An RTI activist’s query shows that the Commonwealth Games probe is just inching along. Should we assume that the probe will be just another Indian case of justice delayed—and denied?
The Commonwealth Games (CWG) scandal, where allegedly crores of rupees were siphoned away at the cost of the exchequer, simply refuses to fade away. Today's news reports indicate that the first draft of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on the CWG issue will be tabled by the beginning of next year.
But will the CAG report actually manage to unearth all the dirt behind the shoddy, opaque-and as been alleged, corrupt-goings-on that the country was subject to in the run-up to the Games? Since the jury is out on this one, one can only wait and watch.
Readers should be cautioned, though. The same daily from which we carried the information on the CAG report also indicates that the entity had voiced concern about various CWG projects about a year ago to the government. But this CAG alert was ignored.
Right to Information (RTI) activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal has been repeatedly trying to unearth "complete and detailed information together with related correspondence/documents/file-notings on under-mentioned (Mr Agrawal's RTI petition to the Central Public Information Officer, Central Vigilance Commission, New Delhi has a long list of hard-hitting queries) aspects relating to irregularities and corruption relating to the Commonwealth Games."
Mr Agrawal has consented to share his RTI documents with Moneylife. He finally got a reply from the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) on 19th November, for his RTI application dated 18th October.
The CVC answer provides a few 'answers' (all these points are based on the documents provided to Moneylife by Mr Agrawal), and here is our interpretation of the same:
1) The probe is meandering along at the proverbial Indian rate. Almost all the detailed queries put forward by Mr Agrawal have answers which seem to indicate that there has been no progress on any of the issues, despite the media-and public-outcry. Here's a sample:
a) "Complaint regarding alleged irregularities in the construction of Bus Queue Shelters for Commonwealth Games, 2010 by DIMTS - CBI has registered an FIR in this matter"
b) "Procurement of 'Secure Communication Network' for Commonwealth Games, 2010-the Commission informed Govt of NCT of Delhi that it would not pursue the matter further at this stage (emphasis ours). Subsequently, another complaint was received from Dr Harsh Vardhan, MLA, and the Commission sought comments (sic) from Govt of NCT of Delhi on the complaint, which are awaited.
At this stage, it is a veritable alphabet soup-of agencies against whom corruption charges have been levied and government entities ostensibly probing these graft allegations.
What's more, here's the clincher in the reply given to Mr Agrawal from the CVC:
"As regards the details of the correspondence/documents/file noting etc as sought by you in these paras, you may please note that in these cases the authorities concerned have not yet issued final orders in these matters, that is, the cases have not reached their logical conclusion and hence, are to be considered under investigation. Therefore, the information sought by you cannot be provided at present, keeping in view the provisions contained under Section 8 (l) (h) of the RTI Act."
This ensures that there is a lid firmly kept on the actions of the various bureaucrats and politicians responsible for aiding these alleged corrupt activities in the run-up to the CWG.
Yesterday, the country faced another major embarrassment when the national broadcaster and telecaster went on the blink. Employees of Doordarshan and All India Radio went on a flash strike protesting against the alleged role of Prasar Bharati's CEO, BS Lalli, in the CWG broadcast mess (yes, there is one). What next, a go-slow from the babus at the sports ministry?
Will this whole CWG imbroglio just become yet another Indian case of justice (much) delayed-and also denied?
The iconic former senior Indian politician was from an era when politics was still a noble profession. His son is now being forced to run from pillar to post for executing his father’s will—just because he is unwilling to pay speed money
This is just another indicator why India proudly occupies the 87th position in the list of the world's most corrupt countries, according to the 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index.
The story of Uday Dandavate, son of former Union railway minister Madhu Dandavate, goes back a long way. He has been fighting to execute his father's will for the past five years. Recently, after the Times of India published his story, the Bombay High Court Chief Justice ordered the vigilance department for a probe into the matter. But Mr Dandavate wants the authorities to weed out corruption as a whole, and help the common man.
In his reply to the registrar of the vigilance cell-a copy of which is with Moneylife-he said, "Instead of offering me help it would be worthwhile for the vigilance department to protect the common man-because it is the common man who continues to be harassed every day under the nose of the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court."
