.: Opinions

Date: 8 Jan 2012



French Scandal Exposes Global Corruption

By Zaheerul Hassan

According to a 2004 study by the World Bank Institute, $1 trillion is paid every year in bribes worldwide. Though, many countries evolved various rules to carry out the accountability of politicians, bureaucrats and military officials for blocking of bribe, but unfortunately the upward trend of getting illegal benefits have been noticed by the International Transparency Organization. In this regard former French President Sarkozy case of “$900 million deal of Agosta Submarines with Pakistan in 1994” almost emerged as hallmark of global corruption. The French Investigating Authorities probed the said deal and proved that Sarkozy when he was a budget minister has signed the Agosta deal in 1994. Alleges stated that under the terms of the said deal, Pakistani officials would receive 338 million francs as a commission, while another 216 million would be added to the price of the contract and returned to Balladur’s campaign account as kickbacks.

Even Former President Nicolas Sarkozy has been implicated in an investigation into the circumstances behind a 2002 bomb attack in Karachi that killed 11 French people. Families of the victims have said Sarkozy should be summoned for questioning in the probe, which aims to clarify whether the attack was a reprisal against France for a decision to stop paying commissions on Agosta submarine sales to Pakistan or otherwise.

Similarly many American electric companies have also been alleged in smuggling of that devices equipment to India which was later on used in nuclear programme and missile technology. However, famous Bofors scandal till today is known as one of the biggest scandals in Indian politics. The scandal started when India decided to purchase 400 155mm Howitzers (fancy word for really-big-kickass-gun) from Swedish company Bofors AB for $1.4 billion in 1986.

In 1987 the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and several others were accused of receiving kickbacks for this deal. Ottavio Quattrochi was a businessman close to the Gandhi family and a prominent man in the hallowed passages of Indian government. His name came up as the middleman in this deal. The Bofors scandal was huge. Rajiv Gandhi lost the 1989 elections due to the backlash of these allegations.

Although corruption is present almost in every country on various level, yet case of India is of special attention since the local level corruption has overridden the internationalized bribe or corruption.

In the end of last year, there was much uproar in India’s upper house between the Congress party led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as the anti-corruption bill was postponed to be passed by the house. Three days after the fiasco, BJP said that Congress had been spreading “factually incorrect, false and malicious allegations” against it on the failure to pass the bill. BJP, while calling Singh, the weakest prime minister of India, again asked him to resign.

In this connection, the opposition blamed the government for a deliberate trick to have the house adjourned in order to avoid a vote on the bill. Notably, the minority parties in the ruling coalition, which had demanded amendments to the law, called it a “shameful day for democracy” and “a result of orchestrated chaos.”

When a bid to grant the new bill the constitutional status was defeated in the upper house, even India’s Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee described it as a “sad day for democracy.” It is mentionable that on December 29, 2011, India’s government had passed a landmark anti-corruption law through the lower house. In the recent past, the hectic debate had started in the Indian parliament due to the hunger strike by anti-graft activist Anna Hazare, emphasising stronger legislation to combat the curse of corruption.

Anna movement, entitled, “India against Corruption” claims that politicians, judges, police, and total civil service is corrupt. The supporters of the movement say that there is only “one option for all ills: remove corrupt Congress, save the nation. Unless Congress goes, corruption will not go.” There is no place for monarchy in a democracy. And there is no term called dynastic democracy.

In fact, with everyday graft and multi-billion dollar scandals in Asia’s No. 3 economy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government has been continuously frustrating the middle-class over the state of affairs which had compelled the government to agree to pass anti-corruption legislation before the end of 2011.

However, the anti-corruption law has been one of the major political issues in India for months. The law creates a powerful ombudsman to investigate malpractices among senior politicians and civil servants. The bill offers only limited jurisdiction over the prime minister as it requires the ombudsman to put any criminal probe in the hands of the government-controlled Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

It is pertinent to note that just a few months ago; the government of Manmohan Singh was disappointed when a group of civil society activists whipped up popular rage over a rash of corruption scandals, resulting in massive protests in the various cities of the country. In such a scenario, some of India’s top industrialists warned that Asia’s third-biggest economy has been heading towards downfall.

It is notable that India ranked number 87 in Transparency International’s index on corruption in 2010. In this context, Indian political and economic experts agree that corruption is widely blamed for the deteriorated system of India’s infrastructure and its civil services—and its economy has grown at around eight percent per annum over the past few years. They remark, “Growing malpractices indicate signs of a crisis of political credibility in India.”

Recently, a research group, Moody’s Analytics pointed out, “India’s slowing economic growth is a cause for worry”, highlighting “the failure of aggressive interest rate hikes to curb near double-digit inflation…India’s growth has weakened under the brunt of 12 interest rate increases since March 2010 that have pushed up borrowing costs for everything from consumer appliances to plant equipment.”

The misfortune of India is its political system. In this respect, in November 2011, India’s World Economic Forum (WEF), the participants indicated that corruption has “paralysed New Delhi for a darkening economic outlook.”

Despite the fact that from time to time a number of plans and schemes have been launched by the Indian subsequent governments to improve the poor standard of living by improving food security, wage employment, self-employment, access to basic social services etc, but all these measures proved fruitless because of ineffective implementation which was owing to the corrupt officers.

It is surprising that corruption in India is not confined to civilian officials, even low and high-ranking Indian Army officials have also been found involved in various forms of corruption on various occasions. In July, last year, Indian media revealed the new mal-practice of Indian Army officials who were illegally selling arms and weapons. Army sources of India admitted that the officers, mostly lieutenant colonels and colonels, had faced a court of inquiry in relation to a public suit, filed in the Rajasthan High Court by an advocate who stated that the officers were selling their private weapons to “people of suspected character”. The Economic Times also revealed on July 7, 2011, “The weapons were bought by these army officers from the Central Ordnance Depot of Jabalpur and later sold to civilians in violation of the Arms Act, the petition had contended. The Supreme Court is presently hearing the case.”

It is of particular attention that in the last few years, high-ranking officers of the Indian Army such as Chief of Army Staff, Gen. V.K. Singh, Lt. Gen. Surendra Kumar Sahni, Lt. Gen. S.K. Dahiya, Maj-Gen. Anand Swaroop, Maj-Gen SP Sinha, Maj-Gen. Anand Kapoor, Maj-Gen. Gur Iqbal Singh Multani, Brig. Guredeep Singh were found involved in various kinds of corruption like unauthorised construction of a golf club building at Ambala cantonment, possessing disproportionate assets, smuggling of large quantities of defence liquor, irregularities in procuring meat and dry rations for the troops, stationed at Siachen and so on. In spite of court martial against the army officials, malpractices in one way or the other have kept on going in the Indian defence forces.

It is because of corruption that India is facing acute poverty, crimes and violence of various forms, economic crisis and social strife, resulting in political instability in the country under India’s so-called democracy. No doubt, the India has failed in its responsibilities towards its citizens over the last 60 years due to rampant corruption.

Returning to our earlier discussion, although French scandal exposes global corruption, yet the same could be mostly noted in case of India. UNO should devise some rules which should be able to helpful in saving the public money from the political and other robbers

The writer can be approached through zameer36@gmail.com

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