Criminalisation of Politics: Corruption and Political Nexus in India

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  1. INTRODUCTION

India as a whole today has been actively involved in purging out corruption but with little avail. Movements such as those led by Anna Hazare regarding the Jan Lok Pal bill all end up at the parliaments’ stable and are stagnated there. The only efforts to awaken the country to the state of affairs of the government has been by Jagore, India, which tried to portray the true state of affairs of India the rough its effective ads and one-liners that have captured the attention of the people of India. Today, the political parties have become so corrupt and open about their corruption thing at the people are unable to do anything about it. The police is usually hand-in-glove with the politicians and the parliamentary privileges that the Members of Parliaments are entitled too also help save them from getting put behind bars and in all absolves them from any liability for their actions. It is sad to see the common middle class and poor people getting hurt just because the person who has done this to them is a politician and is thus not liable for his acts. The Constitution of India lays down that to qualify as a member of Parliament the person has to be an Indian citizen and not disqualified by any act of parliament. But it is ironic that all the politicians have a track record or a police record and despite all this they have been allowed to stand for elections. We have people who have been indicted for murder and other heinous crimes being allowed to stand for elections.

  1. SCAMS IN INDIA

2.1. COMMONWEALTH SCAM

The scams that have been happening in India have triggered a wave of dissidence and waves of hostility and disappointment from the people of India. The most recent scam has been the Commonwealth Games scam that took place in October 2010. The organizer was Mr. Suresh Kalmadi who organized the extravaganza which cost up to USD 6 billion anti-corruption watchdogs has identified more than 16 projects with possible irregularities.The ruling Congress party sacked Suresh Kalmadi, chairman of the organizing committee, as secretary of the party’s parliamentary wing. Three of his close aides have been arrested and local media has said Kalmadi too could be arrested. His homes and offices were raided by the CBI on Dec. 24. He was dogged by several cases of alleged corruption, including the purchase of equipment and issuing contracts also the allegations include manipulations of tenders in the building of stadiums and other games infrastructure, and inflating bills for equipment such as treadmills and toilet paper rolls.

Several bodies, including the anti-corruption watchdog, the state auditor, the CBI and a special committee set up by Prime Minister Singh, are probing the allegations. The CBI has also raided the homes and offices of the Games organizers, part of a probe into USD 21.7 million of misplaced funds.

2.2. THE 2-G SCAM

Another scam that hit the nation was the Telecom Scam of 2007-08 where the Telecoms minister of that time Mr. Andimuthu Raja sold the radio spectrum licenses at the market prices of 2001 to different players in the field such as Reliance, Swan telecoms (now owned by UAE’s Etisalat) and Unitech, who did not even have sufficient capital and others who had less experience in the field and genuine players such as Vodaphone and others were denied the opportunity. It was an Rs.1.76-lakh crore scam. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s (CAG) also said rules were flouted when the licenses were given out. The worst part is that he was elevated to the rank of a minister despite having separate corruption charges against him. The opposition asked for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to sit to investigate the charges but unfortunately, the government haggled over the said question for a long time and cost the nation even more money.

Currently, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is investigating allegations of corruption in the ministry and the government has said it is willing to have the Supreme Court monitor the probe. The DMK RajyaSabha MP and party chief M Karunanidhi’s daughter was arrested and then sent to Tihar Jail.

Another interesting aspect of the whole investigation included the questioning of top lobbyist Nira Radia, who represents companies like Tata and Reliance Industries, as part of an investigation into whether money laundering and forex laws were broken when the licenses were purchased. The PM also had to face the heat as the SC questioned him on giving Raja administerial berth despite allegations against him.Former Telecoms Minister Andimuthu Raja was sacked from minister post and after court direction sent to Tihar jail.

