In April 2011, a portly old man, Anna Hazare came to Delhi to protest against corruption. He went on a satyagraha (protest fast until death) to force government to pass the Lokpal Bill that is circulating in parliament for last 40 years. The public support for Anna Hazare’s protest forced the government to accept his terms. On June 4, Baba Ramdev, a yoga guru will don the mantle for protesting against government’s inaction on black money stashed away by individuals in foreign banks. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is attempting to sweet talk Baba Ramdev out of the fast, but the man is adamant. He said in an interview – “On June 4, there will be a satyagraha (protest fast) in Ramlila Maidan as well as in 624 districts across as crores of people want the country to be rid of black money, corruption and demand a change in system.”
The black money problem is extremely serious in India. It is making the country hollow. It impacts economy negatively as foreign investors are shy of investing in highly corrupt countries. The society values are deteriorating as corruption has settled in public psyche. White-collar crime is increasing as people consider it as a means to achieve material ends. The powerful and rich are not stigmatized or punished for using inappropriate means to gain wealth. Global Integrity Taskforce report — The Drivers and Dynamics of Illicit Financial Flows from India: 1948-2008 stated – “Utilizing the World Bank Residual Method and IMF Direction of Trade Statistics, the hard data indicates outflows over this 61-year period of $213 billion. Adjusting this for accumulated interest on gross illicit outflows increases the figure to $462 billion”. Some media reports have indicated that it is nearly a trillion dollars. Compare this to India’s total GDP of $1.43 trillion for 2010. Besides this data, the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) reflects the magnitude of the problem. In 2010, India’s score was a pathetic 3.3 as per CPI issued by Transparency International. It ranked 87th amongst 178 countries checked and came under highly corrupt countries. This paints a dismal picture for the country.
Spates of scams and corruption charges in 2010 have agitated the public. The scenario was never so bad. The media disclosures, which came one after the other (Common Wealth Games, 2G Telecom scam, Niira Raida tapes, and Hasan Ali tax evasion), put the government on the defensive. Sonia Gandhi a few months back publicly acknowledged the situation saying – “Our economy may increasingly be dynamic, but our moral universe seems to be shrinking. Prosperity has increased, but so has social conflict. Intolerance of various kinds is growing… We are right to celebrate our high rate of economic growth. We must do all that we can to sustain it. However, let us not forget that growth is not an end in itself”. However, this was more of political posturing with fine words butter no parsnips. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said in 2009, that he will initiate action within 100 days to recover Indian black money- estimated to be Rs one lakh crore – stashed abroad. There is still no action on this front. Except for a few names, government hasn’t made any disclosures. Baba Ramdev is forcing the government to be accountable.
Anna Hazare’s protest has definitely yielded some results and has forced the government to demonstrate it seriousness in eradicating corruption. In the last few months, the CBI investigations against the high-profile cases have resulted in arrest warrants. A number of big names presently are in judicial custody for white-collar crime, and this is a first for India. The roll call runs as follows:
- Suresh Kalmadi – Member of Parliament, Ex-Head of Organizing Committee (OC) of CWG
- Lalit Bhanot – OC’s General Secretary
- V K Verma – OC’s Director General
- A. Raja – Ex-Minister of Telecom
- Kanimozhi – Member of Parliament, daughter of DMK leader and ex-Chief Minister of Tamil Naidu M. Karunanidhi
- Siddhartha Behura- Former Telecom Secretary
- R. K. Chandolia- Raja’s Personal Secretary
- Sharad Kumar – CEO Kalaignar TV
- Vinod Goenka – Swan Telecom Director
- Sanjay Chandra – Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Ltd Managing Director,
- Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair- Senior Executives of Reliance ADA Group
Income Tax Evasion & Black Money
- Hasan Ali Khan- Stud farm owner
- Kashinath Tapuriah- Business Associate of Hasan Ali
The who’s who of government and corporate world are in the list. The Civil Society members’ courage is shaking the deep foundations of corruption in the country. Business honchos are spending sleepless nights and government is running for cover.
On the other hand, the Civil Society members are unfazed by the difficulty of the task. They are unrepentantly creating a ruckus. As Anna Hazare gleefully says “I have taken six wickets and there are many more to go”. He is referring to the number of politicians who resigned after his protests. . The means adopted by them can be questioned, but not their good intentions. They are being criticized that they are tampering with the democratic process. It is interesting when ministers accept bribes there are not many statements made that they are making mockery of democracy. The Civil Society members don’t give two hoots to the criticism leveled at them. Their attitude is “So what if it is blackmail. We are doing it for a good cause.” The devil may care attitude is contagious and garnering support
It is a tragedy that business ethics and compliance professionals haven’t taken the lead in it. Chartered accountants fear that they might be held responsible for suggesting to clients innovative tax planning solutions and deal restructuring that bypasses the laws. The irony is that a yoga guru and an ex-army man are leading the most critical business ethics initiative in India. Maybe Indian professionals need to take a leaf out their book and relearn some lessons. The nation will have a lot to be grateful for the actions of the Civil Society members. The unlikely duo, Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare are going to rock India this weekend. I am looking forward to this Saturday. Maybe a new chapter in business ethics will open this weekend.