Secrecy ought to be the exception in a democracy, but in India it is the norm so far as official communications are concerned. After the AAP’s feisty supremo Arvind Kejriwal took over as the Chief Minister of Delhi, the expectation was that he would de-classify government records, especially those relating to land transfers and bring to book dozens of errant officials. He did nothing of the kind, preferring instead to spend nights in the doubtful comfort of his car and his days on the pavement berating the Central government to television channels. Despite such an exhibition of his skills in drama, the odds favour Kejriwal’s ambition of once again stepping into the CM’s chair, principally because voters seem even more unhappy at the BJP’s not coming through on the promise the party had made during the Lok Sabha campaign of bringing to book high-level perpetrators of fraud and ensuring transparency in the processes of governance. Each of the luminaries of the UPA period, who were the target of attack by BJP leaders, are as yet untouched by any hint of official accountability.
Not that proof is difficult to find. To take an example, contacts in Paris say that Air India paid nearly 40% extra than its nearest domestic competitor for 50 A320 aircraft that it purchased in a single order. Of course, the price paid by Air India was lower than the absurdly high “list” prices for such aircraft, thereby presumably satisfying auditors, who failed to ascertain what the other airlines had paid for similar aircraft. Finding out the cost of high-priced items to other purchasers across the globe and comparing them to the rates that were paid by companies in India ought to be child’s play for the ED and the DRI, but as yet these organisations seem clueless about instances of over-invoicing of imports and under-invoicing of exports (which almost immediately get sold at derisory prices to paper entities located in tax havens, and almost immediately get sold by these bogus companies at much higher prices to genuine buyers). Indeed, Air India reached its present financially comatose state by buying multiple aircraft at prices which compare unfavourably with those paid by other airlines. Several of the carrier’s aircraft were later sold to other airlines at a knock-down price.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a global reputation for integrity and zero tolerance for corruption in high places. He needs to prevent future corruption, and to punish those who indulged in such frauds in the past.
Companies seldom go sick by accident. The best counter to the Aam Aadmi Party in the forthcoming Delhi polls would be to investigate the reasons why Air India became a terminally sick company during the UPA period, and take action against those responsible. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a global reputation for integrity, and such a step would further burnish his reputation as a leader with zero tolerance for corruption in high places. After all, not only does he need to prevent future corruption, the imperative is also to punish those who indulged in such frauds in the past.
In the private sector as well, misfeasance is common. Unethical businesspersons get back the value of the money that they put into equity in their companies within a few years of operation by methods which ought to be well known to investigative agencies, but which seem to have been overlooked by the ED or the DRI. Small wonder that several companies get saddled with huge debts, mostly to public sector banks. After all, the loss of value of equity in a failed company means nothing to a promoter, who has got several times that figure in a clandestine manner. Again, the government should examine the lists of those who were appointed as bank directors during 2004-2014 and check on dodgy loans recommended by these worthies.
The Economic Information wing of the Intelligence Bureau needs to be strengthened, as high-level corruption is as big a threat to national interest as the depredations of the ISI and its terror affiliates. The BJP has made the Delhi Assembly elections a Modi vs Kejriwal battle, for reasons best known to that party. A defeat could, therefore, have significant repercussions on the atmosphere in which the party and the government function. However, the way to ensure that it is the BJP and not the AAP which gets 41 seats in the Delhi Assembly is to launch a full-court battle against instances of high-level graft indulged in during 2004-2014.