2.3. ADARSH HOUSING SCAM

Congress party politicians, bureaucrats, and military officials have been accused of taking over land meant to build apartments for war widows. After the story broke in local media the government sacked the powerful chief minister of western Maharashtra state, who is a member of the Congress party. The Arabian Sea-facing block with 103 apartments in an upscale Mumbai district that is among the world’s most expensive pieces of real estate is also being investigated for several violations of norms, including environmental and land-use rules. Apartments were sold for as little as USD 130,000 each, while local media estimated their value at USD 1.8 million each. Since the scandal broke, the government has effectively taken back permits allowing owners to occupy the apartments, leading to the disconnection of water and power supply. The CBI has begun investigating the case.

In our daily life, most of us must have been a witness to or a victim of the corruption thriving in some or the other part of the country. It could be in the form of a taxi-driver manipulating the meter to jack-up the reading or a government officer taking bribery to promptly transfer your file to the next department or even yourself offering a bribe to traffic police on breaking a signal. It is only the most evident and direct manifestation of the character of India’s social-political order—of the domination of the cash-nexus and the complete subordination of government at all levels to the dictates of big business. While India now boasts the world’s fourth-largest number of billionaires, 55, three-quarters of the population survive on less than $2 US per day, and 200 children under the age of five die every hour. India is the 87th in Transparency International’s rankings based on perceived levels of corruption.

2.4. TELGI SCAM

It took place in the year 1991. Mr. Abdul KarimTelgi had mastered the art of forgery in printing duplicate stamp papers and sold them to banks and other institutions. The tentacles of the fake stamp and stamp paper case had penetrated 12 states and were estimated at a whopping Rs. 20000 crore plus. The Telgi clearly had a lot of support from government departments that were responsible for the production and sale of high-security stamps. Counterfeiter printed fake stamp paper and appointed 300 agents to sell them in bulk to banks, foreign investors, insurance companies and stock market players, earning around Rs 200 crore a month. The swindle exceeded Rs 43,000 crore and covered 12 states. The Telgi scandal had political implications; a narco test allegedly revealed the involvement of Maharashtra political leaders like Sharad Pawar and ChhaganBhujbal. On June 28, 2007, Telgi was awarded 13 years of rigorous imprisonment and fined Rs 202 crore. Forty-two of Telgi’s accomplices were also sentenced to six years of rigorous imprisonment.

2.5. SATYAM SCAM

The Satyam Computer Scam is the biggest fraud in corporate history to the tune of Rs. 14000 crore. The company’s disgraced former chairman Ramalinga Raju kept everyone in the dark for a decade by fudging the books of accounts for several years and inflating revenues and profit figures of Satyam. The fraud, estimated at USD 1 billion, was India’s largest corporate scandal and was dubbed “India’s Enron”. With clients abandoning it, shares were hammered down to near-penny-stock levels. Finally, the company was taken over by the Tech Mahindra which has done wonderfully well to revive the brand Satyam. It was one of the biggest IT fraud committed in our nation.

2.6. BOFORS SCAM

The Bofors scandal is known as the hallmark of Indian corruption. The Bofors scam was a major corruption scandal in India in the 1980s; when the then PM Rajiv Gandhi and several others including a powerful NRI family named the Hindujas, were accused of receiving kickbacks from Bofors AB for winning a bid to supply India’s 155 mm field howitzer. The Swedish State Radio had broadcast a startling report about an undercover operation carried out by Bofors, Sweden’s biggest arms manufacturer, whereby $16 million were allegedly paid to members of PM Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress. Most of all, the Bofors scam had a strong emotional appeal because it was a scam related to the defense services and India’s security interests.Bofors gun deal 1996 India’s purchase of artillery guns from Swedish firm Bofors in 1986 was rocked by allegations that Rs 64 crore (USD 14.2 million) — a huge sum then — was paid as bribes to people close to then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi to swing the deal. The scandal caused an uproar in parliament, led to a split in the ruling Congress party and the defeat of Gandhi in federal elections in 1989. Its fallout has stymied India’s defense expansion, with officials for years unwilling to take decisions on purchases that could later be probed for corruption. Amongst the people probed were the London-based Indian business family of the Hindujas, who was later acquitted by a court of any involvement.The case has dragged on for years without any result.

