When Asif Ali Zardari became president of Pakistan, I was reminded of the famous ancient philosopher Aesop who is quoted to have said, "We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to high office". While Zardari's rise from a convict in Swiss corruption case to the highest office in the land of his birth is among the most egregious, it is by no means unique. There are many examples of kleptocracy in Pakistan's neighborhood, as recently outlined in a piece by Mohan Murti, former Europe Director of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), published by the Hindu. Here are some excerpts from it:
It is a fact that the problem of corruption in India has assumed enormous and embarrassing proportions in recent years, although it has been with us for decades.
In a popular prime-time television discussion in Germany, the panelist, a member of the German Parliament quoting a blog said: “If all the scams of the last five years are added up, they are likely to rival and exceed the British colonial loot of India of about a trillion dollars.”
One German business daily which wrote an editorial on India said: “India is becoming a Banana Republic instead of being an economic superpower. To get the cut motion designated out, assurances are made to political allies. Special treatment is promised at the expense of the people. So, Ms Mayawati who is Chief Minister of the most densely inhabited state, is calmed when an intelligence agency probe is scrapped. The multi-million dollars fodder scam by another former chief minister wielding enormous power is put in cold storage. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chairs over this kind of unparalleled loot.”
An article in a French newspaper titled “Playing the Game, Indian Style” wrote: “Investigations into the shadowy financial deals of the Indian cricket league have revealed a web of transactions across tax havens like Switzerland, the Virgin Islands, Mauritius and Cyprus.” In the same article, the name of one Hassan Ali of Pune is mentioned as operating with his wife a one-billion-dollar illegal Swiss account with “sanction of the Indian regime”.
A third story narrated in the damaging article is that of the former chief minister of Jharkhand, Madhu Koda, who was reported to have funds in various tax havens that were partly used to buy mines in Liberia. “Unfortunately, the Indian public do not know the status of that inquiry,” the article concluded.
“In the nastiest business scam in Indian records (Satyam) the government adroitly covered up the political aspects of the swindle — predominantly involving real estate,” wrote an Austrian newspaper. “If the Indian Prime Minister knows nothing about these scandals, he is ignorant of ground realities and does not deserve to be Prime Minister. If he does, is he a collaborator in crime?”
The Telegraph of the UK reported the 2G scam saying: “Naturally, India's elephantine legal system will ensure culpability, is delayed.”
This seems true. In the European mind, caricature of a typical Indian encompasses qualities of falsification, telling lies, being fraudulent, dishonest, corrupt, arrogant, boastful, speaking loudly and bothering others in public places or, while traveling, swindling when the slightest of opportunity arises and spreading rumors about others. The list is truly incessant.
My father, who is 81 years old, is utterly frustrated, shocked and disgruntled with whatever is happening and said in a recent discussion that our country's motto should truly be Asatyameva Jayete.
Europeans believe that Indian leaders in politics and business are so blissfully blinded by the new, sometimes ill-gotten, wealth and deceit that they are living in defiance, insolence and denial to comprehend that the day will come, sooner than later, when the have-nots would hit the streets.
In a way, it seems to have already started with the monstrous and grotesque acts of the Maoists. And, when that rot occurs, not one political turncoat will escape being lynched.
The drumbeats for these rebellions are going to get louder and louder as our leaders refuse to listen to the voices of the people. Eventually, it will lead to a revolution that will spill to streets across the whole of India, I fear.
Perhaps we are the architects of our own misfortune. It is our sab chalta hai (everything goes) attitude that has allowed people to mislead us with impunity. No wonder Aesop said. “We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to high office.”
Here is video of the poor Indian children ignored by the kleptocrats:
BRIC, Chindia and the Indian Miracle
Zardari Corruption Probe in Switzerland
From Bureaucracy to Kleptocracy
India Targets Rights Groups as Maoists Insurgency Grows
India Deploys 100,000 troops Against Maoists
Taliban Digging Their Own Graves
Bloody revolution in India
Maoists Impact on India's Economy
Are India and Pakistan Failed States?
Arundhai Roy on Maoist Revolt
India's Maoist Revolution
NY Times on Maoists
Can Indian Democracy Deliver?
Grinding Poverty in Resurgent India
Pakistan's Choice: Globalization or Talibanization
The Tornado Awaiting India
Countering Militancy in FATA
Taliban or Rawliban?
Is Indian Democracy Overrated?
Political, Economic and Social Reforms in Pakistan
Fixing Sanitation Crisis in India
Western Myths About "Stable, Peaceful, Prosperous" India
Taliban Target Landed Elite
Feudal Punjab Fertile For Terror
Caste: India's Apartheid
The Three Dangers Facing India
To add insult to injury the first article was republished in Kabul press...
India a "weak democracy" because of corruption: study
‘Goa police slow in probing corruption charges against their own’
India: Bribery & Corrupt Police
Blog on Murti article:
Mohan Murti, former Europe Director, CII, writes in “Is the nation in a coma?” that Europeans believe our leaders are too blinded by new wealth & deceit to comprehend that India is heading towards a dead end.
Yes, Mr Murti, we are a nation in coma. We have no doubt about that. We are already witnessing anarchy and bloodshed in the hinterlands. Yet after one speech to fool the public and another to feed the news-hungry press, it’s always business as usual in 'The Great Indian Hall of Shame.' Jaago Re!
Billions pour in for India's insulated superclass
The subcontinent's elite have a huge market all to themselves – and a vast gap is opening up between rich and poor
Israel-India Arms Talks Dogged By Scandal
Media allege corruption in massive Israel-India arms deal
By Yossi Melman
Allegations of possible illegalities in a massive arms deal between Israel and India have surfaced over the weekend in the Indian media. The size of the deal between the Indian Ministry of Defense and Israel Aerospace Industries, estimated at $1.5 billion, had grown to allow for the payment of commissions, which is illegal in India, said the press there.
The deal in question, signed in late February between Israel Aerospace Industries and the Indian Defense Ministry, is for the delivery of 2,000 Barak Mark VIII missiles, which were originally designed as sea-based weapons.
According to the deal, a third of the value of the deal will be spent in India, where the IAI will make offset purchases from Tata, a local consortium.
An Indian daily from New Delhi, DNA, says it has information showing that $120 million of the overall deal is described as "business expenses." According to Josy Joseph, a journalist, officials familiar with the deal told him that an IAI representative explained these costs are meant to cover insurance, bank and transportation costs.
However, the newspaper hypothesizes the actual payments are for commissions, or even bribes, for senior Indian government officials who approved the deal.
IAI refused to comment on Saturday, but Israeli sources familiar with the deal said the entire process followed regulations and was clean.
Last week IAI filed a report with the regulatory authorities here that it had concluded a $1.4 billion deal but did not specify the country. Indian sources said New Delhi had requested the deal be kept secret.
