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Is The Doctor In?
Tell-tale flotsam establishes A. Raja’s culpability in the telecom scam
PARANJOY GUHA THAKURTA
Andimuthu Raja has chosen to brazen it out. But are his days as Communications and IT minister numbered? The Congress-led upa today needs the support of the dmk less than it ever has since May 2004. After the cbi raids, there is no doubt that the spectrum scam, running into more than Rs 50,000 crore, is turning out to be an embarrassment for the government.
Raja says he consulted the PM and Pranab Mukherjee while allotting mobile phone licences with spectrum on a ‘first-come-first served’ (fcfs) basis—significantly, he does not categorically say they approved his decisions. Neither has Manmohan Singh really said he approved of what Raja did. The PM merely said allegations raised by the Opposition are not always correct and that he would not publicly discuss what transpired in cabinet meetings.
Raja also says the solicitor-general (now attorney-general), Goolam E. Vahanvati, approved his decision to bring forward the cutoff date to receive applications for licences. What he does not say is that the Delhi High Court has stayed this decision. Raja takes refuge in the National Telecom Policy of 1999, a cabinet decision of the Vajpayee government in 2003, and a single paragraph in a set of recommendations made by the regulator trai in 2007 that runs into 178 pages, to claim that he followed in the footsteps of his predecessors and the regulator’s guidelines. These are, at best, half-truths.
Successive documents put out by trai had recommended open auctions for allocation of scarce spectrum. The regulator’s suggestions have been cherry-picked and ignored to enable foreign companies to pick up equity stakes in Indian companies—conclusively (and ironically) establishing that each all-India licence that was given in January 2008 for Rs 1,651 crore (or prices determined in June 2001) had an actual market value that was six-seven times higher.
What Raja cannot justify is that two of the biggest beneficiaries of his decisions are real estate firms (Swan and Unitech) with no experience in telecom and which had close relations with him in his earlier avatar as Union minister of state of environment and forests.
On September 25, 2007, hours after Unitech put in 22 applications in the name of eight companies, the cutoff date was brought forward through an innocuous three-line press note. In three working days, 373 additional applications were received from local firms, not global players. Still, he chose not to accept new applications. Raja waited until D.S. Mathur, the then secretary, DoT, and Manju Madhavan, member, finance, Telecom Commission, (who had both resisted his moves) were out of the way—the former retired and the latter retired prematurely—and a new secretary, Siddharth Behura, was appointed on January 1, 2008, before letters of intent were issued.
Is it not true that the pmo engaged the DoT in November 2007 (as did the law ministry) calling for the establishment of an empowered group of ministers to award licences? And that Raja refused to oblige on the specious plea that only “procedures” had to be decided, not “policy issues”? Further, the then finance secretary, D. Subbarao (now rbi governor), wanted the DoT to stay its actions, but he too was ignored.
Raja’s claim that high spectrum prices would increase charges paid by consumers is not borne out by facts. Despite Vodafone paying $11 billion (nearly Rs 55,000 crore) for a 67 per cent controlling stake in Hutchison Essar in February 2007, telecom tariffs have crashed by nearly a third since then.
Raja cannot deny that on January 10, 2008, at 2.45 pm, an announcement was posted on the website of the DoT stating that letters of intent would be issued to companies between 3.30 pm and 4.30 pm after they paid huge application fees immediately by demand draft with supporting documentation. Nor can he deny that a mad melee ensued that afternoon in the corridors of Sanchar Bhavan—well-heeled ceos were manhandled by bouncers hired by their business rivals before the cops turned up, late as usual.
Raja also knows that the central vigilance commissioner wrote to DoT secretary Behura on November 15, 2008, asking him “not to lose sight of the malfeasance and moral indifference in pursuing with the decision” to allot licences and spectrum on an fcfs basis to companies that subsequently sold their stakes at fancy prices to foreign firms. What is the PM waiting for? Will he call Raja’s bluff? Or will he continue to maintain silence over Raja’s claims that imply that the PM and some of his senior colleagues were accomplices in the biggest scandal in independent India?
SMITA GUPTA , ARINDAM MUKHERJEE , CHANDRANI BANERJEE
The Key Players
Manmohan Singh, PM Deft attack to put pressure on an ally’s tainted minister.
M. Karunanidhi, DMK Supports Raja, but is also maintaining a surprising silence.
Nripendra Mishra, Former TRAI Head Was at loggerheads with Raja. Will he speak up now?