2.7. THE FODDER SCAM

The fodder scam by the Lalu Prasad government, also known as the “Chara Ghotala scam”,1996 as it is popularly known in the vernacular language. In this corruption scandal worth Rs.900 crore, an unholy nexus was traced involved in fabrication of “vast herds of fictitious livestock” for which fodder, medicine and animal husbandry equipment was supposedly procured. Over two decades, Bihar ministers and officials colluded to bill the state treasury over Rs 950 crore to provide feed, medicines and animal husbandry equipment . The case has dragged on for years without any result. for “vast herds of fictitious livestock”. The swindle allegedly involved chief ministers Jagannath Mishra and Lalu Prasad Yadav, with the latter being sent to jail.

2.8. SCAMS IN THE JUDICIARY

In July 2008, an investigation found 36 judges were guilty of receiving gifts bought with money embezzled from the court treasury in Ghaziabad, a satellite town on the outskirts of the capital. Tens of millions of rupees were siphoned off from the provident funds of employees by the treasury officer who illegally spent the money on furniture, crockery, mobiles, laptops, rail tickets, taxi fares and other items for the judges.

2.9. MONEY LAUNDERING

In November 2009, Madhu Koda, the former chief minister of the eastern state of Jharkhand, was arrested in connection with a corruption investigation. Koda is accused of possessing assets disproportionate with his income and for alleged money laundering. He is alleged to have laundered millions of rupees from public coffers during his stint as chief minister of Jharkhand between 2006 and 2008.

2.10. CASH FOR VOTES SCAM

There was uproar in India’s parliament on 17 March 2011 after a leaked cable from the whistle-blowing Wikileaks website described how a senior Congress aide showed a US embassy official “chests of cash” allegedly used to bribe MPs to support the government in a crucial vote of confidence in 2008. The vote was over a controversial deal between India and the US which paved the way for India to massively expand its nuclear power capability. The government’s left-wing allies withdrew support, but Congress narrowly survived the vote. Opposition parties at the time accused the government of offering cash for votes. The Congress party and all of those named in the cable deny the allegations. The leak came just days after a new report by consultancy KPMG said that corruption threatened India’s growth. It said that it wasn’t simply the daily diet of petty bribes that hold back the economy, but the huge scams where billions of dollars were allegedly siphoned off by government and industry. In July 2011, two people – a politician’s aide and a political activist – were arrested in connection with the scandal. The Supreme Court criticized the police for carrying out a “shoddy probe”. A senior MP, Amar Singh, was also questioned after he was accused of offering to bribe opposition MPs to abstain from the vote. He denies the allegation.

  1. SUGGESTIONS TO CURB THE ISSUE

In June 2002, the Election Commission on the direction of the Supreme Court, issued an order under Article 324 that each candidate must submit an affidavit regarding the information of his/her criminal antecedents and assets (both movable and immovable) of self and those of spouses and dependents as well. But political parties cried wolf, alleging that the EC and the apex court, were ‘overstepping’ their powers. In 2003, a law was introduced to prohibit the election of criminals to the legislative bodies. Still, criminals roam free in parliament and in the state assemblies and the glossing over their criminal backgrounds create a bigger irony by making law-makers of law-breakers.

According to an estimate, 150 MPs out of the 541 elected MPs in the 2009 general elections have criminal records, 72 of whom have been charged with serious crimes including murder, rape, etc. The number of MPs with criminal antecedents was representative of all parties – a democratic thing ironically – and proportionate to the number of seats of that party. Now thanks to organisations such as the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW) working in the field of electoral reforms for the past few years, the issue of electoral malpractice and the criminalisation of politics have been propped up as topics of national debate. To discuss the ways and means to curb this ever-growing menace of criminalization of politics, several committees have been established to look into the matter and to suggest remedies to deal with the same as having been elaborated in the next part.

 

 

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