The newspaper notes (although does not offer details) that Elul, a subsidiary of Elul Asia, belonging to David Kolitz and Israel Yaniv, was also involved in the deal. According to the report, Elul is known for its ties to Tata.
Nine years ago, Yaniv retired from the weapons development authority Rafael, where he worked in marketing, and then joined Elul, setting up a subsidiary where Elul is a co-owner.
Rafael is also involved in the deal, as a subcontractor in the manufacturing of the Barak missiles, but the extent of its role in the project is not known.
The links between Elul and Indian business activities are, according to the daily, based on ties with the Indian businessman Sudhir Chowdhary, who resides in Britain.
"The Israelis joined up with Chowdhary for him to manage their contacts in India with officials in government and the army," according to the newspaper.
Kolitz said in response that he is not involved in any arms deal and has no ties with Chowdhary. "I wish I could benefit from a 6 percent commission," he said.
The daily maintains that Chowdhary has family connections with a senior minister in the Indian government and with senior army officials.
His name had previously been linked by the Indian media to another Israeli arms company, Soltam, in relation to a deal for an upgrade of artillery, in which there were suspicions of wrong doing.
The report in DNA raises questions about the new arms deal, including the actual approval of the deal by the government, which is currently led by the Congress Party; its head, Sonia Gandhi, is under investigation for her role in an earlier deal for Barak missiles, from the 1990s.
The newspaper article questions how it was possible to approve the deal on the day parliamentary elections (for the lower house) were declared, when Indian governments are forbidden from doing so since the deals will be binding on the incoming government.
Power corrupts obsolutely. It applies everywhere even in advanced countries like usa. FED has not given details of deployment of only few trillion even to the senate in the name of national security. This is in the country with high education and awareness.
India is a country where 30 live below poverty level. Rich, politicians and bureaucrats live on their blood is the true reality. Middle class is insensitive as it is aspiring to join the rich and are fighting for thier own survival as the wants are ever increasing. That is precisely what rich and mnc want as it turns into market for them.
Education and reduction in population can only slowly remove this problem in the indian economy. Why miss uninon carbide. Conveniently congress let go the chairman and the company from any great damages [ bp has to pay billions of dollar ]. There must have been some consideration somewhere. It can be gift, bribe accomodation etc...
anon: "Why miss uninon carbide. Conveniently congress let go the chairman and the company from any great damages [ bp has to pay billions of dollar ]. There must have been some consideration somewhere. It can be gift, bribe accomodation etc..."
More than 25 years after the Bhopal gas leak killed and injured tens of thousands of people while they slept, an Indian court has finally convicted seven former managers at the plant.
They have received minor fines and brief prison sentences.
It's clearly a case of too little, too late, and symptomatic of India's failed judiciary and failed democracy.
It's the same judiciary that lets corrupt politicians to continue to occupy positions of power for decades while their cases and appeals remain pending.
Contrast the Bhopal gas leak with the oil spill in Gulf of Mexico where less than a dozen people died.
The US government has already forced BP to set up an escrow fund of $20 billion to compensate for potential losses to the people in the Gulf region from loss of earnings.
Congress is trying to find a scape goat. further it is reconciling not out of fear for the press or opposition but it want the nuclear bill to be passed.
Further ahmed patel has request all not to drag sonia gandhi into it and modi is making most of the political capital out of the tragedy in bhopal.
Whether it is congress or bjp government in mp they were not bothered about the removal of the toxic waste. All politicians are partner is crime to loot the society, flags and name could be different.
In that aspect, i respect the ratan tata move to say that the corporate india would start the cleanup. But today all are caught in the game of one upman ship or blame game for political mileage.
Recent survey by Transparency in Pakistan show that the corruption in Pakistan has dramatically increased, according to report in Dawn. Here are some excerpts:
The overall corruption has increased by around Rs28 billion in a year, and more than 70 per cent of Pakistanis say the present government is more corrupt than the previous one, said a Transparency International Pakistan official.
Releasing the findings of the National Corruption Perception Survey 2010 at a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Tuesday, TIP chief Adil Gillani said that over Rs195 was misappropriated during 2009 while more than Rs223 billion — an increase of Rs28 billion, or about 15 per cent — has been misappropriated during 2010.
He said the survey — jointly financed by the USAID and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation — reveals the perception levels and frequency of corruption faced by the common Pakistanis on a daily basis.
He said an average expenditure on bribery per household this year was Rs10,537, based on a population of over 169.58 million and eight members per family, the cost of bribery comes to Rs223 billion.
Mr Gillani said the departments of police and the power sector had retained their first and second positions, respectively, since 2002. Other corrupt sectors during 2010 were the land administration, education, local government, judiciary, health, taxation, customs and tendering and contracting.
Pakistan at 42nd position
He said Pakistan shared the 42nd position among the most corrupt countries in the world with Bangladesh. India, though located in between and despite being more populous, was less corrupt than both its neighbours and was placed on the 95th position on the chart of corruption.
He said the TIP had developed a 24-page questioner that was put to 5,200 people from all the four provinces. Students of the Institute of Business Administration Karachi carried out the survey in Sindh; Gujranwala University, Gomal University and Sarhad University carried out the survey in Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, respectively.
He said the survey found that only the present Punjab government was cleaner than the previous one, while the rest of the governments — federal and three provincial ones — were considered to be more corrupt than their predecessors. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government was the most corrupt of the provincial governments, he said.
The TIP chief said the credibility of the country was at the lowest level as almost no funding had been released in the last two years from the Friends of Pakistan fund being managed by the World Bank.
Here's Newsweek calling for overhaul of India's judicial system after the ludicrous Bhopal verdict:
More than 25 years after a pesticide plant in the central Indian city of Bhopal spewed a toxic cloud that killed as many as 25,000 people, an Indian court last week finally sentenced seven former executives involved in the disaster. They’ll receive two years in prison (pending appeal) and pay fines equivalent to $2,100—the maximum punishment allowed under current law, but one considered so lenient that many in India are demanding far tougher corporate liability laws.
But what India really needs is an overhaul of its judicial system. The Bhopal case is hardly unique in its length: the country’s trial courts have a backlog of close to 30 million cases, and Delhi alone has more than 600 pending civil cases and 17 criminal ones dating back 20 years or more. The Delhi court’s chief judge estimates that it would take 466 years to work through the backlog. A major reason for the pileup is that there are simply too few people on the bench: India has only 11 judges per million citizens (America has 110 per million). India likes to call itself a nation of laws. But as the Bhopal verdicts prove, having laws is one thing—delivering justice is quite another.
Transperency International is a Berlin based propoganda tool.I am surprised why South Asians are so awed by its ratings of corruption.These ratings are based on 'perceptions and opinions' NOT hard facts.