Siddharth Behura, Former DoT Secy Seen as a key Raja man, is he the fall guy?
Why is the Congress running the risk of conflict with a long-standing political ally?
What’s the new information that precipitated CBI action on a two-year-old scam?
Why did CVC wait for the retirement of DoT secretary Siddharth Behura on Sept 30, 2009, before transferring the case to the CBI?
Raja says the PM and FM were consulted, but no one is backing that claim or even giving an opinion on it. Why?
Why is DMK relatively quiet except for a measured show of support for Raja?
If Raja is showing no inclination to quit, and the PM isn’t showing him the door, then what is the real purpose of the investigation?
Conspiracy theories galore
The cartel of big telecom operators (which Raja himself refers to) is hard at play, targeting the viability of the newer players
DMK’s Karunanidhi is playing a sharp political game to bring daughter Kanimozhi into the national political scene
The PMO wants a weak Raja in order to cement its growing clout in the important ministry
October 22. Afternoon. As investigators from the feared CBI raided the red-and-white multi-storeyed Sanchar Bhawan, housing the busy telecom ministry, there was a different kind of huddle less than a kilometre away. At the prime minister’s office (PMO), secretaries to the government were waiting for the weekly meeting of the Union cabinet to end. Obviously, with the CBI in the field, the fate of Union telecom minister A. Raja was the centre of all discussions—and it was apparent that not only had the action been in the works for a while, it was also cleared at the highest level.
One conversation revolved around whether Raja (who is from the DMK) could find himself implicated. An officer in the know told his interlocutor that, while there appeared to be something substantial against senior officers of the ministry, it wasn’t clear yet whether anything could be “proved” against Raja. His conclusion: if the officials were nailed, the trail would lead to Raja.
Either way, the raid on a sitting minister’s turf is a first—and has led to shockwaves across the establishment. The CBI has alleged criminal conspiracy between DoT officials and private firms in the allotment of 2G spectrum in 2008. That, as everyone knows by now, is the great spectrum scam—one that is said to have cost the national exchequer a whopping Rs 50,000 crore in licence fees. It has obviously come as much-wanted grist to the opposition mill, both nationally and in Tamil Nadu.
Curiously, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is being quoted by the minister and the DMK as having given him a “clean chit”, has actually been rather ambivalent on the subject. By saying “it is not proper for me to join issue with a cabinet colleague in public”, Manmohan has left enough room for interpretation and conjecture. “The PM was not defending Raja,” a party spokesperson sought to clarify. “All he said is that he won’t discuss the matter publicly.”
What is surprising is that Raja’s party has maintained a low profile over the entire issue, except for its official line that: “The PM has given Raja a clean chit. Chief minister M. Karunanidhi has said publicly that he has no reservations against him, that he has made no mistake.” DMK sources close to Karunanidhi, however, admitted to Outlook: “It is possible there was an administrative lapse. Perhaps, there should have been an auction rather than this first-come-first-serve policy...of course, if anything is proven, the party will not hesitate to take action. Last year, the state handlooms minister N.K.K.P. Raja was dropped after he was involved in a land-grab case.” Ironically, a year ago, the DMK was blaming former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran for fuelling the controversy.
Needless to say, the opposition parties have smelt blood and are demanding Raja’s head to begin with. But, for now, Raja remains defiant, and shows no signs of resigning. There are other compulsions too: the Congress cannot push the DMK beyond a point as it could end up strengthening the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, where elections are due in two years and the Congress needs its alliance intact. The DMK is also aware that Raja is a Dalit politician. So why is the prime minister rocking the proverbial boat?
Some answers could come from the investigation into the scam, which kicked off early last year. Based on a string of complaints, the CVC had sent seven questionnaires to telecom secretary Siddharth Behura, seeking details and clarifications on various steps in the allocation of licences. Some of the letters, written by CVC secretary K.S. Ramasubban (copies of which are with Outlook) show the DoT responses were evasive at best.
Voicing dissatisfaction, one of Ramasubban’s letters sent in November 2008 stated: “The commission has observed that the reply of the department is neither complete nor specific...you may personally look into the matter and arrange to send reply to the issues contained in the enclosed note within two weeks.” Obviously, the CVC—which had been getting complaints on the scam—was not happy with the ministry’s response.
