Of Vadra's riches and Kejriwal's endless accusations
Even as Kejriwal made his 'startling disclosures' on Reliance controlling the Government, came news from China that Premier Wen Jiabao has accumulated billions from various corrupt deals. A general belief in China that corruption in the Communist party was confined to the lower ranks while top leaders kept their hands clean has been exploded by a series of recent scandals including the fall of Bo Xilai and the death of the son of Ling Jihua, a close aide to the president, in a Ferrari crash.
In the United States, Terence Flynn who was on the National Labor Relations Board resigned in May, 2012 after being accused of serious ethical violations by leaking information to the National Association of Manufacturers. Earlier, Martha N Johnson, head of the General Services Administration, fired two top GSA officials and then resigned herself after it was revealed that a whopping $822,000 had been spent in Las Vegas on a four-day training conference for 300 GSA employees.
Tom DeLay, a former member of the United States House of Representatives, was on November 24, 2010, convicted by a Texas jury of money laundering connected to the Jack Abramoff scandal. On January 10, 2011, he was sentenced to three years in prison in Texas. Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the USA once said, "I weep for the liberty of my country when I see at this early day of its successful experiment that corruption has been imputed to many members of the House of Representatives, and the rights of the people have been bartered for promises of office."
Richard Lynn "Rick" Scott, a businessman and the 45th and current Governor of the US state of Florida had served in the U.S. Navy and subsequently gone into business. He earned a business degree and law degree and joined a Dallas firm where he became partner. His net worth was almost $219 million USD in 2010, but by 2011, was estimated at $103 million. He spent an estimated $75 million of his own money on his successful 2010 run for Governor of Florida. In 1987, at age 34, he co-founded Columbia Hospital Corporation with two business partners; this merged with Hospital Corporation of America in 1989 to form Columbia/HCA and eventually became the largest private for-profit health care company in the US. He resigned as Chief Executive of Columbia/HCA in 1997 amid a controversy over the company's business and Medicare billing practices; the company ultimately admitted to fourteen felonies and agreed to pay the federal government over $600 million; Scott was not personally implicated and announced his intention to run for Governor of Florida in 2010 and won.
In 2006, the First Deputy of the Prosecutor General of Russia reported that according to some expert estimates, the market for corruption in the country exceeded US$240 billion. According to INDEM fund, this number is even larger: in the business sphere alone in Russia, corruption volume increased from US$33 billion to US$316 billion between 2001 and 2005 (not taking into account corruption on the levels of federal-level politicians and business elites). The average bribe that Russian businessmen offer to civil servants increased from US$10,000 to US$136,000. More than half of adult population has direct experience in giving bribes.
Bernier, a French physician, wrote a book called, "The War of Succession of 1658," wherein he stated that the people were opportunists and time servers. The provincial governors were rapacious, oppressive and ambitious. The people were demoralised and spiritless. The administration depended upon the will of the Mughal Empire. His estimate of the administration is as under:
"The golden period of the Mughal Empire could not be called so because people suffered very much. Many people died in pestilence and they had to eat the flesh of the dogs. When the people were suffering for food, Shah Jahan did not take steps to remove their miseries and he took interest in constructing buildings. He heavily taxed the people. The administration of Shah Jahan was not sound and satisfactory. The officials were corrupt."
Upendra Thakur in his book "Corruption in Ancient India" quotes from Kalidasa and as well as from Ksemendra: "That the virus of corruption and bribery infested the society more and more in the following centuries is evident from the scathing condemnation of the Royal officials by Ksemendra and Kalhana. Ksemendra in his Dasavataracarita has advised the King to remove from his office such officials, ministers, generals and priests who accept bribes and adopt other questionable means for self gratification as their presence would ruin the very edifice of administration. He further refers to the unscrupulousness, hypocrisy and the habit of taking bribes among the royal officials in his another work, Naramamala which shows that bribery and corruption had become so rampant in the society that conscious intellectuals of the age tried to hammer the society again and again by drawing the attention of the King to do away with the obnoxious evil. Kalhana also has no kind word for these officials who had accumulated large fortunes by mercilessly fleecing the people. He condemns the Kayasthas (officials) right and left and cautions the King to beware them. Citing several instances of corrupt practices among the officials he says that Bijja became richer than the King by taking recourse to unfair means and Ananda rose to high office by offering bribe to royal counsellors."
