By Dr Jay Dubashi
Corruption may be the same everywhere in the world, but corruption in India is spelt with small ‘c’, while it is spelt with capital ‘C’ in the West, particularly in the United States. In India, the laws are framed in such a way that you can get away with murder. In the US, you have to be lucky to get away even with the theft of a railway ticket.
A friend of mine once travelled without ticket on a Washington bus, by mistake, of course, as he was busy going through his morning paper, but was caught on arrival at his stop, and was promptly jailed for thirty days.
In India, you can get away not only with murder, but with almost everything you can think of. Take the case of a builder in Pune with connections going right to the top, who managed to hoodwink authorities with some jigger-pokery about municipal land that was earmarked for a school. The builder changed the registration from school to private apartments and constructed a 12-storey building on it and promptly sold the flats for a small – or maybe, big fortune. Unfortunately for him, he could not get away with it. He was taken to court, or, rather, his building was taken to court, and after nearly 20 years, the building was restored to municipal authorities.
So far, so good. But what happened to the builder who did all this? Nothing. He is presumably still busy fooling the authorities with other false registers, bribing his way right to the top, and minting money. If he had been in America, he would have been tried and sent to jail for thirty years, all his buildings confiscated, including his bogus company, and his political “uncles” tried as accessories to crime, and sent to prison to keep him company. In India, the man is still out, his “uncles” in the government still go about making speeches and behave as if nothing had happened.
In the United States recently, there was a case of a Sri Lankan Tamil called Raj Rajaratnam who was heading a hedge fund called Galleon in New York in which he made so much money he became the richest Sri Lankan in the world.
He was planning another such hedge fund in London, and was actually making plans to go to London when the New York police pounced on him and took him for interrogation. According to reports, he was also searched for drugs, but, of course, there were no drugs. The man was handcuffed, paraded before journalists, and sent for trial. The trial lasted only a few days and Rajaratnam was sent to jail, charged with insider trading on the stock market which, incidentally, is not a crime in India and several other countries.
But the case did not stop there. A fortnight later, Rajaratnam’s friend, Rajat Gupta, surrendered to the police who were looking for him, and was also charged with helping Rajaratnam with inside information. Gupta, of course, denies the charge, but he is currently out on bail, but the police are said to be trying their best to implicate him and send him to jail too.
Rajat Gupta is not an ordinary individual. He was CEO of McKinsey, a consultancy firm, and a director of a number of leading US companies, including Goldman Sachs, the largest financial company in the world. He was also, along with Rajaratnam, a founder of a business school in Hyderabad. Gupta was also a wealthy man, worth at least a hundred million US dollars, but for some reason, he got involved in insider trading and may end up in jail.
Rajaratnam as well as Gupta are Indians – though the former is technically a Sinhalese – and there is no doubt some racism is involved in this murky affair. Incidentally, the New York attorney behind the case is also an Indian called Preet Berara.
Newspapers are saying that Rajat Gupta will also go to jail, which seems a pity. There may be several reasons why a man with his distinguished background – at one time, he was considered for a job as senior adviser to President Barack Obama – but, for all practical purposes, the man is dead. He will never be able to hold his head high in the society, will never sit on a board of directors, and will never deliver a lecture at Harvard or Yale Universities, something he used to do routinely – unless the police lose their case.
In India, of course, nothing would have happened to him, or to Rajaratnam. The latter told a reporter from Newsweek, also an Indian, that if such a thing had happened to him in Sri Lanka, he would have paid Rs 50,000 to the judge, invited him and his wife for dinner in his house, presented a Kanjivaram saree to the wife and sent them home packing. Rajaratnam would have gone to office next day, and resumed his stock broking operations, as if nothing had happened.
Will Anna Hazare’s Lokpal bill make any difference to the state of affairs in India as far as corruption is concerned? I doubt it. The man who stole municipal land in Pune and constructed a swanky building on it, is still going strong as if nothing had happened, and, after having made enough money in similar deals, will probably go into politics and become a minister, if not a Chief Minister, one day, as his friends have all done. In India, only money matters; how you have made it matters the least!
What we should go in for is social boycott of the corrupt, not just a few years in jail. Men like Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh are still out, breathing fresh air, though there are corruption cases against them. Such people should be shunned socially, not just politically, though in India. They are not even shunned politically.
Lalu Prasad Yadav still makes speeches in Parliament – and outside – on corruption, and, of course, other political issues, though by this time, he should have been inside a jail, not outside. In India, you can amass huge fortunes, pile up the money in secret accounts abroad, and behave as if it had nothing to do with you. Where has Bofors loot gone? Quattrocchi could not have swallowed the whole of it. Where are his partners? No matter how many Lokpals you have, you will not be able to bring the looters to book. And God alone knows how many Bofors are lurking in Delhi and Paris and Rome – with secret accounts in Switzerland and London!