Corruption in India is being viewed as criminal acts perpetrated by individuals in pursuit of private gain. Corruption is not abating but is increasing. It will continue to grow. It cannot be tackled unless a simple truth is acknowledged. However much individuals might gain from corrupt acts the malady is not caused merely by human greed. Corruption today has become the very foundation of our political system. Our electoral system and system of governance cannot survive without corruption. If any individual abjures entirely corruption he or she must either step out of the system or in order to function must perforce participate willingly or unwillingly in some degree of corruption.
Pointing this out I wrote on February 13, 2013 in these columns an article entitled “Who is the Godfather of Indian Corruption?” Commenting upon the Augusta Westland Helicopter deal in one of the half dozen articles I had written on the subject I wrote:
“In the transcripts of the taped conversation related to kickbacks released by Italian investigators in which the names of Indian recipients were mentioned, one key name was withheld by the Italians. In one excerpt the name of the Indian mastermind who could clinch the deal was constantly repeated. Oddly enough, the Italian investigators in the transcripts referred to that mystery individual as “incomprehensible”. They put up the ridiculous claim that the name could not be deciphered! Thus in one exchange the Italian middleman Guido Haschke told his Indian counterpart: “They just need to say: I take orders ‘incomprehensible’. I take orders from ‘incomprehensible’ in India .” That he claimed would swing the deal.”
Earlier commenting on this scam I had written on Oct. 28, 2012:
“The Indian government must demand a copy of the tape in order to ascertain the name of the mastermind whose word was law for the Italian businessmen and Indian officials with whom they dealt. If by any chance, the name reveals an individual whose exposure could threaten the survival of the United Progressive Alliance government, the matter becomes one of grave national security. The Italians and the Swiss could in that event blackmail this government. Because this is a matter that could affect national security, the President can order the government to insist that the Italians hand over a copy of the tape.”
The government of course did not respond. It refused to compel the Italians to comply although the deal contract included “specific contractual provisions against bribery and the use of undue influence as well as an Integrity Pact”. To propitiate public opinion this clause was invoked by the government to start a CBI probe. But the government did not threaten the Italian government earlier with the penalty clause to obtain the crucial tape naming the mastermind of the deal. There was enough evidence in the transcript of the tape for this demand to have been made. Was the government scared of the name being revealed to the public?
Well, since then much has happened related to the deal. That is why I have rephrased the title of this article as “Godmother of India’s corruption”. Consider the circumstantial evidence created by several events. In a note produced in an Italian court by accused Guido Haschke there was reference to ‘Fam’ for family, ‘Pol’ for politicians and to one individual identified as ‘AP’. The Italian judge bluntly asked Haschke: “Does ‘AP’ stand for Ahmed Patel?” Haschke pleaded ignorance claiming that the note had been not written by him but was dictated by Christian Mitchell who was the main middleman.
Now a new letter written by Mitchell to the Indian head of Augusta Westland in March 2008 has surfaced advising the official to target the key aides of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi without doing which the deal could not fructify. The names of the key aides included “Manmohan Singh, Ahmed Patel, Pranab Mukherjee, Veerappa Moily, Oscar Fernandes, MK Narayanan and Vinay Singh”. After this will there not be reasonable suspicion that the mastermind named by Haschke which the Italians claimed they could not decipher was that of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi? Meanwhile the government has canceled the chopper deal. Taking advantage of this, sources in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) when confronted with the new letter responded with the observation that the deal has already been canceled. As if that amounted to a defence! Instead the PMO official taking a belligerent stand told media: “We will take action against those indulging in such slanderous activities."
Opposition parties will likely exploit this issue to embarrass the Congress and Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. They should desist from doing this. Mrs. Gandhi was the most powerful individual in government when the deal was signed. That is why she might well have been considered crucial. If any other party had been in government the most powerful individual in it would have been the mastermind. Beyond individual misdemeanor it is a consequence of the system. No party leader can operate his or her party without funds generated by corruption. That is the harsh truth.
It is time to reform the system.
The electoral funding system and the law enforcement system in governance will need drastic reform if the nation genuinely wants to end corruption. It is unlikely that either the leaders of the government or of opposition will summon the moral courage to own up to this truth in order to collectively initiate the political reform without which Indian democracy will never revive. If the government and opposition get together to do this they will earn the public’s respect. People know that the system is corrupt. They do not need proof from any note or letter. They will respect politicians for speaking the truth and reforming the system.