The Indian government sued TI for defamation iven the adverse effects its totally unscientiofic ratings can have on investments in countries on the receiving end of its unscientific opinion based surveys.
I am surprised why other governments didn't join in ?
Poverty is one of the factors that drives child marriages in India. It's cheaper to marry off a girl child than an adult woman.
A recent ODI report highlighting India's progress toward MDGs and putting India in the top 20.
Looking at the detailed report, however, it clearly highlights Pakistan along with China in the top 10 in achieving poverty reduction goal MDG1, the most important of MDGs. There is no mention of India on this list in table 4.
I encourage every one to read and draw inspiration from Nadeem Akram's article "From Umarkot with Love" on Chowk.com, particularly the following paragraph that inspires hope in the future of Pakistan:
Our driver took us as close to the building as he could and we walked rest of the way. To our surprise we were greeted by a Sindhi teacher of Balochi persuasion and the hut was jam packed with over thirty students of the adjoining goth studying under the tutelage of the Mr. Ghulam Ali, the teacher.
It was an inspiring story. The teacher had, on his own initiative and of course with the help of the community, built this hut some twelve years ago and since then he has been imparting primary education to thirty-five students every year. Several of his students have gone on to attend the high school and some of them made it to the college. He has had little or no support from Sindh Education Department, and all these years he has managed to operate this school with the help of the village elders. My eyes welled up as he concluded his narration duly supported by a village elder that conveniently appeared and joined us. All my pre-conceived ideas about patriotism, bureaucratic inefficiencies, and lack of civic will were taking their last breaths in the puddle next to the school as we bade farewell to the teacher, the students and the benefactor!
People like Ghulam Ali sahib are lighting candles to show the way to a brighter future...rather than cursing darkness as many do here on Chowk and elsewhere!
There have been widespread allegations that Pakistani feudals, including many powerful politicians, deliberately flooded the poor peasants villages to protect their own crops and farms in recent monsoon rains. Here's a BBC report that says Pakistan's US ambassador is calling for an investigation.
A senior Pakistani diplomat has called for an inquiry into allegations that rich landowners diverted water into unprotected villages during the floods to save their own crops.
UN ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon said there was evidence that landowners had allowed embankments to burst.
This led to waters flowing away from their land, he said.
More than 1,600 people have died in the floods, which have affected about 17 million people.
"Over the years, one has seen with the lack of floods, those areas normally set aside for floods have come under irrigation of the powerful and rich," Mr Haroon told the BBC's HardTalk programme.
"It is suggested in some areas, those to be protected were allowed, had allowed, levies to be burst on opposite sides to take the water away. If that is happening the government should be enquiring."
At the height of the floods, it is estimated that one-fifth of the country - an area the size of Italy - was underwater.
The flood waters are beginning to drain away to the Arabian Sea but inundations continue in parts of Sindh province.
Here's a BBC report saying "the world is a more corrupt place now than it was three years ago".
Some 56% of people interviewed by Transparency International said their country had become more corrupt.
In Afghanistan, Nigeria, Iraq and India more than 50% of people said they had paid a bribe in the past year - many of them paying off the police.
Meanwhile, a BBC poll suggests that corruption is the world's most talked about problem.
About one in five of those polled for the BBC by GlobeScan said they had discussed issues relating to corruption with others in the last month, making it the most talked about concern ahead of climate change, poverty, unemployment and rising food and energy costs.
In the Transparency International survey, political parties were regarded as the most corrupt institutions with 80% of people regarding them as corrupt.
Political parties also topped the list in Transparency's 2004 barometer, with 71%.
Religious bodies experienced a sharp rise in people regarding them as corrupt - 28% in 2004 increased to 53% by 2010.
Some 50% of people believed their government was ineffective at tackling the problem of corruption.
Transparency flagged up bribery as the major problem highlighted by the survey, with one in four of those polled saying they had paid a bribe in the past year.
Some 29% of bribes went to the police, 20% to registry and permit officials, and 14% to members of the judiciary.
Robin Hodess, Transparency's policy and research director, said police involvement in such transactions was "really worrying".
"It's a figure that's grown in the past few years. It's nearly doubled, in fact, since 2006. Nearly one in three people who had contact with the police around the world had to pay a bribe," she said.
While people from Cambodia (84%) and Liberia (89%) were the most likely to have to pay a bribe, the Danish respondents reported no bribery.
By region, people in sub-Saharan Africa were the most likely to have paid a bribe (56%).
Bribe-taking was least common in EU countries and North America (both 5%) - although these were the two regions seeing the biggest increase in concern about corruption.
Analysts blame this rising concern on the global financial crisis for undermining people's faith in government, banks and economic institutions.
The lobby group interviewed 90,000 people in 86 countries to compile its corruption barometer.
The opinion poll commissioned by the BBC sampled 13,000 people in 26 nations.
One question asked people to rate which issues they saw as most serious.
Corruption was ranked as the second most important topic behind poverty.
Respondents in Brazil, Egypt, Colombia, the Philippines and Kenya were especially likely to view corruption as a very serious issue.
In Europe, Italians were the most concerned about bribe-taking.
Publication of the BBC poll coincides with anti-corruption day held by the United Nations.
Here's a BBC report about alarm over rising corruption in India:
A group of eminent Indians says they are "alarmed" by the rising corruption which is "corroding the fabric" of the nation.
In an 'open letter', they have expressed concern about "widespread governance deficit almost in every sphere of national activity".
The group includes businessman Azim Premji and ex-central bank governor Bimal Jalan.
A number of corruption scandals have shaken India in recent months.
"Possibly, the biggest issue corroding the fabric of our nation is corruption. This malaise needs to be tackled with a sense of urgency, determination and on a war footing," the group wrote in an 'open letter to our leaders'.
The letter said that independent anti-corruption bodies should be set up "speedily".
The Congress party-led government is battling allegations of corruption over the allocation of telecom licences - why so-called 2G spectrum phone licences were sold in 2008 for a fraction of their value, costing the government $37bn (£23bn) in lost revenue, according to the national auditor.
Another high-profile inquiry is continuing into claims that organisers of the Delhi Commonwealth Games swindled millions of dollars from the October event.
Congress party president Sonia Gandhi said recently that corruption was a disease in India.
The group wrote that it was also "alarmed at the widespread governance deficit most in every sphere of national activity covering government, business and institutions".
"Widespread discretionary decision making have been routinely subjected to extraneous influences.
"The topmost responsibility of those at the helm of the nation's affairs must be to urgently restore the self-confidence and self-belief of Indians in themselves and in the State as well as in Indian business and public institutions which touch the lives of every Indian."
A recent report by US-based group Global Financial Integrity said the illegal flight of capital through tax evasion, crime and corruption had widened inequality in India.
Many also accuse governments and politicians of corruption in India.
