The bribe-tak­ers

Geopo­lit­i­cal notes from In­dia

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS - M D Nala­pat

er­ful. For ex­am­ple, it is un­known in In­dia that an in­di­vid­ual placed at the core of the se­cu­rity ap­pa­ra­tus by Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh had as for­eign cit­i­zens his wife and all his chil­dren. In the US, there are clear lines drawn be­tween “No Forn” doc­u­ments and brief­ings that are off lim­its to for­eign na­tion­als, and oth­ers that are al­lowed to be ac­cessed by for­eign na­tion­als.

In the case of In­dia, sev­eral key of­fi­cials have pro­gressed in their ca­reers de­spite their close fam­ily mem­bers ex­chang­ing their In­dian pass­ports for that of a for­eign coun­try. In­deed, such a fact is re­garded as too triv­ial to doc­u­ment. An­other fact seen as out­side the am­bit of gov­ern­ment is ed­u­cat­ing chil­dren in for­eign coun­tries, with few su­pe­ri­ors cu­ri­ous about how an of­fi­cer can ed­u­cate his or her chil­dren abroad at a cost much above his or her salary.

Usu­ally, some un­known in­sti­tu­tion steps up with a schol­ar­ship to the off­spring of a se­nior of­fi­cial, and shuts down soon af­ter the ed­u­ca­tion of the lucky young­ster con­cludes. Snd of course there is the fact that sev­eral in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial com­pa­nies (who make for­tunes out of in­sider in­for­ma­tion) hire the chil­dren of top de­ci­sion-mak­ers. In­ter­est­ingly, the head of the Re­serve Bank of In­dia re­tains his lien on the Uni­ver­sity of Chicago job he tem­po­rar­ily took leave of to be­come the czar of mon­e­tary pol­icy in In­dia, as well as the op­tion to be­come a US cit­i­zen at will. Sim­i­lar is the case with the head of the erst­while Plan­ning Com­mis­sion ( now re­named Nit Aayog) and the Eco­nomic Ad­vi­sor to the Fi­nance Min­istry, each of whom ap­pear to re­gard their cur­rent jobs as stop­gap em­ploy­ment be­fore re­turn­ing to the US, a prospect they are re­ported to dis­cuss with friends off and on. In the Email: mg­nala­ two years that he has de­voted to his cur­rent job, Naren­dra Modi has fol­lowed the same ex­am­ple he set in Gu­jarat, of not mak­ing changes in the com­po­si­tion of of­fi­cials in­her­ited from the pre­vi­ous regime. While over­all this is a good idea, yet an ex­cep­tion needs to be made in the case of that small num­ber of of­fi­cials who were ac­com­plices to cor­rupt min­is­ters and politi­cians. Such in­di­vid­u­als need to be in­ves­ti­gated, and it needs to be en­sured that they be re­moved from sen­si­tive po­si­tions that are sus­cep­ti­ble to mis­use. Such a spring clean­ing has yet to take place.

Hence, although cor­rup­tion in Delhi has been dra­mat­i­cally re­duced since Modi took over, the pace of in­ves­ti­ga­tion and ac­count­abil­ity has been glacial in its pace. A few days ago, a higher court in Italy con­victed some in­di­vid­u­als of hav­ing paid bribes to In­di­ans to pur­chase some he­li­copters for the Air Force in its VIP squadron. It would have been a sim­ple mat­ter to track the money flow from Europe to Mau­ri­tius to In­dia, but this was ap­par­ently not done even af­ter the new gov­ern­ment took charge. Con­trary to the charges be­ing made by some that such in­ac­tion shows the “com­plic­ity” of the Modi gov­ern­ment in such scams, the fact is that it re­beals the op­po­site.

The Prime Min­is­ter has left the bu­reau­cracy alone, and has en­sured that his min­is­ters fol­low the same dis­ci­pline (of re­fus­ing to in­ter­vene). How­ever, such a rule needs ex­cep­tions, es­pe­cially in the case of those in­stances which in­volve cor­rup­tion of a level of tens of mil­lions of dol­lars. In the case of the he­li­copter deal, sev­eral se­nior of­fi­cials were in­volved, and some are still in very high po­si­tions.These have clearly used their in­flu­ence to en­sure that the Cen­tral Bu­reau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (CBI) and the En­force­ment Direc­torate (ED) slept at the wheel. Although two years have gone by since the BJP gov­ern­ment took charge, nei­ther the CBI nor the ED have both­ered to un­cover the money trail. So the pub­lic in In­dia is wit­ness to the shame­ful spec­ta­cle of an Italian court con­vict­ing Italian bribe-givers, but In­dian agen­cies in­ac­tive against the In­dian bribe-tak­ers, many of whom have in­flu­en­tial friends across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum.

The Italian court re­lied on 181 boxes of ev­i­dence about the bribes paid by Agusta West­land, the he­li­copter com­pany, but thus far, no agency from In­dia has shown any in­ter­est in ex­am­in­ing the data re­vealed there, even though they re­late to bribes paid in In­dia to In­dian cit­i­zens. Nei­ther has any anti-cor­rup­tion agency in In­dia sought to as­sist the Italian court with ev­i­dence that was rel­e­vant to the case, de­spite the de­sir­abil­ity of do­ing so Prime Min­is­ter Modi will need to re­vise his Hands Off pol­icy to­wards the bu­reau­cracy, for in some de­part­ments, free­dom from po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence is lead­ing to greater mis­use of au­thor­ity. The sys­tem of democ­racy man­dates con­trol by elected politi­cians over un­elected of­fi­cials, and the Prime Min­is­ter and his min­is­ters need to ex­er­cise that con­trol rather than re­frain from it.Of course, con­cur­rently there needs to be much greater trans­parency in gov­ern­ment, so that on­line track­ing takes place of de­ci­sions such that lag­gards get iden­ti­fied.

As also much more ac­count­abil­ity. For s start, Modi needs to iden­tify and pun­ish each of those (politi­cians, of­fi­cials and mil­i­tary) guilty in the Agusta West­land he­li­copter scan­dal, no mat­ter how high the pos held or which party the wrong­doer be­longs to. Un­less he does so, from now on­wards, po­lit­i­cally it will all be down­hill for the BJP. —The writer is Vice-Chair, Ma­ni­pal Ad­vanced Re­search Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Pro­fes­sor of Geopol­i­tics, Ma­ni­pal Uni­ver­sity, Haryana State, In­dia.

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