The Candid Eye

August 25, 2011

World’s #9 Most Powerful Person Now Accused of Corruption — Will She Fall?

From huffingtonpost article by Cleo Paskal:

 

New Delhi. Some of India’s biggest fish are getting caught up in the country’s fast-growing wave of anti-corruption activity. In what could be India’s equivalent of a judicial jasmine revolution, previously invulnerable politicians, business icons, and pillars of the community are all nervously keeping their lawyers on speed-dial.

The anti-corruption push is an unprecedented coming together of myriad facets of Indian society. Religious leaders are concerned about the effects on morality and spiritual growth. NGOs speak of the effects on the poor. The middle class is angry about its future being stifled by a smothering blanket of day-to-day corruption. The intelligence services see corruption a clear threat to national security. And the business community, thanks to globalization, has seen how efficiently things can operate without having to constantly pay bribes or be tangled in red tape, and they want the same thing at home.

Even the Supreme Court is fed up, with Justice B. Sudarshan Reddy saying about the vast sums of Indian money being illegally hidden away in Liechtenstein Bank:

We are talking about the huge money. It is a plunder of the nation. It is a pure and simple theft of the national money. We are talking about mind-boggling crime.

The scandals are bursting on to the front pages fast and thick. Suresh Kalmadi, a Congress Party politician and the former head of the corruption-plagued Commonwealth Games, was arrested April 25. According to a report by the Indian Comptroller and Auditor General, the 2G spectrum scam alone, in which 2G licenses were sold off in a manner that was, to say the least, less than transparent, cost close to $40 billion in lost revenue.

All across India, people are saying enough is enough. And suddenly the unthinkable is starting to happen. People considered above reproach, or at least untouchable, are coming under the judicial cross-hairs. 2G alone has seen charges laid against one former government minister and several captains of industry.

And the latest high profile target is one of the biggest fish of all, Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi, currently #9 on Forbes list of the World’s Most Powerful People.

Sonia Gandhi has one of the most remarkable life stories in international politics. Born Edvige Antonia Albina Maino into a family of modest means in rural Italy, she didn’t even get a chance to complete high school before heading to the UK for work. There she met Rajiv Gandhi, son of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. She eventually married him and the young family moved in to Indira Gandhi’s New Delhi’s home, putting her literally in the heart of Indian politics.

After Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, Sonia’s husband Rajiv became Prime Minister. Following Rajiv’s 1991 assassination by Tamil terrorists, there were rumors that Sonia was going to put herself forward as Prime Minister.

As she herself later said, she “could not walk past the portraits of my husband, my mother-in-law and her father and not feel that I had some responsibility to try and save the party they had given their lives to.”

2011-04-25-SoniaCongress.jpg

Given her focus on the party, it was fitting that instead of becoming Prime Minister, she ended up as President of the powerful Congress Party. Politically, it proved to be a smart move as it gave her power without direct responsibility — while she is #9 on Forbes list of power people, the actual Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, is only #18. According to Forbes, “Gandhi remains the real power behind the nuclear-tipped throne […] she has cemented her status as true heiress to the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty.”

Her image is of a dutiful, submissive Indian wife, now widow. When her husband was alive, she would walk behind him. In public she wears saris. Although a devout Catholic, she is often photographed at Hindu Temples. And like a good Indian mother, though she has decorously pulled herself out of the race for Prime Minister, she is happy to encourage her son, Rahul, to take the job.

However there have been growing, persistent murmurs about questionable business deals and inexplicable exponential jumps in the personal wealth of her and her family.

The allegations came out in the open in 1995 when M. D. Nalapat, then Resident Editor (Delhi) of the world’s largest English language newspaper, the Times of India, began a groundbreaking series of articles about Sonia.

The articles made the controversial (at the time) claim that the public docility was just a ploy, and that Sonia actually had serious political ambitions (later confirmed by her role in Congress). Also, crucially, the series said that her desire for power wasn’t simply altruistic and that the wealth not only of her, but of her Italian relatives, rose stratospherically after Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister in 1984.

Nalapat’s articles could not be ignored as he was one of India’s most respected journalists and had, throughout his career, taken on corrupt politicians, social inequity and institutionalized discrimination.