The CVC finally forwarded the matter to the CBI in the first week of October 2009. It is surprising that the CVC, after all its investigations, chose to hand over the case to the CBI days after Behura retired on September 30. “We have referred the case for specific reasons to a central agency as we have done whatever we could do at our level. The central agency will now decide its course of action regarding how the case will be taken forward,” Ramasubban told Outlook.
The CBI didn’t take long to act. Within days, on October 22, a team under CBI joint director Y.P. Singh and dig Vineet Agarwal raided the DoT premises and the offices of new telecom operators. It also registered a case of criminal conspiracy and criminal misconduct against unknown officials of DoT and private persons and other companies. According to sources, the search was also for files in order to find the “notes” of the minister and key officials on the controversial 2G spectrum allocation. “It’s impossible that CBI raids that could implicate a cabinet colleague could have taken place without authorisation by the prime minister,” a senior Congress functionary told Outlook.
According to sources, three key officials of DoT—Ashok Chandra, wireless advisor; P.K. Mittal, deputy director-general, access services; and A.K. Srivastava, deputy director-general, access services—were taken to CBI headquarters for questioning. Behura, who was at the helm of DoT during the controversy, has, however, been left alone—for the time being. Currently, he’s heading a joint venture between C-DoT and Alcatel in Chennai and couldn’t be reached for his comments.
Obviously, a lot of questions are being asked about the actions of Raja and DoT under him. While Raja is sticking to his guns and says he followed a path taken by his two predecessors, it is clear he chose to ignore drastically changed market realities. The fact is Raja stuck to a licence price of Rs 1,651 crore when the market price was in multiples of that—a fact admitted by even the then TRAI chairman, Nripendra Mishra. Rajeev Chandrashekhar, a Rajya Sabha MP and former telecom entrepreneur, says, “While Raja could have fixed the problem and taken steps by revising the price, he chose to continue with the existing policy.”
It is learnt that Raja and key DoT officials did not pay heed to the advice of some senior officials in the ministry and that a few key officials were removed as they weren’t toeing the line. “The DoT and TRAI have had a long history of being non-transparent and playing the interest of some parties,” says Chandrashekhar. A former senior official of the ministry adds, “The DoT is not equipped to look into all the technicalities of applications and documents submitted to it. In many cases, they are accepted and cleared as it is.”
What the investigations have found so far is not clear. But one thing is sure. Whether Raja stays or goes, the episode could leave a mark over all future dealings of the ministry, specially the 3G auctions, the process for which has already begun. “There is no doubt that the auctions will be delayed as there is no time for post-bid consultations which would be more stringent now,” says a former senior official of the ministry. “I don’t see it happening before mid-February.”
Will Raja stay or not? It is well known that Manmohan was not happy with Raja becoming a member of his cabinet and that, too, holding the same portfolio as he did in UPA-1. The next few weeks could be crucial for Raja as the PM and UPA, despite the political compulsions, may take a call on the issue. As a senior party functionary put it, “The PM is a political animal...if the media plays up the issue, then Raja may have to go. If it dies down, then....”
By Smita Gupta, Arindam Mukherjee and Chandrani Banerjee
Koda's empire crumbles; money trail runs deep
New Delhi: Former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda continues to claim that he is “innocent and is being framed” but it seems words may be his only defence.
With each passing day things have got worse for Koda. CNN-IBN has access to documents which reveal that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is set to file charges against Koda and his former colleagues.
Koda will be charged under Section 420 and 120-B of the IPC, both related to cheating and committing fraud. He will also be booked under Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
Koda's colleagues Kamlesh Singh, Bandhu Tirkey and Sanjay Chaudhary will also be booked under similar charges.
The focus though, is on Binod Sinha who is a friend and key aide to Koda. Sinha is being charged of investing Rs 200 crore in real estate. He reportedly deposited as much as Rs 20 crore on several occasions in a Jamshedpur bank with the following account number: 006810114844001.
Sinha allegedly floated 14 companies in India and two companies in Dubai in collaboration with Sanjay Chaudhary. The cost of the much talked about mine in Liberia - $17 lakh – was all paid for in cash by Koda.
Till 2007, Koda was only investing in real estate. During this time he was a minister but his fascination with mines started in 2007 when he became the Chief Minister of Jharkhand.
Among others, Koda’s aide Tirkey reportedly bought flats in Delhi’s Vasant Vihar for Rs 8 crore.
