That India's Prime Minister is an honest man is well known. Even better known is the fact that he’s thus far done little to prosecute those at the top of the business, administrative and political pyramid that are guilty of corruption. Experts estimate that between one-third and one-half of the money earned in India flows to the ‘black’ (i.e. illegal) economy. While cosmetic measures to reduce this volume have been many, most of those responsible for policy are suspect themselves. No one has been a more zealous advocate of additional regulation and multiple penalties than Palaniappan Chidambaram, now the Union Minister of Home Affairs. However, those in the government point out that Chidambaram's son Karthik, along with his cousins and close relatives, witnessed a spectacular increase in their personal wealth during the period of 2004 to 2008, when his father was the Minister of Finance. Family and friends of the current Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, are said to be in similar ‘fortunate’ circumstances.
It’s a small wonder that the Income Tax Department of India, Directorate of Enforcement, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and other agencies armed with draconian powers of search, arrest and confiscation have thus far left the VVIPs (Very Very Important Person) of India alone, except in cases where there was an obvious political motive, such as those involving Bihar's former chief minister Laloo Prasad Yadav and Uttar Pradesh's chief minister Mayawati. Still, even the Central Bureau of Investigation keeps changing its stance on the two, depending—it is said—on the signals they receive from the all-powerful Sonia Gandhi, acting through trusted officials and politicians close to her. Meanwhile, with the Commonwealth Games scandal, while formerly-popular politician Suresh Kalmadi has been hung out to dry, the chief minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit, has been spared. Congress party insiders have suggested that this is because of the close bond (which they claim extends to business dealings) of the chief minister's son and the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi. Another example is Jagan Reddy, son of former Sonia-favourite Rajshekhar Reddy, who went untouched while creating a personal fortune estimated at $15 billion, but after his father’s death in 2009 has been subject to investigations surrounding tax evasion. Coincidentally, Reddy has emerged as a rival (at least in Andhra Pradesh) to Nehru family heir apparent Rahul Gandhi.
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While during his first term in office from 2004 to 2009, Manmohan Singh adopted a see-no-evil policy towards corruption, over the past year he’s been goaded into action by the Supreme Court, under Chief Justice S H Kapadia. Kapadia has set up a two-judge bench to supervise the legal accountability for the 2G telecom scam.
Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly have electrified the country with their relentless pursuit of the wrongdoers in this scandal that has rocked the nation, and blocking of the efforts by official agencies to give suspects a free pass. Should they continue on the bench with the 2G case, it’s expected the prime minister will have no option but to send some of the country's top politicians, businesspeople and officials to jail for long terms. This would substantially raise the fear factor for the elite in India engaged in graft, acting as a major future deterrent.
However, because Singhvi and Ganguly have created a certain panic amongst top-ranking figures in Delhi, reports are rife that they’ll soon get shifted to other tasks, while others will take over the Supreme Court's monitoring of the scam.
Should this happen, there’ll certainly be much dismay among all those interested in seeing a ‘cleaner’ India.