This however was a ‘topic too far’. While the facts in the article were never refuted, Nalapat was forced out of journalism in 1998 and moved into academics.

Next came public questions from another highly reputed source, Sten Lindstrom, Sweden’s special prosecutor investigating the pay-offs associated with the sale of weapons by Bofors to the government of India. His investigation showed that a close friend of Sonia’s, Ottavio Quattrocchi, has received kickbacks in the millions.

In 1998 Lindstrom gave an interview in which he said:

the Gandhis, particularly now Sonia, should explain how Quattrocchi-owned companies got such fat sums as payoffs from the Bofors deal. After all, what is the connection of Sonia and the Gandhi family to Quattrocchi? Who introduced Quattrocchi and his AE Services to Bofors? At least one thing is certainly known now. A part of the payoffs definitely went to Quattrocchi. […] the papers all pointed to the Gandhi family.

Not only have the questions not been answered by Sonia, but in spite of substantial evidence against him, Quattrocchi has managed to evade prosecution in India, and has even had his kickback funds unfrozenfrom overseas accounts.

Part of the genius of Sonia Gandhi is her ability to present herself as a helpless victim, convincing even her political rivals not to fear her as she is fatally flawed. In 1998, India was being led by BJP Prime Minister Vajpayee. When Nalapat spoke with him about Sonia, he was bluntly told to lay off, as, “so long as a white Christian lady is head of the Congress Party, I [Vajpayee] and my party will always be in power”. Vajpayee and his party lost power to Sonia’s Congress in 2004.

But the most serious threat to Sonia — and, as she is at the apex of the Congress Party, and so to Congress itself — is now lying on the desk of #18, the Prime Minister of India.

On April 15, former Law and Justice Minister and Harvard Professor Dr. Subramanian Swamy asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for leave to lay corruption charges against Sonia Gandhi. In a meticulously researched 200+ page submission Dr Swamy alleges Sonia Gandhi has been involved in corruption in India since 1972 and personally benefited from the Bofors scam (1986), has held billions in non-Indian bank accounts since at least 1991, illegally profited from the Iraqi oil-for-food deals (2002), and even accessed KGB payoffs during the Cold War.

The Prime Minister has three months to decide whether or not to grant sanction to prosecute. If he doesn’t, Dr. Swamy can take the case directly to the Supreme Court, which under Chief Justice Kapadia is showing a definite proclivity towards facilitating corruption cases.

While, so far, the corruption cases in India have caught up some pretty big fish, if charges are laid against Sonia Gandhi, it won’t just be part of a wave, it will be a sea change.

Sonia Gandhi is not just an individual, she is the steely core of a pillar of Indian politics. If she crumbles, it will shake the foundations of the venerable Congress Party, and possibly leave a gaping hole in the political scene. Meanwhile, a range of polarizing and regional parties are ready to rush in and stake their claim. Given the growing importance of India in our heavily globalized world, this is not just an Indian story, this is one all should be following very closely indeed.

Follow Cleo Paskal on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cleopaskal

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June 18, 2010

How fruit trees in Indian village save girls’ lives

Bhagalpur, BiharSneha Surabhi (Photo: Prashant Ravi)Sneha, four, says she regularly waters the trees her father planted for herPhotos: Prashant Ravi

In India, where traditionally boys have been preferred over girls, a village in backward Bihar state has been setting an example by planting trees to celebrate the birth of a girl child.

In Dharhara village, Bhagalpur district, families plant a minimum of 10 trees whenever a girl child is born.

And this practice is paying off.

Nikah Kumari, 19, is all set to get married in early June. The would-be groom is a state school teacher chosen by her father, Subhas Singh.

Mr Singh is a small-scale farmer with a meagre income, but he is not worried about the high expenses needed for the marriage ceremony.

For, in keeping with the village tradition, he had planted 10 mango trees the day Nikah was born.

The girl – and the trees – were nurtured over the years and today both are grown up.

Dowry deaths

“Today that day has come for which we had planted the trees. We’ve sold off the fruits of the trees for three years in advance and got the money to pay for my daughter’s wedding,” Mr Singh told the BBC.

“The trees are our fixed deposits,” he said.