The Income Tax department sleuths questioned Koda at his residence in Ranchi, after having discontinued it in the wake of his illness on November 3.
Koda has also been summoned by the ED on November 15. With evidence against him and his associates increasing by the day, his arrest seems to be imminent. But will he go down alone or will there be other big names as well who were his partners in crime?
Will the route of Koda's loot be dealt with?
November 11, 2009 11:26 IST
Madhu Koda's political career may be in rout but neither the root of the evil nor the route of the loot has been dealt with.
It may be a tenet of law that Koda is innocent until his guilt is proved beyond reasonable doubt but he already stands condemned in the court of public opinion. So much so that the despondent former chief minister of Jharkhand has already told his followers that he is nominating his wife, Geeta Biruli Koda, from Jagannathpur. (Polling starts for a fresh Jharkhand Vidhan Sabha on November 25.)
But I would like to invite the reader to set aside the blaring headlines about the Rs 4,000 crore (Rs 40 billion) worth of assets allegedly accumulated by Madhu Koda, and instead turn the spotlight on the 'root' and the 'route' I wrote of above.
The 'root' I refer to is the question of how Madhu Koda came into possession of all that money. People are now talking about officers who paid money to get money for transfers. That is possible but is it really the whole story?
Jharkhand is a poor state but it possesses a wealth of mineral resources. It would be rational to assume that there are a lot of barons in the background who would be willing to open their purses in exchange for concessions. And it is this -- the willingness, even the eagerness -- of a section of businessmen to offer inducements that is at the root of the Koda scandal. And so, obviously, nobody wants even to talk about it much less take action to stop the rot.
If Rs 4,000 crore was accepted by Madhu Koda and his associates, then, it is logical to assume that some people expected to make ten times that amount by way of profit. (I speak of 10 per cent but that may well be a conservative estimate; the money could be as little as one per cent of the potential windfall.) But have you heard of anyone speculating as to the identity of the individuals or entities that paid that obscene sum of money to the former chief minister?
Let us now come to the 'route' that I spoke of. The fact is that most of us would be completely flabbergasted if presented with such an obscene sum of cold hard cash. Barring television and the movies I have never actually seen even one crore rupees in one place.
Madhu Koda, I suspect, was as at as much of a loss when it came to actually handling vast sums. He is a relative newcomer to politics, found himself in a chief minister's chair despite being an independent MLA, and had people thrusting money in trade for his signature.
When did Madhu Koda realise that there are time-tested routes for channelling money, and who introduced him to them? There is a vast network that grew up in the 'Licence-Permit-Quota Raj' to route black money into profitable avenues. Nobody wants to talk about them because there is little or no evidence that can stand up in a court of law yet everybody suspects it is true.
How many Indians have even heard of Liberia, in which nation Madhu Koda reputedly spent almost two million dollars to acquire a coal mine? Which continent is it in, and is it landlocked or does it have a sea coast? There was someone out there who was prepared to tell Madhu Koda that Liberia presented a great opportunity. Who was it?
There is talk of purchases of property in other nations too. Let us be honest, what does the average Indian know about the thicket of regulations about foreign investments in, say, Thailand? Or in South Africa?
If there were people willing to offer bribes worth crores of rupees there were definitely other people who were willing to stand behind Madhu Koda's shoulder, offering hints about investing all those rupees. Who were they? Why is nobody willing to talk about them, and in such a hurry to put all the blame on Koda?
By all accounts the tax authorities have enough on Madhu Koda to rupture his political career. (For some time anyway, it is foolish to write him off for good given the state of Indian politics!) But what difference does it make in the larger context?
India needs to increase governmental transparency and decrease ministerial discretion to prevent any more Madhu Koda episodes. But we all know that is not going to happen any time soon. There are just far too many people around with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.
The 'root' and the 'route' alike are going to be with India for many years to come. And there is not a thing that the average citizen can do about it.
