Different views – Indian Government’s Questionable Ethics

Last week while Japan was battling with nuclear crises, in India numerous questions were raised on the Indian government’s involvement in corruption scandals. Indians are disheartened with the high scale involvement of politicians, businessperson and bureaucrats in corruption and fraud. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh now fortnightly gives a clarification of his non-involvement in the various frauds exposed by the media. Mr. Manmohan Singh’s clean image is tarnished and very few are willing to buy his version of truth.

The first issue raised this week in India was if a similar incident as Japan occurs in any of the existing and proposed nuclear plants is India capable of disaster management. In this week, there were a number of protests against government’s plan for a nuclear plant in Jaitapur in the Konkan region in Maharashtra. In the last two decades, the region experienced 92 earthquakes with three major ones. In light of these statistics, it is better for the government to explore solar energy options, which are very viable in India and discontinue nuclear power plans for energy. Professor Arindum Chaudary in his blog “Passionate About India” wrote an article titled- India Can’t Afford a Japan Type Disaster. He discusses the Indian nuclear plans and alternative options available for energy. It is a good time for Indian public to understand the issues and actively discuss their concerns with the government.

The second issue that grabbed headlines was the suicide of Sadiq Batcha. The CBI investigations of 2G Telecom Scam is closing in on A. Raja and the DMK party. Sadiq Batcha, a close associate of A. Raja was key witness to the probe as CBI suspected that bribe money was transferred through his business enterprises. Since CBI has started questioning DMK family members, questions are being raised whether it was a suicide or murder. Has DMK family executed its own internal justice to protect the family members? Rajdeep Sardesai is Editor-in-Chief, IBN 18 Network expressed his views on the workings of DMK and other regional parties on Suhel Seth’s Blog. “Madras tiffin March 10, 2011”authored by Mr. Sardesai lucidly explains the way political parties have become dysfunctional and cling to power at all costs. It also explains how they continue to remain in power with public support despite high-level corruption.

WikiLeaks expose led to new trouble for Congress party. It stated that UPA government in 2008 trust vote bought Members of Parliament by paying cash. UPA in some circles has been codenamed United Poachers Association. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh again had to make a statement in Parliament. He claims that there was no money exchanged in the 2008 and public should not give credence to unverifiable sources. His most preposterous statement was that since UPA government was re-elected by the public it proved  Congress members innocence. No one is ready to believe him as public suspects high-level fraud in Common Wealth Games, 2G Telecom spectrum sale, and ISRO-Antrix deals. As a Prime Minister, he cannot repeatedly claim ignorance as it depicts lack of governance and control on his path. Barka Dutt  of NDTV mentioned in her article “Sounds of Silence” in Hindustan Times the pitfalls in Congress strategy.

Click on the headings below to read the full posts. These definitely give some food for thought as to the where India is going.

1.      India Can’t Afford a Japan Type Disaster (via Passionate About India – Author Arindun Chaudary)

The recent heart paining earthquake and tsunami in Japan that has led to a nuclear disaster that is still unfolding in Japan as an aftermath, speaks volumes of how fragile nuclear plants are and how dangerous such leakages can be. Any case of nuclear meltdown would cause leakage of radiations which not only can lead to a high death toll and permanent physical and mental disorders but in the long run can make the vicinity uninhabitable for tens of decades. India, which is blindly following a dream of going the nuclear way, is largely ignoring the threats that these reactors bring with themselves! The Three Mile and Chernobyl disasters during the eighties are testimonies to catastrophes that can be caused by such plants. And it is not that this is something new for India – in August 2010, the Journal of Contemporary Asia reported that between 1993 and 1995, more than 120 hazardous nuclear accidents took place in India. And then, there are protests which are already being organized in Jaitapur in Maharashtra after adverse effect of nuclear plants were seen on the ecology. Even if one ignores the Jaitapur protests, what comes as a surprise is how our government seems to have forgotten the biggest disaster of all time in Indian history. People have not even come out of the Bhopal Gas tragedy and mind you, there was nothing nuclear in that disaster!