Dharhara village in BiharThe village looks like a forest or a dense green patch

In Bihar, payment of dowry by the bride’s family is a common practice. The price tag of the bridegroom often depends on his caste, social status and job profile.

The state is also infamous for the maximum number of dowry deaths in the country.

But the mango trees have freed Nikah’s parents of undue worries. And their story is not unique in Dharhara village.

With a population of a little over 7,000, the village has more than 100,000 fully grown trees, mostly of mango and lychee.

From a distance, the village looks like a forest or a dense green patch amidst the parched and arid cluster of villages in the area.

‘Great value’

And most residents can be spotted sitting in the cool orchards outside their homes.

“Now, we’ve stopped doing traditional farming of wheat and paddy. We plant as many trees as we can since they are more profitable and dependable,” said villager Shyam Sunder Singh.

Shatrughan Prasad Singh (Photo: Prashant Ravi)The villagers have been planting trees for generations

Mr Singh paid for the weddings of his three daughters after selling fruits of trees he had planted at the time of their birth.

“One medium-size mango orchard is valued at around 200,000 rupees ($4,245; £2,900) every season. These trees have great commercial value and they are a big support for us at the time of our daughter’s marriage,” he says.

The villagers say they save a part of the money earned through the sale of fruits every year in a bank account opened in their daughter’s name.

The tree-planting has been going on in the village for generations now.

“We heard about it from our fathers and they from their fathers. It has been in the family and the village from ages,” says Subhendu Kumar Singh, a school teacher.

“This is our way of meeting the challenges of dowry, global warming and female foeticide. There has not been a single incident yet of female foeticide or dowry death in our village,” he says.

His cousin, Shankar Singh, planted 30 trees at the time of his daughter Sneha Surabhi’s birth.

Sneha, four, is aware that her father has planted trees in her name; the child says she regularly waters the saplings.

As yet she doesn’t know what dowry is, and says the trees will bear fruits for her “to eat”.

The village’s oldest resident, Shatrughan Prasad Singh, 86, has planted around 500 mango and lychee trees in his 25 acres of land.

His grand-daughters, Nishi and Ruchi, are confident the trees mean their family will have no problem paying for their weddings.

“The whole world should emulate us and plant more trees,” says their father Prabhu Dayal Singh.

August 19, 2009

Film Piracy, Organized Crime and Terrorism

Think before you buy next time that 40-60 Rs pirated CD/DVD from Streets- you might be funding terrorists who could bomb your city risking your/your friends/your relatives lives.
The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decision making through research and analysis. The RAND corp. has conducted a research on the Film Piracy, Organized Crime and Terrorism. The complete report is available here.MG742 The research was conducted and the findings validated independently under the joint auspices of the Center for Global Risk and Security, part of the RAND Corporation’s National Security Research Division, and the Safety and Justice
Program in RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment. The study was made possible by a grant from the Motion Picture Association (MPA).

Though some readers question the validity of study because of its funding from a movie industry, it is evident that the connection exists, and if one goes through complete report, one can see the extensive research undergone. In their study,
some 2,000 pages of primary documents were analyzed, and interviews were conducted with more than 120 law enforcement and intelligence agents from more than 20 countries.

Low cost legal dvd selling companies have already highlighted the connection between piracy and terrorism in their advertisements. While the connection may or may not exist to the extent depicted, it is clearly a copyright violation, and has to be shunned down by intellectual property law reinforcement menthods. Particularly, when it is happening in such a large scale, in public places. A simple calculation:- in front of A2B restaurant, Indirangar,Bangalore, 6 vendors were noticed selling pirated DVDs. Each vendor had approximately 900 DVDs. Assuming average selling price of 50, each vendor’s turnover will be 45,000 Rs, over a duration of may be maximum of 3 months. For a youngster who is not employed, this is an easy money. One of them mentioned that manufacturing company is in Mangalore. When a citizen can get this much information easily, why our police is not taking a stern action against such frauds? Continuing the calculation, 45000×6 = 2,70,000 Rs are generated by just one location. There are definitely atleast 50 such locations in the city, and turnover goes above 1 Crore. In recent times, the rise in such vendors has gone up, and their source of supply of the DVDs needs to be tracked down.