India's corporate mafia is fuelling corruption, says Prashant Bhushan, according to newKerala.com:
"The corporate mafia has come to control every institution of power and governance, be it politicians, bureaucracy, police and, to an extent, judiciary also," Bhushan told IANS in an exclusive interview.
"The corporate houses have become monstrously large and a law unto themselves. They get the law and policies made and decision taken including judicial decisions," he said, adding "very often they decide what the media will report or not report".
Bhushan, the son of eminent jurist and former law minister Shanti Bhushan, said any fight against corruption and for redeeming democratic institutions had to commence with transparency.
"The situation today is much worse than what it was in the early 1970s. At that time we did not have the corporate mafia controlling all the institutions. That was a situation when a powerful prime minister temporarily choked off democracy. Today, this corporate mafia is accountable and more dangerous," Bhushan asserted.
"This system is so bad. There is no point in preserving the illusion of functional democracy when it is clear that most institutions of democracy have crumbled or are non-functional. We need to restore proper democracy in the country and not preserve an illusion of democracy."
The lawyer said the only prescription for rescuing Indian governance from "corporate mafia" was "transparency" and people's right to know about the functioning of the state apparatus.
"Unless we wake up and start engaging in public issues and affairs, we are heading towards disaster," said Bhushan, who is facing contempt of court proceedings for highlighting the alleged misconduct of an apex court judge.
It was Bhushan who convinced the Supreme Court to monitor the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the allocation of 2G airwaves to telecom companies. He also spoke on his fight against corruption and allegations against Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) P.J. Thomas.
He said India was in a "very serious situation" and the "biggest threat was corruption that had spread in every vital sphere of the state's functioning".
The crumbling democratic institutions could be "repaired and restored" provided there was a "very strong people's movement in the country that would bring pressure on the institutions".
"Though the judiciary can play a useful role in that process", in the final count it needed the backing of a strong people's movement, he said.
"I think all problems have to be dealt with simultaneously. You cannot shut your eye to a problem in one institution in order to highlight it in another institution. This is a shortsighted policy which does not pay in the long run," he said.
Advocating an independent media, he said that the media should not be controlled by corporate houses or those who have a direct or indirect interest in other business.
Here are some excerpts from an interesting Op Ed by Prof Lev Ginsburg on democracy in developing world, as published in Aljazeera English:
The basic reason for democracy's lack of solutions to such problems (poverty, economic disparity) is that its principles have been formulated in industrialised capitalist societies characterised by considerable cultural homogeneity and relatively small economic gaps.
Democracy is a set of formal principles developed in Western Europe with the aim of facilitating the representation and articulation of the middle and working classes and designed to contain peacefully the conflicts between them and the upper class.
In the absence of a balance of power between classes, and a consensual unifying national identity, the automatic installation of formal democratic principles might only make matters worse.
When there is a systematic link between cultural identity and economic status, democracy becomes a problem, rather than a solution. It exacerbates cultural conflicts to the point of violence, because it provides a formal opportunity for the majority to force their will on the minority.
Political sociologist Michael Mann has shown that in these cases democracy only serves to intensify conflicts among racial and ethnic groups, to which I would add, in the Middle Eastern context, the conflict between confessional groups and between the religious and the secular.
The oldest case, mind you, is the US - the cradle of the democratic constitution which announced a "government of the people" and began the massacre of the American indigenous people because they were not considered part of "we, the people" of America.
Whoever wants democracy under these conditions must first come up with a creative and consensual formula, according to which each cultural group would be free to live its unique cultural life without attempting to force its identity and customs on the entire citizen body.
In other words, demonstrating for democracy is not enough. What the countries of the Middle East require is political consensus on mutual recognition of rights and coexistence, guaranteed by a constitution and institutionalised by electoral procedures and representative institutions.
Egypt does have to worry, however, about economic inequality and the severe daily hardships suffered by most of its population. Without providing solutions to these problems, even the most democratic regime can be toppled by massive protests, possibly leading to new forms of dictatorship. A good example of such a failure of democracy was December 2001 in Argentina, when the masses flooded the streets calling for "all politicians to go home" and toppling five presidents in a row.
This happened only two years after democratic elections swept a broad leftwing front to power, which had promised to bring the country out of its deep economic crisis, but failed. The elected government pursued the policy dictated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which protected the interests of foreign investors against those of the local middle and salaried class. The crisis caused all holders of local bank deposits to lose 70 per cent of their money, with the blessing of the IMF.
Therefore, Egypt must realise that although democracy is essential, any formal constitution or system of government will not solve its economic problems. Immediately after the elections, Egypt's new policymakers will have to switch from the formal liberal discourse of democracy to face and discuss the fundamental questions of Egypt's economic structure. In the process, they are liable to discover that it is far more difficult to uproot a corrupt economic regime than to topple a single dictator.
Soutik Biswas of BBC on "Why India's big, fat weddings will never stop":
The big, fat Indian wedding returned to the front pages of newspapers this week: reportedly a $55m gig with 20,000 guests, a Bell helicopter as dowry, a 100-dish menu, a dozen TV screens showing a video feed of the proceedings, and even a $5,000 tip for the groom's barber. The groom's father - a rich Congress party politician and real estate magnet, exemplifying the intersection of politics and new money in India - wryly remarked that the media reports of the wedding were speculative.
For the Congress party-led government whose credibility is battered by a tsunami of corruption scandals, the hugely ostentatious wedding by a party member should come as an embarrassment, many here feel. One minister is reported to have said recently that nearly 15% of India's grain and vegetables is wasted through "extravagant and luxurious functions". Party chief Sonia Gandhi has pleaded with her workers to be frugal and her MPs to fly economy class. The embattled PM, Manmohan Singh, had feebly exhorted businessmen to refrain from ostentatious displays of wealth because such "vulgarity insults the poor". But what he possibly forgets is that the poor in India are actually insulted every day by many of the men and women they vote into power.
The government is apparently working on a law to curb waste at extravagant weddings and functions. No law will be able to change soon a people and society that remain deeply hierarchical, feudal and class-conscious. At one end of the scale a hapless farmer may take ruinous loans from money-lenders to host a wedding beyond his means. At the other end a billionaire unabashedly builds the world's priciest home (more than $1bn) in Mumbai where half the people live in slums. All this is symptomatic of a society which thrives on perpetuating inequity. With near double-digit growth, there's going to be more money to throw around and flaunt. So don't expect any lame law to curb India's vulgar, overblown weddings any time soon.
Here are some excerpts of an interesting open letter to the Arab pro-democracy protesters from an Indian writer Udayakumar:
1. ... ...there are hundreds of Members of Parliament (in both the upper and the lower house) such as Basudeb Acharia, Manikrao Hodlya Gavit, and Somnath Chatterji who are called "longest serving" members. I wonder if they should be called that or the "longest clinging" members. There is a similar trend in the legislative assemblies of all the states in India too. For instance, M. Karunanidhi, the present Chief Minister (US equivalent of State Governor) of Tamil Nadu state has been a member of the state house for more than 40 years now.
