India is the world’s youngest democracy, but six decades after the republic was set up, it is high time the populace gets the governance it deserves. Our democracy has matured enough, but corruption is a deep-rooted malaise
Over a decade back, in 2000, on the occasion of the golden jubilee of the Indian Republic, then President KR Narayanan, quoted John Dryden, when he sternly warned that "Beware of the fury of the patient, long-suffering people." Dryden's saying equally applies to the Indian aam janata of today.
Even after 11 years down the line, in 2011, Dryden's sane warning has not yet driven home the message to our elected representatives, bureaucrats and business czars. The economic gains instead of trickling downwards to the underprivileged are being corned by the powers-that-be- with the rich growing richer, and the poor be damned!
Economist SS Tarapore, a former RBI deputy governor, rightly points out: "Given the large number of the poor in our country, a 6%-7% sustained growth with 3%-4% inflation would be preferable to a 9% growth with 9%-10% inflation."
But our GDP growth seems to be on track, but inflation shows no sign of abating.
During a hearing into the 2G spectrum case, the Supreme Court bench rightly remarked -"We have a large number of persons who think they are the law. The law must catch them. Post-liberalisation, globalisation and privatisation, the government is dragging its feet on getting back the black wealth stashed abroad, even when the Swiss authorities have come forward to furnish the wrongdoers' names, but it (the Centre) is busy organizing cover-ups. Never before has free India witnessed such serious charges of corruption and wrongdoings of rampant loot of precious national resources by those in authority involved in blatant cover-ups with plain untruths-even challenging the findings of constitutional bodies like the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) who have reported the spectrum fraud of Rs. 1.76 lakh crores and ISRO with Rs2 lakh crore."
However, the prime minister is not necessarily monetarily corrupt. History has it that the French, American and Russian Revolutions were caused when the peoples' power rose in full fury. The sub-prime crisis that caused the massive financial meltdown in the US brought about the state intervention via 'socialisation' into the heart of free market capitalism-the United States of America, when the free market professing US Administration/State perforce pumped in billions to bail out "stressed" banks and big businesses. This infection in turn hit hard Europe via the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain) economies.
There is rise in unemployment, galloping inflation and growing bankruptcies all taking their economies into a spiral-and giving the European 'Union' a serious setback.
You could say: Mera Bharat mahaan, hum sub hai pareshaan kyo ki 99% hai beimaan! (Our country is great, but we are all helpless, because 99% are hopeless).
Our national Budgets get passed-without debates.
Charges of corruption are flying thick and fast, hardly reviving old issues and adding newer ones reaching the highest echelons-FIRs against former Union ministers, the State CM, two army and one navy chief -along with other top army brass involved in 'the Flats-for-Kargil' scam, the Commonwealth Games scandal… this is a very long list. A senior counsel, filing a PIL (public interest litigation) in the Supreme Court alleges that eight Chief Justices of India are corrupt.
Corporate bigwigs have been caught red-handed trying to stall further exposures citing "invasion of individual privacy" in the spectrum-for-sale scandal, when they themselves are found to blatantly infringe public space by jumping queues to corner spectrums.
They do not hesitate to perpetuate corruption via multi-crore corporate public relations lobbyists. They ship payments to corporate lobbyists to swing deals in their favour, and yet complain of 'sleepless nights' over demands of Rs15 crore for setting up a new domestic airline. The company failed to deposit the entry fee, furnish bank guarantees and sign licence agreements for which they sought and were given several extensions. Nobody challenges another corporate head when he publically pointed out that there is a definite nexus between business and politicians.
Swapan Dasgupta, a veteran political commentator, rightly says-"We don't have any opposition worth the name-the Congress has given the BJP a chance to go prowling for simple minded suckers. For its own sake, BJP has to ensure its mad caps are kept behind closed doors." WikiLeaks has exposed the Achilles heels of both the Congress and BJP in an equal manner, leaving both parties red-faced.
