The headlines in morning papers are depressing indeed.
‘Bombay HC orders demolition of 31-storey Adarsh society building’
‘Court orders trial of UPA minister Rao, ex-CM Koda, Jindal in coal block case’
‘Agusta probe hits high gear, CBI, ED summon IAF ex-chief’
‘If they arrest me, India won’t get any money, says Vijay Mallya’
If you follow the news and are particularly interested in the shenanigans of the power elite in the country, it is possible you are aware of the circumstances and course of individual cases. Still, the spread and depth of corruption in the country as evident in the headlines is likely to leave you disconcerted.
In the case of the Adarsh building in posh South Mumbai’s Colaba, every rule that could be bent, twisted and broken was bent, twisted and broken. Initially proposed for defence personnel only, the cooperative society went on to house politicians and bureaucrats; the property was allowed to be built without Coastal Regulatory Zone clearance from the Union government; it went up to a height of 100 metres when CRZ rules allow only a third of that; the society received liberal additional FSI, which is nearly impossible for other societies in a city with such a severe space crunch; and it went against the security stipulations of the defence establishment.
In the coal block allocation case, the court’s order points to an elaborate criminal conspiracy involving a Union minister, a former chief minister and an industrialist in the allocation of the Amarkonda coal block in Jharkhand in 2008. A facade of various companies was created to cover up the payoff of Rs two crore to the Union minister, it added.
The AgustaWestland chopper controversy involves a former chief of the Air Force, top bureaucrats, powerful political people and, if the documents available so far are to be believed, some in the media too. Vijay Mallya could be justified in claiming that his was a case of business failure, this however, does not take the attention away from the way he leveraged his influence with politicians and banks to secure loans.
It’s no secret that corruption has been a huge industry in the country but come as they from several sectors at the same time, the magnitude of it appears striking. As is evident, corruption at the top involves all — politicians, bureaucrats, players in the business sector and defence personnel too, and it thrives because of an elaborate network of patronage, quid-pro-quo arrangements and codes of secrecy. All the scandals that have surfaced so far make it amply clear that the powerful operate with the confidence that they can manipulate the system any way they want and can get away with it.
The sad reality in India is that they can.
Don’t be misled by all that noise in the media over big-ticket corruption and high-profile exposés. Television anchors will not stop reminding you that they are doing a magnificent job of exposing scandals involving the high and the mighty, but in how many big cases have we seen a conclusion? What we have from the media is the perception of criminal conduct by the big players. But perception is not reality; it’s only noise without substance.
It is only a subjective judgment.
Perhaps the only way an ordinary Indian would be convinced that something positive is happening on the corruption front is when he sees the members of the notorious power elite get convicted and put in jail like other criminals. That’s something real; the way the demolition of Adarsh in Mumbai would be. If the demolition goes through, it would send a strong message across the network of the powerful and the corrupt. There would be unintended victims but in view of the bigger intent, the demotion should go ahead.
Finally, all the noise on television and in print mean nothing if no one ends up being punished for criminal action.