2. You rightly problematize the nepotism of your rulers and think that democracy could end all this. The dynasties of the Kennedys, the Bushs and the Clintons in the United States, and the Gandhi dynasty and quite a few smaller dynasties in India would prove that democracy and elections cannot curtail sycophancy, nepotism, and family succession....
3. ...In December 2008, while announcing federal corruption charges against Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, FBI Special Agent Robert Grant said that "if [Illinois] isn't the most corrupt state in the United States, it is one hell of a competitor." Blagojevich ended up in prison. Republican George Ryan is currently serving a 6 1/2-year term in federal prison for racketeering and fraud. Otto Kerner, a Democrat, was convicted in 1973 on 17 counts of bribery, conspiracy, perjury and other charges and sentenced to three years in the prison. In 1987 Dan Walker was convicted of bank fraud years after leaving office. Lennington Small, a Republican who served from 1921 to 1929, was indicted while in office for embezzlement. Most Indian politicians have no qualms about stealing public money and they are said to be the largest clientele of the Swiss banks. Rudolf Elmer, a Swiss bank executive, has said that "Switzerland is the most preferred tax haven for Indians" to stack up their illicit wealth (NDTV, January 19, 2011).
4. ...It is obvious that your leaders, kings and emirs use the national resources for their and their families' aggrandizement. Our democracies are not much different either. An article in opensecrets.org points out: “As Americans worry about their own finances, their elected representatives in Washington — with a collective net worth of $3.6 billion — are mostly in good shape to withstand a recession.” Before the meltdown rained on their parade, members of Congress, “saw their net worths soar 84 per cent from 2004 to 2006, on average.” The article points out that while US senators had “a median net worth of approximately $1.7 million in 2006,” only about “1 per cent of all American adults had a net worth greater than $1 million around the same time.” Reputed Indian journalist P. Sainath points out in his column in The Hindu newspaper (dated June 20, 2009) that the number of ‘crorepatis’ (millionnaires) in the present Indian parliament's lower house (Lok Sabha) is up 98 per cent as compared to 2004. Then there were 154 of them but now there are 306 — almost double. In both the United States and India, money from big corporations and business houses helps politicians secure election victories and eventually "own" them.
5...P. Sainath points out the firm links between wealth and winning elections in India in his above-mentioned article.... This is in a country that has 836 million people who scrape along with less than Rs. 20 (50 US cents) a day. Do you think the poor will ever have a chance of voicing their concerns in the policymaking circles?
Cash for votes is a common feature of democracies in South Asia and other developing nations. Latest publication of Wikileaks by The Hindu reveals vote buying by India's ruling party in a 2008 confidence vote:
The ghost of bribes for MPs’ votes returned to haunt the government on Thursday with the entire Opposition demanding its resignation over allegations that UPA-I purchased the support of lawmakers to survive the trial of strength at the height of crisis over Indo-U.S. nuclear deal in 2008.
On top of several scams that had surfaced in the last few months, the government faced a torrid time in Parliament on Thursday with Opposition targeting it on the manner in which it won the vote of confidence in 2008 after the Left parties had withdrawn support to it opposing the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal.
Both the Houses of Parliament were repeatedly rocked by uproar and adjournments by the Opposition members who demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his government saying it did not have any right to continue even for a moment as it was surviving on “political and moral sin“.
The Right and and the Left combined in Parliament whenever it met during the day to launch an assault armed with the claim in a U.S. diplomatic cable revealed by WikiLeaks that an aide of former Union Minister Satish Sharma had shown to the diplomat currency chests that were part of Rs.50 crore to Rs.60 crore money collected by Congress for purchase MPs for the vote in the Lok Sabha.
The only defence that the government came out with was when Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told Parliament that a diplomat’s cable enjoyed immunity and he could not confirm or deny its contents.
Here are some excerpts from an Op Ed in Newsweek Pakistan by Meekal Ahmed, a former IMF official:
The government hopes to generate Rs. 53 billion during the last quarter of the current financial year, which concludes on June 30. It hopes to achieve this by imposing a 15 percent surcharge on income tax paid by Pakistan’s paltry 1.7 million registered, individual taxpayers. Given the small tax base and modest yield, the surcharge seems unfair and not worth it. In a move that is regressive and potentially inflationary, depending on the market, excise duty on certain import items has been increased from 1 percent to 2.5 percent until end-June. While these measures are better than doing nothing at all—which is what happened during the first three quarters—they are far from ideal, and don’t go far enough to address the big problems with the economy.
But it’s not all bad. The elimination of tax exemptions for agricultural inputs (including tractors, fertilizers, and pesticides) was long overdue. With a strong agro-lobby preventing taxation on their handsome incomes in a sector that contributes 21 percent of GDP, the government might as well tax the inputs. Tax exemptions for export quality textiles sold within Pakistan have also been nixed despite resistance from the fierce textile lobby. The freeze on additional hiring in the public sector, and the 50 percent cut in several spending categories should also be welcomed.
Then there is the profusion of what many Pakistani media outlets call “petrol bombs”—highly unpopular oil price adjustments at the start of each month. The government announces the adjustments, and then rolls them back under popular and political pressure. The fuel price adjustments are unavoidable. Pakistan is a net oil importer and can’t insulate itself from global price shocks. Oil prices have risen steeply in the last three months, and have now crossed the psychologically important 100-dollar mark. Pakistan’s fuel subsidies—at an estimated Rs. 5 billion per month that could have been spent on development—are unaffordable and unsustainable. Oil prices will remain high for a while. Pakistanis must adjust to this reality. .....
Despite the new measures, doubts remain about the revised tax-revenue targets and the state’s capacity to achieve them. The Federal Board of Revenue is notorious for its chronic underperformance. The justification that there is a tax revenue shortfall because the economy is in recession holds no water. An economy expected to grow at around 3 percent is not, technically speaking, in recession, but is growing below its potential. There is no cycle for fiscal revenues in Pakistan: whether the economy grows at 3 percent or 7 percent, whether inflation is 2 percent or 25 percent, tax revenues fail to keep up. If they did not, there would be a constant tax-to-GDP ratio, which is actually falling. This trend points to the existence of deep-rooted structural deficiencies in the tax system, which is regressive, anti-poor and plagued by too many exemptions and concessions. Then there’s also corruption, abuse of the system, and evasion. Even taxes withheld at source are not deposited in the government’s account because of alleged connivance between withholding agents and tax officials.