The Union agriculture minister says he is not responsible for the food inflation that is exceeding an all-time high of 15%-the onions, garlic and tomatoes are not on his platter! We also have a scam-tainted Chief Ombudsman, the Chief Vigilance Commissioner who claims that he is only charged with criminal conspiracy and not criminal acts! The brother and son-in-law of an ex-Chief Justice become millionaires during his term of office. He continues to enjoy his post-retirement office as Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission with all attendant perks.
Doctors and hospitals blatantly overcharge when they come to know that patients are reimbursed, forcing health insurers to unilaterally pull out of cashless health-cover, crying over losses that are bleeding them. World bodies are refusing to extend lines of credit. Public transport is creaking at its seams. Power shortages-unheard of earlier-have reached Mumbai's eastern suburbs. The local water, petrol and land mafia are operating freely. Food inflation has shot through the roof. Mumbai is adding to its billionaires and high-rise luxury apartments with in-house gyms, swimming pools and will soon add rooftop helipads. Neighboring Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka have overtaken Maharashtra, shaking overseas and domestic investors' confidence in the state administration.
While addressing state chief secretaries on 4 February 2011, Dr Manmohan Singh said - "Corruption strikes at the roots of good governance, it is an impediment to faster growth, it dilutes, if not negates efforts at social inclusion, dents our international image and demeans us before our own people. Inflation poses a serious threat to the growth momentum, it is mostly driven by supply-side shortages."
Speaking later at the 17th Commonwealth Law Conference, the PM demanded, "power of judicial review must never be used to erode the legitimate growth assigned to other branches."
At the same venue, the Chief Justice slammed the government on the issue of food security and lack of inclusive financial growth. At another conference in Mumbai Supreme Court Justice Ganguly asked how former Maharashtra CM Vilasrao Deshmukh has been allowed to continue as a minister in the Union Cabinet after he was rapped by the Supreme Court in December, terming his interference with the police from taking action against a Congress MLA-moneylender, his behavior being "anachronistic and incongruous" and the High Court fine of Rs25,000, which was subsequently enhanced to Rs10 lakh.
The Supreme Court had remarked that the CM's behaviour was condemnable as he had acted beyond all legal norms for political considerations despite the Vidarbha region having the dubious distinction of witnessing the largest number of farmer suicides. Considering the large volumes of scams/frauds, a Bengaluru-based Chartered Accountant has proposed a punitive tax to serve both as a deterrent and punishment by christening it a 'Sin Tax' on tobacco and alcohol, and another tax yet to be named, of a flat 40%-50% of the amount evaded on those who intentionally violate tax and forex laws instead of resorting to amnesty schemes.
A long time ago, what Lord Macaulay said of British politicians of his times aptly applies to our today's netas, that they are a blend of "Whatsoever things are false, whatsoever things are dishonest, whatsoever things are impure, whatsoever things are hateful, whatsoever things are of evil report, if there be any vice and if there be any infamy."
(This author is a chartered accountant and activist.)
The D1 and D3 fields have enough reserves to support peak output of 80 mmscmd. However, Reliance is not able to derive the entire volumes out as the gas is stored in isolated pools, which are not connected to each other
New Delhi: Reliance Industries (RIL) has not kept its commitment on drilling wells on the prolific eastern offshore KG-D6 field that has seen drastic fall in production, reports PTI quoting the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH).
RIL had committed to drill 22 wells on Dhirubhai-1 and 3 fields-the largest of 18 gas discoveries in the block KG-DWN-98/3 or KG-D6 block in Bay of Bengal-by April 2011 to produce 53.4 million metric standard cubic meters of gas per day (mmscmd).
Another 8-9 mmscmd output was to come from the MA oilfield in the same block, taking the total output committed in the Field Development Plan (FDP) to 61.88 mmscmd by April 2011.