Transparency International's CPI 2009 result
New Zealand : Rank 1
Israel : 32 Previous Rank : 33 (2008)
China : 79 Previous Rank : 72 (2008) , 72 (2007), 70 (2006)
India : 84 Previous Rank : 85 (2008) , 72 (2007), 70 (2006)
Sri Lanka : 97 Previous Rank : 92 (2008) ,
Maldives : 130
Pakistan : 139
Nepal : 143
Bangladesh : 139
Afghanistan : 179
Bhutan : 49 Previous Rank : 45 (2008) , 46 (2007), 32 (2006)
Somalia : 180
For details see : 2009/cpi/surveys_indices/policy_research
related to India :
2009-06-03 india gcb/2009/press_releases_nc/latest news/news room
Delhi pays 22,000 'ghost workers'
The government of the Delhi, has been paying salaries to 22,853 civic workers who do not exist.Salaries for the missing Municipal Corporation of Delhi workers add up to nearly $43m a year, City Mayor Kanwar Sain said in a statement. The "gap" was discovered after the authorities introduced a biometric system of recording attendance. Correspondents say it shows some civic officials created a list of "ghost workers" to siphon off state funds. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) employs more than 100,000 cleaners, gardeners, teachers and other workers.
City officials became aware there were thousands of "ghost workers" after introducing the biometric system in August last year. Mr Sain said the civic agency has 104,241 "genuine" employees - while the records show the numbers at 127,094. A press release issued by Mayor Sain's office said: "There is a gap of 22,853 employees in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi between the data given by drawing and disbursing officers, the head of the department and the number of employees enrolled for biometric attendance." An "in-depth vigilance inquiry will be conducted into the matter to ascertain the facts," he said.
"Strict disciplinary action will be taken against officials who cooked the books," the mayor said. It was long suspected that the city was being defrauded by "ghost workers", but the authorities had always denied the charge.
BBC News - Indian capital Delhi pays 22,000 'ghost workers'
Corruption in India and China: A study in contrast
29 Jan, 2011
As the Congress readies for its annual meeting next month, public interest is running high. An online survey by www.people.com, an influential news portal, showed that corruption is the issue netizens want the Congress gathering to address most. Other issues netizens want the session to tackle are the widening gap between rich and poor, the skyrocketing cost of housing, the health system, pensions and education. In another online poll, 70% of respondents urged officials to declare their assets and emphasised the role of the Internet in preventing corruption. This is the third consecutive year corruption has been the top issue on the eve of the Congress meeting....â€
Are you impressed, if a little baffled perhaps, that Congress is focused on corruption after all? Well, sadly, the Congress above refers to the National Peopleâ€™s Congress of China and the press report of Xinhua News Agency , dating about a year ago, referred to a meeting in Beijing!
Well then, even if China is way ahead of us in financial, political, defence, space and manufacturing muscle, many of our problems are very similar. In fact, the only area where we have a little more than China is in the area of corruption. Yes, as Transparency International rankings, 2010 will tell us we (at 87) are a little more corrupt than China (78). But where we differ is in what we are doing about it and what China is doing about it.
In recent years, there has been unprecedented crackdown on corrupt government officials in China. Huang Songyou , the former vice president of the Supreme People's Court, was awarded a life sentence in January last year for embezzlement and taking bribes amounting to slightly over half a million dollars in return for favourable court rulings.
Shortly thereafter, Yu Renlu, former vice chief of the civil aviation administration was dismissed and booted out of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) for â€œserious violations of discipline and lawâ€, according to CPC's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) and the ministry of supervision.
In fact, this New Year, China has announced a renewed effort to fight increasing corruption in the country. According to reports, in 2010 alone, its war against corruption resulted in no less than some 5,000 higher-level Chinese government officials â€” mostly above the county head level â€” being punished for corruption. Further, according to CCDI, again in 2010 alone, some 1,44,000 cases of corruption were investigated , leading to penalties for more than 1,46,000 lower-ranking government officials! Most of these cases pertained to officials involved in corruption, bribery and acting against the public interest â€” much like our own.
In contrast, according to the data from our National Crime Records Bureau , in 2008, of the 8,554 cases that came up for investigation with state anti-corruption /vigilance department under Prevention of Corruption Act and related IPC sections, a measly 268 were punished by the respective departments and 65 sacked! Nothing underscores this parody more than the recent press report about an IAS couple in Bhopal â€” Arvind and Tinu Joshi â€” who is said to have amassed assets worth Rs 360 crore; and what is more, according to press reports, â€˜... in 1998 he [Arvind Joshi] was asked to pay the state Rs 1 crore that he had allegedly made off Bhopal gas leak victims by overcharging for bed-sheets and curtains in hospital purchasesâ€™ ! If true, this would mean the governmentâ€™s policy is, â€˜if you are not caught thieving, you keep the booty; if you are caught, you will have to return itâ€™ ! Talk of disincentives and incentives for corruption in China and India!
