be purchased or will ‘voluntarily’ withdraw their statements, bail would be granted by friendly judges, back-door deals for mutual protection will be struck across party lines, some elections will be won, and the same people will be back in power. And show  must keep going on and on.

These view reflect the agreement with views presented are vies of the author.

Always Yours — As Usual — Saurabh Singh

 

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