Against this, it has so far drilled and completed 18 production wells on the D1 and D3 fields giving a combined output of about 42 mmscmd, DGH director general SK Srivastava said today.
Besides, two other wells have been drilled but have not connected to production system.
"It has to drill two more wells by April," he said but did not say what action the government or DGH can take if Reliance failed to honour its commitment.
Output from KG-D6 is to hit peak of 80 mmscmd by 2012-13 with Reliance drilling a total of 31 wells.
Oil minister S Jaipal Reddy also parried questions on what the government can contractually do if RIL defaults.
D1 and D3 gas fields and the MA oilfield currently produce about 50 mmscmd, lower than 61.5 mmscmd output the block had achieved in March 2010.
"This fall in the output of KG-D6 has been reported to us. Our DG, DGH is in contact with the operator (Reliance) of KG-D6... We do not know about the reasons for the fall... its technical issues. We are in correspondence with Reliance... we are in contact with them," Mr Reddy said.
Asked about the action the government can take against Reliance for not meeting its commitment, the minister said the question was "hypothetical". A well in deepwater takes up to six months to drilled and completed.
Reliance has projected that gas output from the D1 and D3 gas fields will fall further to 38 mmscmd in 2012-13.
In its annual work programme, submitted to upstream oil regulator DGH, Reliance has projected maintaining the current production levels during 2011-12 fiscal.
Reliance spokesperson could not be immediately contacted for comments.
D1 and D3, the largest of the 18 gas discoveries that Reliance and its 10% partner Niko Resources of Canada have made in the 7,645 square kilometre KG-D6 block, had touched 53-54 mmscmd of output in March last year but the production has fallen since.
"The fields have enough reserves to support peak output of 80 mmscmd. But what Reliance has now learnt is that the gas is stored in isolated pools, which are not connected to each other. It is not able to derive entire volumes out," an industry official said.
Some people argue that drilling more wells could solve the problem but Reliance has concluded that the cost of drilling, completing and connecting the well to the production system exceeds the economic value of the gas to be produced.
A solution to the problem may lie with London-based BP Plc, which is buying 30% stake of Reliance in 23 oil and gas blocks including KG-D6, for $7.2 billion.
"BP has faced similar issues around the world and its expertise will help Reliance overcome the problem," he said.
Reliance does not propose to drill more wells on D1 and D3 unless it has BP on board and the drilling plans are vetted.
Officials said Reliance has projected crude oil output from the MA field in the same block to fall to 12,050 barrels per day (bpd) in 2012-13 from about 17,000 bpd current production.
Reliance at present sells 14 mmscmd of gas from KG-D6 to fertiliser plants, 24 mmscmd to power plants and the remaining 13 mmscmd to other sectors like sponge iron plants, LPG, city gas distribution (CGD), petrochemical plants and refineries.
The gas producer has so far made 18 gas and one oil find in KG-D6, which it won in consortia with Niko under the first round of the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) in 2000.
Of these, two gas (D1 and D3) and one oil (MA) discovery have been put on production. D1 and D3 commenced output from 1 April, 2009, while MA started production from 17 September 2008.
Reliance has been forced to restrict production from the MA oil field to about 17,000 bpd due to high water and gas output, sources said, adding that the field was yielding more water than oil and that even 8 mmscmd of gas in comparison to oil output was considered quite high. The MA field had five oil producing wells and one gas producer.
Furthermore, four gas discoveries have been declared commercially viable, while the Field Development Plan (FDP) for nine satellite finds was submitted on 14 July 2008 for approval.
The FDP for the nine satellite fields was not found techno-economically viable and Reliance submitted an Optimised FDP (OFDP) for four of these nine satellite fields on 29 December 2009. The OFDP is under evaluation by the DGH.
One discovery is under appraisal and Reliance has so far not submitted a declaration on the commercial viability of two other finds.