Arab protesters demand democracy, but not secularism, says Michael Scheuer, former Bin Laden hunter at the CIA:
The Arab world’s unrest has brought forth gushing, rather adolescent analysis about what the region will look like a year or more hence. Americans have decided that these upheavals have everything to do with the advent of liberalism, secularism, and Westernization in the region and that Islamist militant groups like al-Qaeda have been sidelined by the historically inevitable triumph of democracy—a belief that sounds a bit like the old Marxist-Leninist claptrap about iron laws of history and communism’s inexorable triumph.
How has this judgment been reached? Primarily by disregarding facts, logic, and history, and instead relying on (a) the thin veneer of young, educated, pro-democracy, and English-speaking Muslims who can be found on Facebook and Twitter and (b) the employees of the BBC, CNN, and most other media networks, who have suspended genuine journalism in favor of cheerleading for secularism and democracy on the basis of a non-representative sample of English-speaking street demonstrators and users of social-networking sites. The West’s assessment of Arab unrest so far has been—to paraphrase Sam Spade’s comment about the Maltese Falcon—the stuff that dreams, not reality, are made of.
A year from now, we will find that most Arab Muslims have neither embraced nor installed what they have long regarded as an irreligious and even pagan ideology—secular democracy. They will have instead adhered even more closely to the faith that has graced, ordered, and regulated their lives for more than 1400 years, and which helped them endure the oppressive rule of Western-supported tyrants and kleptocrats.
This does not mean that fanatically religious regimes will dominate the region, but a seven-year Gallup survey of the Muslim world published in 2007 shows that a greater degree of Sharia law in governance is favored by young and old, moderates and militants, men and even women in most Muslim countries. While a façade of democracy may well appear in new regimes in places like Egypt and Tunisia, their governments will be heavily influenced by the military and by Islamist organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda. If for no other reason, the Islamist groups will have a powerful pull because they have strong organizational capabilities; wide allegiance among the highly educated in the military, hard sciences, engineering, religious faculties, and medicine; and a reservoir of patience for a two-steps-forward, one-step-back strategy that is beyond Western comprehension. We in the West too often forget, for example, that the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda draw from Muslim society’s best and brightest, not its dregs; that al-Qaeda has been waging its struggle for 25 years, the Muslim Brotherhood for nearly 85 years; and that Islam has been in the process of globalizing since the 7th century.
As new Arab regimes develop, Westerners also are likely to find that their own deep sense of superiority over devout Muslims—which is especially strong among the secular left, Christian evangelicals, and neoconservatives—is unwarranted. The nearly universal assumption in the West is that Islamic governance could not possibly satisfy the aspirations of Muslims for greater freedom and increased economic opportunity—this even though Iran has a more representative political system than that of any state in the region presided over by a Western-backed dictator. No regime run by the Muslim Brotherhood would look like Canada, but it would be significantly less oppressive than those run by the al-Sauds and Mubarak. This is not to say it would be similar to or more friendly toward the West—neither will be the case—but in terms of respecting and addressing basic human concerns they will be less monstrous.
Here are some excerpts from The Guardian Op Ed on Cameron's warning to Pakistan to raise tax revenues:
Corruption, tax dodging by rich individuals and domestic companies, and tax dodging by multinational businesses all result in a massive flow of "illicit capital" out of developing countries that exceeds the aid they receive from rich nations. Three policy solutions are needed to help reverse this trend and truly fulfil the spirit of Cameron's remarks.
First, revenue officials in developing countries need to be able to follow the money that their rich elites have stashed in tax havens. At present, countries have to conclude individual treaties with each country from which they want this kind of information, and can only do so if that country is willing. This is cumbersome and cannot serve the interests of low-income countries. The UK is one of over a dozen countries that recently ratified a multilateral convention that could provide the solution – but only if developing countries are supported to join, and if tax havens are compelled to participate. The G20 summit in France in November is the opportunity to make this happen.
Second, anti-corruption and tax justice campaigners – and indeed some revenue officials – want multinational companies to break down their financial reports on a country-by-country basis. This proposal is being considered right now by the European commission, and was raised by the chancellor, George Osborne, at a recent G20 summit.
But the devil will be in the detail. If companies have to declare tax payments by country, it will be much harder for corrupt officials to spirit the money away. But if other information such as profits and sales is also included in the breakdown, we could scrutinise the tax payments themselves, holding companies and governments to account for the tax dodging that multinational companies can get away with.
Third and finally, we need the global network of anti-tax avoidance laws to be fit for purpose. It's unfortunate that changes to the UK's "controlled foreign companies" rules in last month's budget will open the floodgates to tax avoidance by British companies overseas. This could cost developing countries £4bn in revenues, effectively wiping out the value of half the British aid budget. At the same time, developing countries keen to crack down on such avoidance are being forced to adopt international "transfer pricing" rules that make them leak like sieves.
It's within the power of the British government to equip developing countries like Pakistan with the information, the rules and the enforcement capacity they need to raise much more tax revenue.
Here's a Times of India story about the impact of corruption on "Brand India":
BANGALORE: Anna Hazare's anti-graft campaign has pushed corruption to the fore again. Corporate honchos say businessmen overseas have been vexed with corruption here for a long time, and this movement addresses their worry too.
Kris Gopalakrishnan, executive co-chairman, Infosys Technologies, said Brand India is affected because of the perception that we can't solve the problem of corruption.
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, CMD, Biocon, said India has an outstanding business reputation. But people outside feel the cost of doing business in the country comes at a price that may require underhand dealings to get things done. "This perception needs to change," she said.
Krishnakumar Natarajan, CEO, MindTree, echoed that feeling: "Outsiders feel the government is not transparent and India is not an easy place to do business. There is discomfort, especially on issues related to infrastructure," he said.
* Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International placed India at 87 among 178 countries in the 2010 corruption index. India scored 3.3 on a scale of 10
* Janaagraha initiative ipaidabribe.com shows Bangalore at the top with maximum number of bribes paid. Earlier this week, the site showed 3,641 instances of bribe that amounted to Rs 10 crore. Police, followed by the registration department and municipal services, sought the maximum number of bribes. The site depends on people logging in their bribe-paying details, and therefore is limited to that extent.
Here's an excerpt of a Reuters' report about President Asif Zardari's current troubles:
Zardari, long plagued by accusations of rampant graft, has never connected with Pakistanis in the way his wife did.
That was all too clear when epic floods raged through Pakistan in 2010, inundating 20 percent of the country and making millions homeless.
The president set off a on a trip to Europe as the disaster was unfolding and made no immediate effort to return home. While in France, Zardari visited a chateau he owns in Normandy.
The election of Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP), which has long opposed military involvement in politics, in 2008 raised hopes the nuclear-armed South Asian nation could shake off the legacy of decades of intermittent army rule and turn back a rising tide of Islamist militancy.
Zardari, however, has failed to deliver since then, dismissed as an uncaring playboy -- another feudal landlord who ignored the needs of the masses -- while Pakistan lurched from crisis to crisis, from crippling power cuts to suicide bombings.
