Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The new weapon in politics: Corruption

With the Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran resigning from the Union Cabinet following his involvement in the infamous 2G spectrum allocation scandal, the speculation that Congress has been turning this scandal into an opportunity to settle old rivalry with the DMK are getting stronger. Maran is the second DMK minister and the third Karunanidhi family member who had to face the axe due to this scam.
Former Telecom minister of DMK Andimuthu Raja is already behind bars in Tihar jail only to be followed by Kanimozhi, Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament (DMK) and daughter of Tamil Nadu ex-Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi.
Rumours are doing rounds that the Congress has been exploiting this case to take revenge for the killing of Mr. Rajiv Gandhi. Mr. Gandhi was assassinated by the LTTE.
Recently a top LTTE leader, Kumaran Pathmanathan, the former international arms procurer for the LTTE and the right hand man of its chief Prabhakaran, said “DMK’s ideology and its anti-Brahmin outlook were one of the main reasons that drove the group’s leader into assassinating the former Prime Minister of India Mr.Rajiv Gandhi.” This only strengthens the point of view which has some takers that there was a DMK hand in the assassination of Rajiv.
Some believe that the UPA-11 led by Sonia Gandhi is targeting Karunanidhi family in the name of curbing corruption. The CBI is unable to frame charges against business tycoons like Anil Ambani and Ratan Tata whose involvement in the 2G spectrum scam is substantiated by many evidences. They also try to know why the Karnataka Chief Minister Yeddyurappa is escaping the attention of the CBI despite him being immersed in such a well known scale of corruption .
Mr. Yeddyurappa is well known for his alleged involvement in corruption. He is also well known for putting up a defiant face when cornered with charges of corruption. He is facing a series of allegations in connection with the land-grabbing issues. He is accused of nepotism as he distributed sites to his daughters and sons-in-law ignoring the 52% poor population that is living in slums across Karnataka.
Stating that only 2% of slum-dwellers of Karnataka have got title deeds, the social activist Medha Patkar said, the CM's generosity towards his family is not only corruption, but also exploitation. “It is a new kind of corruption”.
The alleged land grab by Yeddyurappa apart from being an issue confined to one state is of national importance. The “financial interests of the Central Government” is involved in it. But the Centre is not ordering a CBI inquiry into the corruption. Yeddyurappa belongs to the opposition in the Centre the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Many believe that CBI’s clean chit to Ratan Tata and its decision not to file charge sheet against Anil Ambani is influenced by the Centre that is reluctant to take action against them. They are said to be providing corporate backing to the party.
One political analyst observed “Why are Ratan Tata and Sunil Bharti Mittal not being called for questioning? Tata Teleservices directly benefited with huge profits...Only those people are being summoned who are not supporters of Congress. In action against the guilty, Congress is fixing its opponents and helping supporters. Ratan Tata’s letter to Karunanidhi has appeared in media praising A. Raja because he released the licence to Tata Teleservices ahead of others despite the letter being submitted after the deadline.”
The CBI has given a clean chit to Tata Telecom and said that it did not benefit in any way from the massive telecom scam that saw companies getting licences at throwaway prices in 2008 for mobile networks.
“We’ve examined the issue in detail. There was no irregularity in the issuance of licences to Tata Telecom,” the CBI said.
However, the CBI is still studying the two other deals that the company entered into during 2008 and 2009 when the telecom scam was played out. Firstly, it was the Tatas who loaned Rs. 1,700 crore that allowed Unitech Wireless to acquire a telecom license from Mr Raja.
Unitech- primarily a real estate company till 2008 -has been listed as one of the biggest beneficiaries of the telecom scam and its promoter, Sanjay Chandra, is now in jail on charges of conspiracy and cheating. The loan from the Tatas has been read by some as a sign that Unitech served as a front for the Tata Group, which had already been granted a license to provide mobile services.
Secondly, the Tata Group owned a valuable property in Chennai that was transferred to Mr Karunanidhi's family at bizarrely low rates, according to the CBI. Investigators want to know if this was some sort of kickback for the DMK and Mr Raja in exchange for telecom licences.