Unfortunately, our political parties do not seem to recognise the opportunity of a lifetime staring them in the face. Any government which now acts tough and comes down hard on the corruption will become a candidate for mass adulation . In short, the glory of a resurgent India is up for grabs. Sadly, there may be no takers.
Our system vilifies the Naxalites, Maos, Bodos and such for taking to arms in the face of little government benefits ever reaching them, rather than engage in discussions. Of course, these groups are wrong. And of course, engaging in discussions is the only civilised thing to do. But doing the civilised thing calls for reciprocal civility.
When the country talks, the political parties and the government should listen. If they donâ€™t, we shouldnâ€™t be surprised if we find increasing violence all around. The call to address corruption is nearing a crescendo. If we let this opportunity to take the corruption bull by the horns go, the country will be headed only one way, that is, downhill, on the way to a large banana republic. That is why the government should listen to this crescendo of public opinion sooner rather than leaving it too late.
Some very well-meaning personalities seem to suggest that as a people, we are obsessively preoccupied with corruption ; perhaps implying â€˜after all China is no less corruptâ€™. These people are often so high and mighty that they may almost never have stared at corruption at the day-to-day level at close quarters. After all, if two obscure IAS officers have amassed Rs 360 crore till they have been â€˜caughtâ€™, surely the situation is scary?
And lastly, the Chinese being corrupt or not can hardly be a source of consolation for what we are. Notwithstanding their corruption, they are able to lay an 1,142-km Golmud-Lhasa high-speed railway line at an average altitude of 10,000 ft, and frequently at nearly 17,000 ft, in four years flat. Can we match that? Sure, China has problems; but they are addressing them. One also frequently dismisses all of Chinaâ€™s successes to the account of their non-democratic regime, while chalking all our failures to democracyâ€™s account. Not all democracies need to be corrupt. Nor can a9% growth be an answer to all our ills.
First, that growth is despite all our ills â€”so imagine the potential. Second, that 9% may not sustain for long if the country continues to be plundered. Yes, we are a rich country if non-descript babus can loot . 360 crore of the country. But even we canâ€™t afford any more plunder.
CAG questions 111 aircraft for Air India
31 Jan, 2011, 02.45AM IST, Anindya Upadhyay,ET Bureau
NEW DELHI: The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) is learnt to have questioned the government's rationale for buying 111 aircraft for national carrier Air India for 40,000 crore in 2006.
The CAG report is likely to be tabled in Parliament in the Budget session.
The CAG has taken view of the period between 2002 and 2010, and is also looking into Air India's turnaround plan and operational performance, according to a top government official familiar with the matter.
The national auditor is believed to have asked the airline and the civil aviation ministry if they could explain the need for the huge order through an elaborate business plan, and give reasons behind Air India's falling market share in spite of having such a large fleet, the official added.
This report has also sought the reasons for the delay in setting up of a Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility in India by European aircraft manufacturer Airbus , as part of the offset clause in the deal. Forty three of the 111 planes are from Airbus' stable have been already delivered to Air India.
The rest 68 aircraft were ordered from Boeing and the CAG is said to have questioned why the number of planes ordered by the airline was increased to 50, when the government was earlier planning to take 35 on firm orders and had the option of taking another 15 at a later date.
The report is also understood to be looking into the merger of erstwhile Indian Airlines and Air India and has questioned the government about the slow progress of the merger, including integration of manpower and codes. It was only last week that Air India got a common code 'AI', implemented by travel technology provider SITA.
The CAG is also understood to be looking into the handling of Air India's routes and which of these the airline has withdrawn and why. The government and the national carrier have sent their response to the CAG. Being a public sector entity, the finances of Air India are audited by the CAG. With a narrow equity base of 1,000 crore, Air India has a debt of 40,000 crore and has losses of 5,551 crore in 2009-10.
Delhi acts against corruption
Abhinav Garg, TNN, Jan 31, 2011, 12.11am IST
NEW DELHI: The government of India and our "people's representatives" were put on notice on Sunday - either fundamentally reform the country's anti-corruption laws or perish.
Two former Union law ministers, India's first women IPS officer, a sitting information commissioner, a retired cabinet secretary, a current member of National Advisory Council (NAC) and leading social reformers joined thousands of citizens to give a powerful call to restructure India's anti-corruption laws so that they become effective.
