Political corruption was there even during the time of Pandit Nehru. But later a rapid erosion in the selfless dedication of leaders led to the growth of corruption in the entire body politic. National interest became nobody’s business. Welfare schemes turned the biggest source for siphoning off public funds.
Scandals of free India
In the post-independence period, only six out of the 14 Prime Ministers had a term of five years or more: Nehru about 17 years, Indira Gandhi 16, Rajiv Gandhi five, Narasimha Rao five, Atal Behari Vajpayee six, Manmohan Singh over eight years to date.
Out of these six Prime Ministers who really matter, five were from the Congress, accounting for 51 years of Congress-led governments. Out of these 51 years, 38 years belonged to the Nehru dynasty. The article gives an overview of corruption during their tenure. All figures are converted to the 2011 price level to make them comparable. The Wholesale Price Index Numbers are used for the purpose.
The following three scandals surfaced during the Nehruvian period. The figures in brackets are the indexed value in 2011:
(i) the jeep scandal (1948) Rs. 80 lakh, (Rs. 36.52 crore)
(ii) the Mundra scandal (1958) Rs. 1.20 crore (Rs. 47.73 crore) and
(iii) the Dharma Teja loans Rs. 22 crore (Rs. 785.32 crore).
The total indexed value in 2011 would be Rs. 869.57 crore.
Indira Gandhi’s tenure was tainted with
(i) the Nagarwala scandal (1971) Rs. 60 lakh, (Rs. 11.10 crore)
(ii) the Kuo oil scandal (1976) Rs. 2.2 crore (Rs. 24.80 crore)
(iii) the cement scam : Donations for the Indira Pratishthan Trust collected by Antulay Rs. 30 crore (Rs. 208.80 crore).
The total indexed value would be Rs. 244.70 crore.
Rajiv Gandhi’s term is known for the Bofors scandal of Rs. 64 crore in 1987 (Rs. 313.72 crore).
Narasimha Rao’s regime saw many scandals:
(i) the Lakhubhai Pathak pickles scam (1984) $1,30,000 equivalent at the then conversion rate to Rs. 22.75 lakh (Rs. 7.79 crore)
(ii) the sugar import scam (1994) Rs. 650 crore (Rs. 1627.99 crore)
(iii) the Sukhram telecom scandal (1996) Rs. 3.6 crore (Rs. 12.33 crore)
(iv) the C R Bhansali scam (1998) Rs. 1,100 crore (Rs. 2,438.60 crore) and
(iv) the fertilizer scam (1996) Rs. 133 crore, (Rs. 294.85 crore). The total indexed value of these scams comes to Rs. 4,381.56 crore.
Vajpayee’s BJP-led government was also not free from scandals:
(i) the Kargil coffin scandal (1995) $1.87 lakh equivalent at the then conversion rate to Rs. 80.64 lakh (Rs. 1.87 crore) and
(ii) the Barak missile scandal $80.64 lakh equivalent at the then conversion rate to Rs. 36.29 crore (Rs. 66.13 crore). The total indexed value would be approximately Rs. 68 crore.
The government of Manmohan Singh, whose personal integrity is doubted by none, is mired in a cobweb of corruption:
(i) the Scorpene submarine deal (2006) Rs. 500 crore (Rs. 685.80 crore)
(ii) the cash-for-votes scandal Rs. 50 crore (Rs. 59.95 crore)
(iii) the 2G Spectrum (2010) Rs. 1,76,000 crore (Rs. 1,89,200 crore) and
(iv) the Commonwealth Games scam Rs. 8,000 crore (Rs. 8,599.99 crore). The total indexed value of corruption so far is Rs. 1,98,546 crore.
All these scandals directly or indirectly involved Cabinet Ministers of the then Prime Ministers.
These figures do not include black money stashed away by politicians and bureaucrats in numbered accounts outside India. It is well known that after a substantial reduction in the marginal tax rate from 97 to 30 per cent, the incentive for accumulating black money amongst business and industry has disappeared and the major hoards of black money abroad are by corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, smugglers, drugs-traffickers, etc.
According to a White Paper brought out by the government of India, the black money stashed away in Swiss banks by Indians stood at Rs. 9,295 crore during 2010. According to FICCI, by July 2012 this figure stood at Rs. 45 lakh crore. CBI Director A. P. Singh, in his address to the Interpol Global Program on Anti-corruption and Asset Recovery, said such amount stood at $500 billion. His statement came up before a case in the Supreme Court in February 2012. These estimates exclude money stashed away abroad as valuables in Safe Deposit Boxes, a recent innovation by Swiss banks to overcome international treaties.
On the one hand, there are greedy politicians grabbing public money in truckloads and, on the other, there are 10 crore families below the poverty line who do not have sufficient food, drinking water, shelter or clothes to cover their bodies. It is strange that these unfortunate fellow countrymen continue to look to our leaders for ameliorating their living conditions.
Vote them out
Anna Hazare tries to awaken the people against corruption. But he was talking to dead mutton. Can one man eradicate corruption in India? Unless people rise in revolt against this demon and punish the corrupt by refusing to vote for them, a time will come (if it has not already) when we get used to the debased public life.
(Professor K. C. Mehta, former Pro Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Finance, MS University of Baroda, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)