AgustaWestland deal: Bribery and hope

If the Prime Minister is serious about fighting corruption, then this defence scandal gives him a real chance to go deeper into the causes of the rot.

Written by Tavleen Singh | Published:May 1, 2016 12:24 am
congress, congress president, sonia gandhi, sonia gandhi in allahabad, sonia surprise visit, lucknow news Congress president Sonia Gandhi (Source: PTI)

What an astonishing effect the c revelations have had on the Congress party. Not only did Sonia Gandhi consider it necessary to speak to TV reporters almost for the first time ever, but her closest aide, Ahmed Patel, gave the first interviews he has ever given. He gave them in Hindi and in English to many channels. This is someone who has been such a discreet backroom boy that most political reporters in Lutyens Delhi have no idea what his voice sounds like.

What intrigued me most was Sonia’s declaration that she ‘was not afraid’. Was this because she knows better than anyone that she has no reason to fear? The AgustaWestland official who said that our investigative agencies were ‘morons’ was both right and wrong. What he did not know is that they would not be ‘morons’ if they were allowed to seriously investigate the commercial activities of India’s political leaders. If they were allowed to subject them to the tax raids businessmen and Bollywood stars routinely face, we would learn more about corruption in high places than ever before. Having had the dubious privilege of peeking into the homes and lives of many political leaders, I can report that most have assets that are not commensurate with their humble salaries as public servants. Many have no hesitation flaunting their wealth either because they know that no tax inspector is going to go after them.

When it comes to big defence deals like the one the Government of India signed with AgustaWestland, it is common knowledge that there are always mega kickbacks involved. The trick is not to get caught. So when the bribe-givers in Italy were stupid enough to get caught, the last government cleverly cancelled the deal, but made only a cursory effort to investigate further. Now that the Italian courts have found evidence of bribes being given, the Modi government will be forced to investigate, but we must hope it will not stop at the limited goal of trying to pin something on Teflon Sonia. Remember that she survived Bofors unscathed despite the Quattrocchi connection.

If the Prime Minister is serious about fighting corruption, then this defence scandal gives him a real chance to go deeper into the causes of the rot. Of course we must find out who took bribes in the AgustaWestland deal and of course they must be punished, but much more needs to be done if we really want ‘parivartan’. A vital first step has to begin by cleaning up the departments that deal with bribery and corruption. In most cases these departments are so ridden with corruption that when an official gets exposed for having lockers full of cash and jewellery, it barely makes more than a few paragraphs on the inside pages of newspapers.

Since Narendra Modi became Prime Minister, there have been no major scandals at the top, but bribery and corruption continue to thrive lower down the line, and go all the way down to what we like to call ‘the grassroots’. It is because of this that we build bridges that fall down and roads that get washed away in every rainy season. It is not going to be easy to change a system that is rotten to the core, but if even a hint of change begins to show, it will make a huge difference.

The other vital component in the fight against corruption is to find ways to make the criminal justice system work more efficiently. Sadly the main reason why political leaders demand ‘an inquiry’ when they are caught doing something wrong is because they know that inquiries can go on forever, and then if some court finds a case to answer, trials can go on even longer. So it is not just Sonia Gandhi who is ‘not afraid of anything’, it is a small army of public servants who know well that there is nothing to fear.

If a fresh inquiry is ordered into the AgustaWestland deal, can we hope that it will be completed within months and not years? If this happens, it will not just make political leaders and high officials less corrupt in the future, it will also give ordinary Indians renewed faith in the system. As things stand, the rot goes so deep that most Indians no longer believe that anything will ever change. At the risk of once more being labelled a ‘Sonia-baiter’, may I remind you that the problem began with Bofors. Prime ministers have come and gone since that most famous of Indian defence scandals and justice has remained elusive despite at least one of them having promised to catch the Bofors thieves in ninety days. Does anyone remember Vishwanath Pratap Singh and the promise that brought him to power? Does anyone remember how quickly he forgot?

 