Guided by Magsaysay Award winner and RTI pioneer Arvind Kejariwal, thousands converged at the Ramlila Grounds to exhibit symbolic defiance by tearing copies of the CVC Act, the Delhi Police Special Power's Act that governs CBI and the draft Lokpal bill proposed by the government. Kejariwal patiently explained to the crowd how the present laws flatter to deceive and therefore ought to be replaced.
A 'Vote Bank Against Corruption' movement was also launched that asks voters to blacklist a party or a candidate who doesn't work to implement the 'Jan Lokpal Bill', touted by the organizers as a better, more robust anti-graft law which will actually ensure that the punishment to the dishonest is swift, certain and severe.
'I pledge that I will not vote for the party which does not pass and support the Lokpal or Lokayukta Bill drafted by citizens, either in state or at the Centre,' is the oath that targets votebank politics established on caste, religious and regional lines.
Holding aloft banners and shouting slogans against rising levels of corruption in the country, thousands of people from all age groups poured into the grounds to demand an effective anti-graft law. Showing banners that proclaimed 'Corruption: Enough is enough' and 'Common people are raped in government offices', the protestors gathered at the Ramlila Maidan from where they later marched to Jantar Mantar to register their protest.
Former Indian Police Service officer Kiran Bedi, social activist Swami Agnivesh, noted lawyers Ram Jethmalani, Prashant Bhushan and his father Shanti Bhushan, IC Shailesh Gandhi, Medha Patkar, Prabhat Kumar and NAC member Harsh Mander were among the key participants in the rally, which coincided with Martyrs' Day, the death anniversary of the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi. Bedi joined veteran lawyer Jethmalani and others to exhort the crowd to chant to Mahatma's favourite song 'Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram', as each speaker underlined the need to exert outside pressure on the legislature to amend anti-graft laws.
The march was part of the 'India against Corruption' movement being build up by a few social organizations demanding passage of the Lokpal Bill in the budget session of Parliament with important amendments. Eminent lawyers and activists have teamed up to draft an anti-corruption legislation which seeks to create an independent, empowered, transparent and accountable anti-corruption agency called Lokpal; to which agencies like the CVC and CBI will be accountable, independent from governmental interference.
"The Lokpal bill prepared by the public is so effective that it will eradicate corruption in next two-three years. Political parties should support the passage of this bill as the Lokpal suggested by the government is only a showpiece," former law minister Shanti Bhushan said while addressing the rally. According to activists, the government wants to make Lokpal an advisory body, which will only recommend to the government to prosecute corrupt ministers and remain toothless.
From the mouth of the Horse itself.
Lots Of Muck In The Spring
By Saba Naqvi
It has been raining scams now for several months. Lately, it has also begun to leak, what with the Wikileaks India cables published by the Hindu last week. At first, the government seemed to be in much trouble when the paper published accounts of Congress insiders telling US embassy officials that they intended to bribe their way through the nuclear trust vote on July 22, 2008, which UPA-I had won amid charges that opposition MPs had been bought.
But in the eye-for-an-eye politics now being practised in New Delhi, in a matter of days, the government managed to strike back: the weapon was a story published by news magazine Tehelka alleging that a so-called sting operation by a TV news channel about the offering of bribes to opposition MPs to muster the numbers for the confidence vote was not an independent journalistic exercise but an attempt by the BJP to entrap senior Congress leaders. UPA-II used the story to launch a counter-attack on the BJP and force a debate in Parliament.
In short, the mud flew in all directions. But the public was no wiser as to who was bribing whom and for what. There was, however, a lot of rhetoric and flourish. After a long spell during which he appeared disheartened and low, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh uncharacteristically took recourse to an Urdu couplet, and even took a dig at L.K. Advaniâ€™s unfulfilled ambition to be prime minister. He denied that any MPs were bribed and soon found a chink in the BJPâ€™s armour: Advani had reassured the US that if the NDA came to power, it would honour the Indo-US nuclear deal and the opposition to it was just political positioning. In doing this, Manmohan showed he too could hit back when pushed to the wall.