He has always appeared to lack the political resolve to push through reforms that could help the fragile economy and make it less dependent on foreign aid.
But while his job as president has become largely ceremonial, his leadership of the ruling PPP gives him strong political influence.
Some Western officials concluded early on that he lacked the skills to lead a country seen as critical to Washington's global efforts to tackle militancy.
In a 2008 diplomatic cable carried by WikiLeaks, then chief of the British Defence Staff Jock Stirrup said Zardari was "clearly a numbskull."
The unpopularity of his government may have only served to strengthen generals after Zardari committed the cardinal sin for any Pakistani politician of alienating the military.
At one point, army chief General Ashfaq Kayani hinted to the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan that he might have to persuade Zardari to step down because of political turmoil, according to a 2009 cable released by WikiLeaks.
But luckily for Zardari, it seemed the military concluded at the time that he was a better option than other political leaders it distrusted even more.
Soon after Pakistan's ambassador to the United States resigned in November after a Pakistani-American businessman accused him of being behind the infamous memo, many wondered if the resilient Zardari's time was finally up.
He is looking more vulnerable than ever. His dwindling popularity at home is matched by the all-time low in relations with major ally the United States.
A unilateral U.S. special forces raid that killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani town in May reinforced suspicion that Islamabad is an unreliable partner in the war on militancy.
However, a U.S. cross-border air attack in November that mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers has given the military a chance to reassert itself after the humiliation of the bin Laden raid, leaving Zardari and other civilian leaders to be blamed for Pakistan's problems.
"MR. 10 PERCENT"
Criminal cases could also haunt Zardari, who earned the title "Mr. 10 Percent" while Bhutto was in power, based on allegations he demanded kickbacks on state contracts.
After his wife's government collapsed in late 1996, he was arrested and charged with corruption, such as kickbacks in deals involving a Swiss company.
Here are some excerpts of BBC's Soutik Biswas's review of Pulitzer-winning New Yorker reporter Katherine Boo's "Beautiful Forevers":
"We try so many things," a girl in Annawadi, a slum in Mumbai tells Katherine Boo, "but the world doesn't move in our favour".
Annawadi is a "sumpy plug of slum" in the biggest city - "a place of festering grievance and ambient envy" - of a country which holds a third of the world's poor. It is where the Pulitzer prize winning New Yorker journalist Boo's first book Behind the Beautiful Forevers is located.
Annawadi is where more than 3,000 people have squatted on land belonging to the local airport and live "packed into, or on top of" 335 huts. It is a place "magnificently positioned for a trafficker in rich's people's garbage", where the New India collides with the Old.
Nobody in Annawadi is considered poor by India's official benchmarks. The residents are among the 100 million Indians freed from poverty since 1991, when India embarked on liberalising its economy.
She used more than 3,000 public records, many obtained using India's right to information law, to validate her narrative, written in assured reported speech. The account of the hours leading to the self-immolation of Fatima Sheikh derives from repeated interviews of 168 people as well as police, hospital, morgue and court records. Mindful of the risk of over interpretation, the books wears its enormous research lightly.
The local councillor runs fake schools, doctors at free government hospitals and policemen extort the poor with faint promise of life and justice, and self-help groups operate as loan sharks for the poorest. The young in Annawadi drop dead like flies - run over by traffic, knifed by rival gangs, laid low by disease; while the elders - not much older - die anyway. Girls prefer a certain brand of rat poison to end their lives.
Boo has an interesting take on corruption, rife in societies like India's. Corruption is seen as blocking India's global ambitions. But, she writes, for the "poor of a country where corruption thieved a great deal of opportunity, corruption was one of the genuine opportunities that remained".
On the other hand, Boo believes, corruption stymies our moral universe more than economic possibility. Suffering, she writes, "can sabotage innate capacities for moral action". In a capricious world of corrupt governments and ruthless markets the idea of a mutually supportive community is a myth: it is "blisteringly hard", she writes, to be good in such conditions. "If the house is crooked and crumbling", Boo writes, "and the land on which it sits uneven, is it possible to make anything lie straight?
Here's a story of misuse of counter-terror funds by Pakistan's Ex-Home Minister Rehman Malik:
Pakistani officials used a secret counter-terrorism fund to buy wedding gifts, luxury carpets and gold jewellery for relatives of ministers and visiting dignitaries, leaked documents reveal.
The revelations cast a spotlight on high-level corruption in Pakistan as the impoverished but nuclear-armed country battles a surge in Taliban violence.
They concern the National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC) of Pakistan's interior ministry, formed in 2000 to co-ordinate between the country's intelligence agencies and federal and provincial governments on national security matters.
The NCMC received about 425 million rupees (HK$53.4 million) from Pakistani government coffers between 2009 and last year, according to files obtained by Umar Cheema, a journalist for Pakistani daily The News.
During that time the interior ministry was headed by Rehman Malik, a supporter of former president Asif Ali Zardari's Pakistan People's Party (PPP).
Many of the documents deal with payments to intelligence sources, routine maintenance of vehicles and overtime for employees. But they also include receipts for gifts for US and British embassy officials, as well as flowers and sweets for journalists.
One receipt for 70,000 rupees is itemised as: "Pair of wristwatches for marriage of nephew of minister for interior".
The documents show that on a trip to Rome for an Interpol conference in November 2012, Malik took a necklace, wooden tables and a TouchMate tablet computer as gifts.
The counter-terror fund was also used to buy three rugs as wedding gifts for the son of former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf early last year.
A set of 21-carat gold jewellery worth US$3,000 was bought for one unnamed individual, while another was the recipient of a US$1,500 set.
Among the more bizarre items paid for from the fund was the US$800 cost of four sacrificial goats, plus butchery costs for the festival of Eid-ul-Adha.
Pakistan's present government, led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has ordered an audit of the interior ministry accounts from 2010 to last year. Ministry spokesman Danyal Gilani confirmed the audit was continuing.
The Indian Supreme Court has banned two IPL teams, Chinnai's CSK owned by ICC chair Srinivasan, and Rajhastan Royals owned by Shipla Shetty.
EVEN by the turbulent standards of Indian cricket politics, the ongoing collision between the country’s Supreme Court and cricket board is astonishing. In recent months India’s top judges have been quietly examining the latest allegations of cronyism and corruption in the world’s richest national tournament, the Indian Premier League (IPL). At a hearing on March 27th, they unveiled a list of preliminary responses to these allegations. It would amount to a radical shake-up of one of India’s most opulent and powerful institutions, with potentially enormous repercussions for Indian cricket and the global administration of the game that India dominates.