Follow the author on Twitter: @ tavleen_singh

For all the latest Opinion News, download Indian Express App

  1. C
    Chander Pal
    May 1, 2016 at 8:03 am
    And we the tax payers have to foot the bill for their 7 star security, God knows for how many generations
    Reply
    1. C
      crickin
      Apr 30, 2016 at 8:56 pm
      No hope i.e. Modi will pursue this scandal for the sake of putting itla bi tch in jail. So far people who got away during last two yrs - salman, jaya lalitha, gali janardhan. No result on vadra (remember lt; 100 days will be in jail said by many bjp go ons).
      Reply
      1. D
        Drzenda
        May 1, 2016 at 4:54 pm
        CONGRESS PARTY OF THE DAY IS NOT THE SAME PARTY WHICH FOUGHT THE RUTHLESS BRITISH RULE , SEVERAL SACRIFICED LIVES AND DELIVERED INDEPENDENCE to COUNTRY, IS CERTAINLY NOT THE PARTY OFlt;br/gt;MAHATMA HI and LAL BAHADUR SHASTRI. lt;br/gt;CONGRESS WHICH HAS BEEN HIJACKED BY FORCES INIMICAL TO INDIA- LOOK AT THE COMBINATION OF ACTUL HIGHEST DECISION MAKERS ITALIAN MAFIA , VATICAN-STOOGES -SONIA, OSCAR; ISI REPS. AHEMED, SALMAN , GULAM; IM FOUNDER SHAKEEL AND "JAICHANDS" DIGI, SUSHIL KUMAR, CHIDU KHARGE , SUJEWALA…. ETC. ETC ONE SHOULD BE IN WONDERLAND TO BELIEVE THAT THESE CROOKS HAS ANY INTEREST IN DEVELOPMENT OF INDIA'S POOR.SEEMS IN ORDER TO AVOID THE PUBLIC EXPOSURE REAL SOME CROOKS HAVE EVEN STA BEHIND SCENE. lt;br/gt;ULTIMATELY PEOPLE WILL GET WHAT THEY DESERVE, FOR THE PAST 70 YEARS CONGRESS (?) WHICH HAS BRAINWASHED LARGE CHUNK OF POVERTY STRIKEN and DISADVANTAGED POCE TAKING DISADVANTAGE OF THEIR situation, FED THEM AS CORRUPTION, ANTINATIONAL ACTIVITIES AS NORM.lt;br/gt; TODAY LARGE CHUNK OF POTION AND MAJORITY OF POLITICIANS WITHOUT HESITATION INDULGE IN CORRUPTION, ANTINATIONAL ACTIVITIES ,MANY THINK THATS’S ONLY WAY , MAKE EVERY ATTEMPT TO GET IN TO POWER BY HOOK OR CROOK WITH MOTIVE TO FILL THEIR OWN COFFERS, BRAINWASHED PRAJA STANDS BEHIND LIKE PAID CHEERLEDERS AT IPL WITHOUT EVEN REALISING WHAT THEY ARE DANCING FOR! FOR EXAMLE TAKE RECENT REVALATIONS ISHRAT JHAN CASE JNU WHERE UNDOUTEDLY ANTINATIONAL ACTIVITIES CONDUCTED; , AJL, AUGSTA WESTLAND , RAOBER VADRA, WHEHRE RAMAPANT CORRUPTION IS EVIDENT ARE THE INSTANCES OF OPEN AND SHUT CASES BUT CHEERLEADER ARE MAKING HUE AND CRY ABOUT, A LARGE CHUNK OF POTION IS VEEMENTLY SUPPORTIG THESE CRIMINALS , THEY EVEN DID NOT LET FUNCTION DEMOCRATIC INSUTIONS FOR MONTHS. HOW THEN TO EXPECT PROGRESS UNLESS PEOPLE REALIZING and JOIN HANDS IN DESTRUCTION OF THIS CANCER IN 1ST PLACE.
        Reply
        1. K
          Kavitha
          May 1, 2016 at 7:35 am
          Arrest Sonia hi, Manmohan Singh, and Ahmed Patel, and interrogate them under police custody, as any other criminal. If you pick pocket 100 rs, then you are beaten. But the criminals wh loot thousands of crores are enjoying the VVIP treatment. Worse still, they are also obstructing the functioning of Parliament, whenever Swamy raises the Italian mafia head's name.
          Reply
          1. M
            MyTake
            May 1, 2016 at 1:54 am
            This time agree with Tavlin Singh. If BJP can not go to the bottom of it then that will mean it has some weaknesses too!lt;br/gt;If it can go to the bottom of it then 2019 election will be in its favor and it is now in a unique position to clean the mess in one go sending the right message to the people!
            Reply
            1. M
              MyTake
              May 1, 2016 at 2:05 am
              To an extent Indian investigating agencies are moron is a true reflection of what it has become in the past. It is not only investigating agencies who are moron, most of the RS members are also moron the way they behave on revelation of truth. Now it is upto India to prove Indian agencies are not Moron! Failing which there will be long lasting effect of this both internally and externally ,which, by the way Congies might like to happen! Congies have set enough examples of cutting one's nose to spite one's face!
              Reply
              1. N
                Naveen
                May 1, 2016 at 7:32 am
                Every Indian should be ashamed that India was controlled and ruled by the Italian lady, whose background is unknown and deliberately hidden by Congress Party and the Corrupt Media. Nobody knows her family background, nobody knows her Italian family's current wealth. What service has she done to the country? What are her qualifications? How was she given the super power, even to appoint Prime Minister and President? Subramanian Swamy is the one man Army figting this mafia inside the country, using legitimate route: Courts and and Inside Parliament. All citizens should support his initiative to get rid of the corrupt elements.
                Reply
                1. P
                  Piyush
                  May 1, 2016 at 10:20 am
                  We have no faith left in judiciary...even corrupt knows that this judicial system is so ineffective that he has faith in judiciary (unfortunately of never getting convicted)... lt;br/gt;People will vote Sonia to power if she promises free liquor, free food, free cycle, free electricity, free railway ticket...never understanding that only thing which gets delivered is free corruption...unhindered unchecked
                  Reply
                  1. Load More Comments