Earlier, Sushma Swaraj, the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, made a stinging speech attacking the PM. She too used an apt Urdu couplet, pausing for the right dramatic effect before several sharp thrusts at the PM. But a caveat that was also significant was Sushmaâ€™s argument that electoral victory was no excuse for criminal acts. This was in response to the PMâ€™s earlier remark that the UPA had won a national election after the scandal over the trust vote. To shore up her arguments, Sushma asked, â€œIf the peopleâ€™s mandate invalidates all criminal acts, then why are the 2002 Gujarat riot cases still being tried despite Narendra Modi having won two elections following those incidents?â€
Sushmaâ€™s dwelling on this point was interesting. Was Sushma accepting that Gujarat was a blot on the nationâ€™s history despite Modiâ€™s electoral success? Was this indicative of her future positioning within the NDA and the BJP when the leadership question comes up before the next general elections? Arun Jaitley, the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, also asked whether â€œcriminality gets extinguished because of electoral winsâ€, but he did not elaborate on this point or mention Modi.
Meanwhile, questions have been raised about the timing and selection of certain media disclosures. BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy accused Tehelka of â€œbeing an investigative arm of the Congress governmentâ€. There were suggestions too that the Wikileaks cables were timed and selectively chosen in order to embarrass UPA-2 on the eve of assembly elections, in which they take on Left Fronts in two statesâ€”West Bengal and Kerala. Says Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari, â€œI would ask if it is appropriate for a newspaper to editorialise on hearsay? Then, since the newspaper is selective about the identities they reveal or the stories they choose, I would ask if this is about the freedom of the press or about the freedom of the owner of the press? And would Wikileaks be different if they came out of China and Russia?â€ Still, what is clear is that the Wikileaks aftershocks will continue for some weeks in Delhiâ€™s chattering classes, since there are apparently US cables on conversations with politicians across the spectrum, intellectuals, and several bigwigs of Delhi journalism that are yet to become public.
Is there a political cost to all these leaks and investigations that are now erupting like a virulent rash on the body politic? The hard-nosed political view is: not really. Politics in India is increasingly becoming state-specific and people tend to vote on issues, and on incumbency and anti-incumbency in their states. Since critical elections will be taking place over the next two months, the political narrative will shift to the regions while the centre will continue to hold together as long as UPA-II has the numbers.
Yet, embedded in these debates and controversies are larger, and troubling, national issues. All the heat and furore has been generated over a vote in 2008 that UPA-I had to pass after the Left withdrew support over the Indo-US nuclear deal. Should India be debating a sensational controversy that has passed or the issue of nuclear energy itself after the nuclear disaster in Japan? And why should we stop national business because of some US diplomatic cables?
There is the other, inter-linked issue of parliamentary conduct. The house has been stalled and a fiery debate over US cables taken place while Parliamentâ€™s own recommendations on events preceding the July 2008 trust vote do not appear to have been taken seriously. Now, Union home minister P. Chidambaram has promised Parliament, during a spirited debate in the Rajya Sabha, that the Delhi police investigation into the cash-for-votes scam will be over soon. Indeed, now that the police will also be investigating the BJPâ€™s role in setting up a sting operation with a TV channel, it would be in the governmentâ€™s interest to speed up the probe.
All this reinforces the view that Parliament has become a platform for sectarian politics, sensational disruptive slogans and rhetoric instead of a forum for serious debate on critical issues. Several important legislations are pending but all we have got from this session is a few great speeches and some cut and thrust. Itâ€™s been quite a spectacle for MPs to have been a part of, before the action moves to the assembly elections, being seen as a mini-referendum for UPA-II.
There are lots of corruption threads out there. Can a mod please take the time to merge 'em.
I'd like to direct you to this Facebook page of a guy who's at the forefront of combating corruption in India:
And images of the recent 'Dandi march' held to protest corruption against civilians in Mumbai.
Truck driver beaten to death for refusing to give bribe in UP
A truck driver was on Monday killed allegedly by Road Transport Office (RTO) staffers after he refused to pay bribe during a vehicle checking drive in Naubatpur locality in Sayyadraza area here, police said.
According to the victim's son Ashwini (23), who worked as a cleaner with his father, "One of the constables of the RTO Department took the vehicle for weighing at the weighing centre and found that the truck was not overloaded, but demanded Rs 1,000."
His father was willing to pay only Rs 500 after which the RTO constables and one Shiv Kumar of the weighing centre beat him brutally, causing his death, he said.
Another sad state of the affairs. You cannot be honest in this country. You can get killed for following the rules and laws.
Separate names with a comma.