Mr Dandavate, the head of a design research company in the USA and a regular contributor to Radical Humanist and Janata Weekly, has used his articles to raise the issue of corruption in India. He views his problem as a part of a larger picture. In his letter, he says, "The court officials delayed the probate for the past five years because I refused to pay a bribe. The officials are very well aware of the fact that they are seeking a cut from the meagre savings of a person who is known throughout the country for impeccable integrity in public life. Yet they expect a bribe because the system is not capable of deterring, stopping or punishing their corrupt acts."
When he wrote about this to his attorney and told him that he would not pay a bribe, he got the classic reply: "This is India, not the US."
Naturally, he was not convinced with the logic, and wrote to his attorney that he would be glad to go public with any indication of wrongdoing, and would fight corruption. His attorney's reply, while refuting allegations of corruption, 'suggested' that it is better to accept the custom. It said, "I do not agree that inefficiency and corruption do not exist in India. It certainly does and if we do not accept or admit this position then we are living in a fool's paradise."
So after five years of frustration, Mr Dandavate is yet to get a probate on his father's will. Moneylife had offered to help him by writing about it, but he wanted to fight his own battle. Now, after the matter has become public, the testamentary department of the Bombay High Court has declared that the will was probated a month ago. But the Internet status report says that the will is yet to be probated because certain objections raised by the department have not been cleared.
A part of Mr Dandavate's meagre inheritance has already been deposited in his bank account, and the rest has gone to the charity commissioner because he failed to claim it on time. It would have cost him Rs50,000 to get the will probated within one month. But since Mr Dandavate refused to pay a bribe for getting his rightful inheritance released-an inheritance which has been the result of his father's honest work-the issue remains unresolved.
Mr Dandavate wants to win this fight, but not for himself. He wrote to the vigilance department, "My purpose in mentioning my personal struggles was to empathise with the travails of the common man. I do not need help from the vigilance department. It would be of great service for Mumbaikars to use this case to remove the harassment to common people."
Will that be too much to expect at a time when the nation is abuzz with talks about the IPL scam, the Commonwealth Games scandal, the Radia tapes, the Adarsh Co-operative Society land-grab and, of course, the 2G spectrum rip-off?
Mumbai: In a move that could make it difficult for corporate entities to set up stock exchanges, a Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) committee on Tuesday recommended that only banks and public financial institutions could be anchor investors in bourses and stopping them from listing or making huge profits, reports PTI.
According to industry sources, the recommendations would make things difficult for FTIL group-founded new bourse MCX-SX, which is allowed to trade only in currency futures, and its plea for trading in equity and other segments has already been rejected by SEBI on non-compliance with shareholding and other norms.
In the report posted for public comments on the SEBI website, the committee suggested a minimum net worth of Rs100 crore for the stock exchanges and allowing only banks and public financial institutions as the anchor or main investors.
These anchor investors would need to be identified in the application itself by any entity seeking permission.
For anchor investors also, the committee has suggested a minimum Rs1,000 crore net worth.
The committee also suggested disallowing the stock exchanges to list themselves, although it recognised the benefits of listing in terms of providing investors an exit route.
But the disclosures and corporate governance requirements of the listing agreement would still be applicable on the bourses.
Sources said that no-listing recommendations could dampen the sentiments of entrepreneurs willing to set up bourses, as business entities would seek to realise the returns on their investments. Besides, retail investors would not be able to reap any benefits in the absence of listing.
On profits, the committee suggested that stock exchanges should be allowed to make only “reasonable” profits, although it stopped short of recommending any clear-cut cap on profitability and left it for SEBI to monitor and act against any super-profits that are made.
The high profits of larger bourse NSE has been a subject matter of sharp criticism by the newer entrant MCX-SX, which is currently allowed to trade only in currency futures.
SEBI rejected MCX-SX's plea to trade in equity and other segments on grounds including the bourse' shareholding structure not being in line with the current regulations. The market regulator had said that MCX-SX did not meet the rule of a single shareholder holding a maximum 5%, as it considered MCX and Financial Technologies India Ltd (FTIL), the two erstwhile promoters, as Persons Acting in Concert (PAC) entities.
SEBI has also been charged by MCX-SX with promoting NSE's monopoly.
While the SEBI committee admitted that there was need for more competition and avoid any monopoly, it said that the competition could also drive average-pricing below the long run average costs and force one or more firms out of market.
“The eventual outcome may thus be competitively inefficient, as the continuing exit of firms may result in a monopoly,” it said.