July 12, 2009

RTI lands SAI employee in hospital

 

Check out this article. Seems like personal security becomes an issue for  anyone who files RTI, since many people come under torchlight for having committed corruption. Check out the previous article on this.

July 11, 2009

How Financial markets really work?

Filed under: Economics,USA — thecandideye @ 6:29 AM
Tags: , ,

Wall Street’s mantra is that markets move randomly and reflect the collective wisdom of investors. The truth is quite opposite. The government’s visible hand and insiders control markets and manipulate them up or down for profit – all of them, including stocks, bonds, commodities and currencies.

It’s financial fraud or what former high-level Wall Street insider and former Assistant HUD Secretary Catherine Austin Fitts calls “pump and dump,” defined as “artificially inflating the price of a stock or other security through promotion, in order to sell at the inflated price,” then profit more on the downside by short-selling. “This practice is illegal under securities law, yet it is particularly common,” and in today’s volatile markets likely ongoing daily.

Why? Because the profits are enormous, in good and bad times, and when carried to extremes like now, Fitts calls it “pump(ing) and dump(ing) of the entire American economy,” duping the public, fleecing trillions from them, and it’s more than just “a process designed to wipe out the middle class. This is genocide (by other means) – a much more subtle and lethal version than ever before perpetrated by the scoundrels of our history texts.”

Fitts explains that much more than market manipulation goes on. She describes a “financial coup d’etat, including fraudulent housing (and other bubbles), pump and dump schemes, naked short selling, precious metals price suppression, and active intervention in the markets by the government and central bank” along with insiders. It’s a government-business partnership for enormous profits through “legislation, contracts, regulation (or lack of it), financing, (and) subsidies.” More still overall by rigging the game for the powerful, while at the same time harming the public so cleverly that few understand what’s happening.

Read the full article in Global Research.Ca

Similar things are happening in India also – Check here.

July 8, 2009

Plunder of India

India was so prosperous before 1835 that these statements were required to be given in the British parliament:


MacCauleyThere are debates of the historical validity of these statements, however, it contains the essential attitude.

I attended a presentation on India by Sri D. K. Hari, in Vishalakshi Mandap, International Center of Art of Living in Bangalore. The title of the presentation was “Plunder of India“. Like what is mentioned in the MacCauley’s talk above, in British Parliament, India was a country which was urbanized, Literate, Rich and full of arts and crafts- which can prosper only in a peaceful, well established country. Sri Hari presented evidences from travelogues of tourists to India from Europe, Gulf, and other parts of the world. Marco Palo, was so thrilled by India’s plenitude, that he wrote everything about it in terms of Millions:- there are millions of diamonds, millions of jewels and so on.. He was even termed “Millionaire historian”! Much of this wealth was generated by merchandise of food grains, spices, fine silk – India didn’t need to have a gold/silver mine. There were 3200 cities. The entire country was filled with canal system for farming. Vasco da Gama did not find the route to India on his own! He was not used to traveling in open sea, he would navigate only close to shores. So starting from Europe he reached to south Africa, where he met a Gujarati Salesman. In his own records Vasco da Gama has mentioned of how huge and much bigger the ship of this salesman was, compared to his own. This Salesman took Vasco da Gama to India!

The East India company which started business in Bengal region, was actually a failure company in England. They entered here with mere investment of 72k. The ransom collected on the villages and territories they started governing, was huge and kind of extracting the entire wealth from the place. The taxation was for running their company, funding it, rather than governing the local administration. As the British took more and more hold on India, the taxation grew out of bound. There were 18 Famines in India in a span of 24 years. These were caused artificially by excessive taxing in terms of export of 3,20,000 of tons of grains that the farmers grew here. The local people were left with no food to eat, as whatever was grown was taken away as tax. Then Mr Lytton, then British governer of India, banned any relief work, and made any donations to affected area punishable. The famine caused deaths called as “Late Victorian Holocausts” and in four quarters from 1800 to 1900, 10k, 5lac,5lac and 2crore respectively, people died in India. All these news were reaching in the front pages of British papers. However no action was taken about it.

June 18, 2009

History Retold

An article worth reading from the Frontline magazine.  The source is here.

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