Kejriwal's allegations against Robert Vadra are to be seen in the proper perspective. First things first- the son-in-law or any close relative of any political leader is not provided any per mensem by the State in order for it to exercise any restraint on his activities. As a private citizen, he or she is entitled and indeed encumbered with the burden of eking out his own livelihood. This applies not only to sons-in-law and relatives of the political class but includes those that are privileged owing to their relationship with judges or bureaucrats. The sons and sons-in-law of judges of the Supreme Court are prevented (by an informal code of ethic) from practising in the precincts of the Supreme Court but can merrily practice in all other courts which are inferior in status and directly under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. It goes without saying that they receive privileged treatment in these courts. However, nobody makes mention of these privileges since the alternative is to provide a per mensem allowance to all near and dear ones, if they were prevented from eking out their own living in the manner they deem fit. Else, their Right to life enshrined under Article 21 is jeopardised.
Investment in the real estate sector provided a monopoly, described by Winston Churchill as "Land monopoly is not only monopoly, but it is by far the greatest of monopolies; it is a perpetual monopoly, and it is the mother of all other forms of monopoly."
Investment in real estate is a two-headed monster, investment in it can be richly rewarding or utterly devastating. The Enforcement Directorate recently attached Rs 822 Crore worth of assets of Ramalinga Raju, the entrepreneur who created the Satyam success story was ruined since "Ms SRSR Holdings pledged the inflated shares with non-banking financial companies and loans to the extent of Rs 2171.45 crore were obtained based on the inflated value of shares of Ms Satyam Computers. These loans were circuitously transferred among the 327 front companies floated by Ramalinga Raju, his relatives and his associates to disguise the true source of funds. The front companies used these loans to buy properties in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu." With a downturn in returns from his investments, his personal fortunes dwindled and a "scam" came to light. If his returns on real estate had been healthy, he may well continued to have been lauded as the finest entrepreneur India ever produced.
On the other hand, is the example of Rohtas Goel, the founder of the Rs 10,000 crore mega venture called Omaxe. Omaxe is one of the leading names in the Indian real estate sector with the biggest investments in the most prominent parts of the country. Rohtas Goel, however, began his career barely 18 years ago on a humble motorbike. He credits his enormous success to the right breaks. With an investment of a few thousands, the real estate sector which has grown several thousand per cent over the last 20 years affords investors an opportunity to multiply their investments several times over if they invested at the right location and at the right time. Indeed John Stuart Mill, the British philosopher, political economist and civil servant words "Landlords grow rich in their sleep."
DLF has handed out Rs 2,500 crore worth of advances to various vendors in return for securing lands that has been within their sight. For DLF, contiguity to lands already existing under their ownership matters foremost, for it is less expensive to create islands of prosperity rather than a cluster of prosperity hither and thither. Robert Vadra was only one of the several investors who received some amount from this huge pile of reserves that had been set aside by DLF. If his investments of Rs 50 lakh in 2007 leapfrogged to a figure of Rs 300 crore (as assessed by Kejriwal), it is not astounding primarily because several hundreds of other investors in this sector have witnessed such windfalls, owing entirely to the vagaries inherent to the sector.
As far as the allegations against Reliance, the answers are indubitably complex. Questions like the allocation of scarce resources are not so simplistic that can be answered by the people's court that Kejriwal attempts. His compatriot Prashant Bhushan had earlier filed a slew of PIL's, but now sits pretty on the dias with Kejriwal. Do they have no confidence in the legal system? If they suggest hanging the corrupt, it is more in tune with the medieval ages. In fact, the theory of punishment as a deterrence has failed and the legal system is grappling with a reformatory process to reduce crime. What are their answers to rid the corrupt of their greed? A pill? Till they come up with some real answers to these questions, they better swallow a chill pill.
(Wikipedia sources have been extensively used in this post.)
More about Brijesh KalappaBrijesh Kalappa, an advocate in the Supreme Court, is the Additional Advocate General, Haryana. A former journalist, he has a wide range of interests including reading and travelling. He has worked with several legal luminaries on subjects of importance in civil, criminal, water and electoral laws and has individually represented governments, eminent individuals and major industrial houses. Gifted with the prowess for distinctive sharp-edged analysis, he has been working closely with several leaders of the Indian National Congress.
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