The judges propose that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) must urgently remove its boss, N. Srinivasan (pictured). His alleged conflict of interests—Mr Srininvasan’s family firm, India Cements, owns the Chennai Super Kings (CSK), an IPL side—is at the centre of the recent scandals. They began last year when Mr Srinivasan’s son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan, an official at CSK, was arrested and charged with betting on IPL games and other offenses. The judges further propose that employees of India Cements, who appear to include several members of India’s cricket elite—including the captain of the national side, Mahendra Singh Dhoni—should be banned from holding positions in the BCCI.
CSK and another IPL side, Rajasthan Royals, should be suspended from the forthcoming IPL tournament, the judges advise. The Royals—part-owned by Rupert Murdoch’s son Lachlan—provided another recent scandal when three of its players were arrested on suspicion of match-fixing. These and other allegations of corruption, the Supreme Court says, should now be given an independent investigation, which the BCCI has doggedly refused to provide. Meanwhile, the cricket board should be presided over by an “outsider”. Sunil Gavaskar, a great cricketer of the 1970s and 1980s, has been suggested. In the event that the BCCI refuses to follow these helpful tips, the court is expected to order it to do so, perhaps this week.
Anyone familiar with the activism of India’s highest court will not be altogether amazed by this. Armed with extraordinary powers, its judges are accustomed to playing an exceedingly forward role in mitigating the rottenness and disfunctionality in Indian public life. In recent years they have, among diverse interventions, called on the government to review the official measure of poverty, barred politicians with criminal records from standing for office and ordered buses in Delhi to switch from diesel to compressed natural gas. Yet the BCCI is arguably the judges’ most formidable target yet.
Highly politicised, hugely wealthy, largely unaccountable and arguably more representative of India’s new economic clout than any other national body, the cricket board wields enormous influence in India and abroad. That is, in a corrupt country, a recipe for relentless scandals. The IPL, a tournament owned by the board but invested in by many of India’s most rich and glamorous people, has been beset by allegations of corruption and fraud ever since its creation, in 2008. Hitherto, the board’s power has also made it largely untouchable; hence the impunity displayed by Mr Srinivasan. That will now be much harder; the BCCI is expected to give its response to the courts on March 28th.
A 2010 NY Times story on corruption in Indian cricket:
Founded three seasons ago, the Indian Premier League managed to make the sport of cricket sexy. India’s corporate titans bought teams, Bollywood stars infused matches with celebrity glamour and fans from Mumbai to Dubai to New Jersey followed the league on television as its value rose to more than $4 billion.
For many Indians, the league, known as the I.P.L., became a symbol of a newly dynamic and confident India that was expanding its influence in the world. Yet after weeks of allegations of graft and financial malfeasance, the resignation of a government minister and the suspension of the league’s charismatic commissioner, the league has become emblematic of something else: how much the old and often corrupt political and business elite still dominates the country.
“The great pity in India is that creations like the I.P.L. became a victim of their own success,” the editor in chief of the magazine India Today, Aroon Purie, wrote this month. “Where there is money involved, especially large sums, corruption is not far behind.”
Ramachandra Guha, a historian who has written a book about cricket, said the I.P.L. tailored itself to the aspirations, and alienation, of an Indian middle class disillusioned with the country’s corruption and poverty. But Mr. Guha said the organization of the league — with teams located in India’s most affluent cities as opposed to having one in every state — has effectively mirrored the deep inequality in society.
“It is the India that is doing well economically,” he said. “It shuts itself off from the other 800 million Indians who live in the hinterlands.”
Now, Mr. Modi is gathering documents for his hearing, while government officials have come under scrutiny. A junior minister of foreign affairs, Shashi Tharoor, was forced to resign because of his involvement with a consortium that won a bid for a team in his home state.
Others who seem closely linked to the league have so far stayed in power as the scandal has assumed political overtones. Mr. Pawar heads a regional political party that is part of the coalition government led by the Congress Party. As yet, investigators have not accused him of any wrongdoing.
And the country’s civil aviation minister, Praful Patel, has faced questions on whether he was involved in the bidding process for a new franchise and whether his ministry had showed favoritism to his daughter, a former model who helps coordinate the I.P.L.’s travel. In late April, the state-owned airline, Air India, canceled a scheduled flight, delaying passengers, so that Mr. Patel’s daughter and several I.P.L. players could use it as a paid charter.
Dhiraj Nayyar, a senior editor at The Financial Express, said the cricket scandal was best understood in the context of India’s economic evolution. When India’s stock exchange took off in the late 1980s and early 1990s, scandals erupted over market manipulation until regulatory structures were strengthened. Today, the same absence of transparency and regulation exists in cricket.
“The I.P.L. is a curious creature that combines the best and worst of Indian capitalism — fabulous enterprise and outcomes on the one side, riddled with cronyism, patronage and power politics on the other,” Mr. Nayyar wrote recently. “In many ways the I.P.L. is a confirmation of what India really is: an emerging economy.”
India is one of the world’s most unequal countries: James Crabtree
In an interview with Mint, journalist and author James Crabtree talks about the rapid rise of India’s ultra-rich and the crony capitalism and inequality that have accompanied such concentration of wealth
Do you see inequality—as distinct from corruption—as an electoral issue?
I don’t. But if you consider what inequality means—which is access to opportunities for advancement, the chances of your kids getting into a decent school, the quality of public services, social insurance if you get sick, these things very much matter. They are the meat and drink of Indian politics—for instance, former AIADMK chief and Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa saying she will give you a free stove or free gas or cancel your farm loans. So while inequality might be an abstract concept, there are plenty of aspects of it that matter at the ballot box.
Both Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi, former DMK chief and Tamil Nadu chief minister, oversaw corrupt administrations in Tamil Nadu. But the state’s development indicators also did very well under them, which goes against conventional wisdom. It seems to tie into what you quote political scientist Samuel Huntington saying in your book about the strategic use of corruption to lubricate growth.
Andhra Pradesh as well. It’s a toss-up, which of them is more corrupt. Strategic corruption. Can you use it as East Asia did? Can you allow people to cream a bit off the top if they do what you want them to do, and the thing you want them to do is good? Namely, making sure kids have school meals or building irrigation projects.
Some southern states have been much better than the northern ones in this respect. They’re corrupt but they don’t take everything; it isn’t a looting. The principle is, they’ll take their 5% and the job will be done in a reasonable way. So there is perhaps a theoretical case that India could do with more corruption rather than less.
But the research is fairly clear that this sort of strategic corruption works best in autocratic regimes. You could say that was true of Jayalalithaa, she certainly governed in autocratic fashion. It’s very difficult to imagine using corruption to get the wheels turning again in other parts of the country, though. Besides, corruption is a function of growth. Part of the reason there has been so little corruption in India over the past five years is that they haven’t been building anything. All the growth has come from consumption and public spending. The proof of Modi’s corruption record is really going to come only when the next boom happens.
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