Likewise, the CBI inquiry into the possible involvement of Anil Ambani, the Chairman of ADAG Group, in the 2G spectrum scam has also been doubted.
Questions have been raised on the way CBI is dealing with the Anil Ambani angle of the scam. In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court the NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) questioned as to why the probing agency did not chargesheet Ambani.
The NGO alleged that Ambani was making attempts to cover up his involvement by influencing his arrested employees. Ambani had paid a visit to the arrestee in Tihar jail and assured of legal assistance, a step some believe was to influence the employees so that they did not name him in the scandal.
Notably, three members of the group—Gautam Doshi; Group MD, Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, Hari Nair; Senior Vice-President of ADAG and Surendra Pipara; Senior Vice-President of the group and Reliance Telecom Ltd—are accused in the scam and are in Tihar Jail.
“The three persons chargesheeted are just the professional employees of the ADAG and are not the beneficiaries of this scam. The real beneficiary is Anil Ambani, who hold majority stake and is Chairman of the group companies.
“There is no possibility of an employee of the company having taken such an important decision of massive investments running into hundreds of crores of rupees,” the affidavit by CPIL said.
Notably, one of the three accused companies in the scandal is Swan Telecom/ Etisalat DB Telecom India Pvt. Ltd that is considered to be a front company of Reliance ADA Group. In Swan Company, along with the Shahid Balwa led DB Realty Group the Anil Ambani-led Reliance Telecom were equity holders.
The CBI had it that Swan was nothing but a front company of Reliance ADA Group, promoted by Anil Ambani, aimed to “circumvent” the policy which debarred the existing players to seek 2G licenses.
When Swan had applied for the Unified Access Service License in March 2007, the Shahid Balwa group was the majority stakeholder with 91.19 percent shareholding (Balwa controlled this equity through a holding company called Tiger Traders Pvt Ltd), while the Anil Ambani group had a minority holding of 9.81 percent.
The DoT policy allows an existing telecom company to have a maximum of 10 percent equity in another telecom company. So it is alleged that Balwa was acting as a front man for Anil Ambani as the latter could not have incorporated a new telecom company with a majority shareholding.
Reportedly in taking decisions about investments in Swan, the three ADA Group arrestees were crucial. But the question remains whether they could have decided without Anil knowing about it.
CPIL in its affidavit also has, “But Ambani has not been charge-sheeted. ADAG has reportedly claimed that these actions were done without the knowledge of Ambani. If this was true then he should have sacked the three charge sheeted employees.
The CPIL said, “he (Ambani) could have claimed to be a victim of their actions, since they used Rs 1000 crore of the company money to create Swan, because of which his company has been charge-sheeted, its reputation tarnished and its stock has drastically fell.”
“Instead, Ambani visits Tihar Jail to meet his three employees and assures them of all legal assistance. This was clearly an attempt to influence them so that they don’t talk of his involvement,” it claimed.
It is believed that Shahid Balwa, the group managing director of the Mumbai based Dynamix Balwas (DB) was instrumental in channelling the kickbacks allegedly received by the former telecom minister.
According to the media reports, there was a transaction of Rs 214 crore from M/s Cineyug Films Pvt Ltd to Kalaignar TV in 2009. The funds were arranged by Cineyug from DB Group companies, wherein family members of (Shahid) Balwa are directors or shareholders. The alleged payment to Kalaignar is seen as a possible quid pro quo.
Balwa has maintained his company wanted to invest in Kalaignar but the deal didn't take place and Kalaignar returned the money. Kalaignar TV claims the sum received from Cineyug was an “advance for transaction of shares”, and was returned with interest.
Vinod Goenka, Director, Swan Telecom (now Etisalat DB) and Shahid Usman Balwa, former Director of the company are behind bars in 2G scam.
The CBI has been accused of dancing to the tune of the government. Will it hold Anil Ambani and Ratan Tata guilty in 2G scam? Will the Centre act tough against the Karnataka CM Mr. Yeddyurappa or will it show action only against Karunanidhi family? Does it mean that if businessmen are corrupt they have to be on the right side.

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