Some years ago, a Tehelka journalist suffered jail for trying to expose the corruption within the civil aviation establishment. Today, that’s unlikely to happen. There’s a lot more than meets the eye in the matter of fake pilot licences and the media must ask deeper questions about the goings-on in the civil aviation departments
No reportage on the fake pilot certification and licensing scam can be really honest and legitimate if it, in the first instance, does not salute and acknowledge the stellar role played by Outlook and subsequently Tehelka journalist Kumar Badal in exposing this whole business of corruption and decay in the rancid and putrid mess that is called the Directorate General of Civil Aviation or DGCA. This was in the course of 2003 and 2004, and if people are under the impression that forgery and fraud in the civil aviation sector is a new phenomenon, then they are really living in la-la land.
For his efforts in this sting-among others-poor Mr Badal had to spend six months and then some more in jail and is still, from all accounts, battling the after-effects. One dared not speak against the establishment too much, even as recently as seven-eight years ago; the establishment simply trampled over you; that was the message then. But in this day and age, we can stand outside DGCA (less than two km from where I live, which is important, as the rest of this article will reveal), and bay for the blood of the corrupt, and all they (DGCA) can do is to request people not to panic!
There is no credibility with anybody at DGCA-from the security guard outside, to the highest authorities inside-to now pretend that they did not know what has been going on for decades. The fact that licences could be bought and exams passed without even being present has been the case since at least the late 70s, and I can vouch for this. That worse things happens in other aspects of DGCA's work, is also a fact, which people like Capt Gopinath of Deccan Aviation have mentioned more than once.
As a part-time hobby motoring correspondent, who also flew a lot in connection with my day job, I often wondered about the relative safety between travelling by road and flying by air, and I considered flying to be safer. Despite airport security officials-who became friends over the years-giving me horror stories on what they knew about skill-sets and capabilities of people in the cockpit, I always discounted their views. There was one account about domestic aviation pilots from certain airlines that compared them to and referred to them as "Blue Line/Red Line drivers", after the colour of their aircraft. Still, I stood up for the inherent safety in our skies.
The tipping point came in, or around 2007/2008, when far too many episodes and incidents in civil aviation were not just brought to my notice, but also involved me as a hapless passenger stuck in a seat somewhere in the airplane.
As background, way back in the late 70s, I had this vision of acquiring certification for land, water and air operations (in the Merchant Navy then, I had a driving licence that enabled me to take part in motorsports too, and I wanted to graduate from gliding to power flying).
I never took the power flying training further, because even in those days the extent of corruption involved was tremendous-fudging logbooks was the least of it. Since I was trying to do this as a hobby, I actually wanted to fly. But it just became too complicated and skewed. The whole system was geared towards fudging logbooks and moving people up the system as rapidly as possible.
So, I learned a wee bit, and then went back to sea. However, the basics of flying, like the basics of sailing and driving/riding, never leave you, and the ABC of flying, which is EFG, and in reverse GFE, is something one always keeps an eye and ear open for.
But there were more than a few who were flying at Delhi's Safdarjung Airport in those years who went on to become qualified and licenced pilots. Some of them are, or were right on top in the airline business. And they are flying planes with you and me onboard, as well as possibly passing judgment on those who have been caught, all the while trying to pass the buck. Which senior person in which airline in India can honestly say that she or he did not know this was happening?
To take this essay further, I was flying a lot as a passenger in the years between 1999 and 2009, the glory years in which India's civil aviation really took off. And I just happened to be on some spectacular cock-ups; the best or worst being the 9W flight, operated by a leading politician's son who later on went on to become a reality television prima donna, which almost went off the smaller runway at Mumbai, and an off-duty IAF pilot was sitting next to me giving me a running commentary all the way down.
I was also at Pune Airport, but not on the aircraft, when his girlfriend, later on wife, and now ex-wife, did an excellent low-level flypast over the runway to the amazement of all present, and then came back to land, only to roll past the point where other airplanes stopped.
