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Who is Godfather of India’s Corruption?
|by Dr. Rajinder Puri|
Anti-corruption time bomb ticking!
The Bofors deal was a watershed in India’s fight against corruption. Bigger corruption might have occurred earlier. But for the first time the most powerful politician in the land was perceived to have deliberately covered up the crime. That corruption case was never satisfactorily cleared. But the efforts of the government to bend rules and cover up the truth became increasingly evident over the years. Now there are prospects that what could not be accomplished with regard to the Bofors deal could be realized in the Augusta Westland helicopter deal.
Events indicate that the possibility of a knockout punch to be delivered for corruption against the most powerful in the land cannot be dismissed. Why this might happen may be adduced from recapitulating events of the helicopter deal.
In the Bofors deal the exposure came from Sweden which supplied the guns for which bribes were paid. In the Westland deal the exposure comes from Italy which supplied the helicopters. Two weeks from now Italy will hold a general election. The Italian Prime Minister Mr. Mario Monti is under attack for not doing enough to eradicate Italy’s burgeoning corruption. There were corruption charges against Italy’s giant defence firm Finmeccanica which supplied the Augusta Westland choppers to India. Corruption allegations had erupted over a year ago. The Italian government owns 30 percent share of Finmeccanica. The Italian government ordered a probe. The Indian government stayed put for an entire year ostensibly waiting to get information from the Italians. Now matters have come to a head in Italy. Pre-poll compulsions have led the government to arrest the Finmeccanica CEO Mr. Giuseppe Orsi and put under house arrest three others including the head of the firm’s UK based Augusta Westland unit. It has become impossible for the Indian government to ignore this development. Defence Minister Mr. AK Antony has ordered a CBI inquiry.
Would a service chief be directly involved in accepting a bribe or would he more likely compromise with higher political authority to clinch the deal? The technical requirements for the purchase of the helicopters had been changed to favour Westland for signing the contract. The cabinet committee headed by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh had cleared the deal. The deal had also been cleared by Defence Minister Mr. AK Antony and then Finance Minister Mr. Pranab Mukherjee. Given these facts would a service chief act on his own to clinch the deal after the technical requirements to purchase the helicopters had been suitably modified to allow the deal to go through?
The question now is whether the political Godfather
Two factors provide hope.
The government of course did not respond. It could have compelled the Italians to comply. The Westland contract includes “specific contractual provisions against bribery and the use of undue influence as well as an Integrity Pact”. This clause was quoted by the government to initiate the recent CBI probe. But why could not the government have threatened the Italian government earlier with a penalty clause to obtain the telltale tape which named the mastermind of the deal? There was enough incriminating evidence in the transcript for the government to have made the demand then. Obviously the government was inhibited by the corruption mastermind. Now it remains to be seen whether the named mastermind will surface either from the actual tape or the transcript provided by Italy or from any Indian recipient during grilling by CBI sleuths. One can only keep one’s fingers crossed.
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