The whole nuclear saga began in the October of 2008, when we signed the controversial and much criticized 1-2-3 deal with the US. This deal opened a $250 billion nuclear reactor market for India and today we are finding companies (mostly American and European) waiting for their contracts. This brings me to the biggest contract we signed with Areva that furthered our dream of becoming nuclear powered nation by adding a 9,000-MW plant at Jaitapur in the Konkan region in Maharashtra. As it is said that the devil is in the details, interestingly the Konkan coast is located in the seismic belt of the nation and is categorized under the high damage risk zone. For the record, in the last two decades, this zone has experienced a whopping number of 92 earthquakes, of which three were major, with the highest being measured at 6.3 on the Richter scale in 1993. And on the top of this, we are using a very controversial and unapproved nuclear reactor for this plant. As of now, we’ve more than 20 nuclear reactors dotted along the coastal areas of the nation that may be either exposed to quakes or tsunamis

2.    Madras tiffin March 10, 2011(Via Suhel Seth’s Blog – Author Rajdeep Sardesai)

M Karunanidhi, the octogenarian patriarch of the DMK family, has been cast in the role of an ageing political godfather, someone who is attempting to ensure a successful transition to his next generation by parceling the spoils of power among them. The children too are seen to be dividing the Dravida empire among themselves. Son and heir MK Stalin controls Chennai; the other son, MK Azhagiri, is responsible for southern Tamil Nadu while English-speaking daughter Kanimozhi was seen as the party’s youthful face in Delhi till the 2G scam hurt her credibility. Not to forget the urbane Dayanidhi Maran, who had established a reputation for being a savvy Union minister.

Yet, today, in the autumn of a long and distinguished career in public life, Karunanidhi is being reduced to a political caricature, a leader who is seen to have put family before ideology. By insisting on prized portfolios for DMK ministers, by issuing periodic threats to withdraw support to the Centre, by anointing his children in key posts, Karunanidhi has devalued the rich traditions of reformist zeal which once imbued his politics. Instead, he has allowed himself to become, like so many of his ilk, a dynastical politician who allows loyalty to his family to overwhelm all else.

It is indeed hard to believe that the benefits of the 2G scam were being monopolised by A Raja and friends without the knowledge of the Tamil Nadu chief minister or that the money was not being transferred from Delhi to Chennai. Certainly, the manner in which Karunanidhi virtually held the UPA government to ransom in May 2009 while insisting that the telecom portfolio stay with the DMK is reason enough to believe that behind the muscle-flexing lay the desire to be part of  the 2G loot. In parties like the DMK, an A Raja is only the trusted family retainer, the rules of the game are set by the head of the family. Karunanidhi, whatever his compulsions, cannot escape responsibility for the actions of Raja.

3.  Sounds of silence (via Hindustan Times – Author Barkha Dutt)

When I watch the ‘shellacking’ the UPA government is getting on an almost daily basis both inside and outside Parliament, it’s befuddling that the top leadership in both the party and the government still seems to think that ‘communication’ is some new-age, airy-fairy concept that has no actual impact on the political process.

If anything, more than the constant crises it’s the UPA’s often delayed public response to them that regularly turns opportunity into defeat. A political style that remains entrenched in formality, opaqueness and large periods of silence surely cannot be the remedy for the government’s present afflictions.

Take the recent uproar over a WikiLeaks cable that chronicles the conversation between an American diplomat and a political fixer described as an ‘aide’ to Congress politician Satish Sharma.

The cable quotes a conversation that indicates that the Congress was readying to pay bribes in exchange for support during a trust-vote in 2008. In itself this cable, like so many others on the site, is a reported conversation between two people and not concrete evidence per se. It does raise some serious questions but its facts have also been challenged by the key players mentioned in it.

Ajit Singh, whose MPs are charged with having been offered the Rs 10 crore each, for instance, points out that they didn’t even vote on the side of the government. The cable refers to exactly this chicanery, argues the Opposition. But because public memory is still jogged by the shocking images of thick bundles of cash waved about on the floor of the House in 2008, the cable has resurrected an old, unresolved controversy. Add to that, the sense of a government that is heaving under the weight of daily scams and this WikiLeaks story swiftly acquired a traction it may not have got at another time.

To summarize in my view India needs to clean up its act if it wishes to be a global leader in this century. The corrupt and fraudulent practices followed are not only resulting in Indian public losing faith, but also impacting international brand image. For the sake of the country the politicians and business persons should stop lining their pockets with ill-gotten money. A cleaner and moral image would benefit the country. Maybe a lesson for India to learn from Japan.