I was also on board one of the earlier Airbus-321 flights operated by Indian Airlines, when we had such a hard landing at Delhi that the aircraft was pulled out for weeks after that. And as for my favourites, the small CRJs operated then by Air Sahara, I cannot write enough about some of the cowboys and cowgirls doing their stuff up front, and the major issues with pressurisation and aircraft maintenance, as well as fake spare parts that they reportedly had. It has not been said, but it is known, that the Air Sahara training flight crash at Delhi was due to fake spare parts that caused the rudder to move the other way. It is not just the licences of pilots that are fake, you see?
So, what would you do if the scheduled passenger aircraft you flew on went through some rather dangerous episodes, with you on board? The choices, as one who has been more than an interested air passenger for decades, are broadly in two categories:
1) The aircraft, crew and passengers survive the incident, everybody curses a bit; the passengers soon forget as they shove each other to get off the plane, and the cockpit and cabin crew may or may not make a report about the incident.
2) The aircraft, crew and passengers do not survive the incident, and since dead men and women tell no tales, the episode itself gets buried under mountains of paper and inquiry commission reports that may or may not see the light of day.
In between somewhere are the episodes and incidents where somebody takes things up seriously, by filing a written complaint, or is one of the few people to survive an incident in which many others have died.
Surprisingly, the survivors are usually so glad to be alive, that they simply do not follow up with the airline or the authorities. I personally know two such cases. This is also because "advice" given to them is that they better not make waves, or there could be a big question mark over the compensation due to them. Whether it was the survivors from the Alliance Air crash (in Patna), the Air India Express crash (in Mangalore), the Jet Airways crash (in Indore), or even the old Airbus 320 Indian Airlines crash (in Bangalore), one has not heard of survivors seeking accountability or answers.
Likewise, for survivors of heavy landings or such other incidents, the "system" at the DGCA and the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) is designed to prevent queries, and to provide cover-ups to protect their own-in all cases. There is simply no documented way that you as a passenger can file a complaint, let alone expect a response to a complaint that you have as an individual, or a group of people, against an airline.
The truth is, once again, that the rot in the civil aviation business is totally top down. The only way the MoCA or DGCA can even attempt to try to fix things is by coming clean and admitting that there has been a total garbage-driven decay of the system for decades now, and that they will start looking closely at licences issued not just five years ago, but also at all those who have valid licences issued to them at any time in the past.
After all, why punish only defenceless juniors, when it is much worse at the top? The sanctimonious responses by DGCA officials, hoping against hope that this too shall pass, is not a solution that will work in this day and age.
Because, increasingly, there is no way that the establishment can throw us into jail for taking on the head pigs. And the other animals in the farm and barn are not going to keep quiet this time around. (ref: "Animal Farm")
More than just the specific issue of corruption at DGCA, there is the larger issue that the media has a responsibility-they can and should work better and smarter to change the system. Instead of taking everything that anybody at DGCA (or anywhere else) says as the absolute truth, for example, we need to move out and re-check facts.
For example, how many senior pilots would stand scrutiny of their past record in the same way as the current juniors are being subjected to-it's an issue that got Badal into jail. Of course, that doesn't happen anymore.
And to round off, here is the text of the letter to the editor of Outlook that I wrote eight years ago, in this context, on Kumar Badal being sent to jail:
Kumar Badal's Jail Diary (February 3) captured on one page the essence of being a state guest in India. It would remind people of their experiences with state systems of correction in the days before the Indian media could really adopt freedom and dignity and nobody would have had the guts to even discuss such matters. We pigs may not have rights, we pigs may have to wait silently in queues, but nobody has been able to exterminate us pigs or prevent our piglets from being the most difficult creatures to tame or catch. And some of us pigs will always slip through. —Veeresh Malik, New Delhi (http://188.8.131.52/letters.aspx?379-1-Published-2/17/2003)
The present generation in the media owes us more than just standing outside DGCA without asking deeper questions.