2010, The Year of All Scams
In a year that will be remembered for the scams that exposed the deep rot in the government and the system of governance, A Ganesh Nadar looks at the big scams unearthed in 2010.
The first decade of the third millennium saw many highs and lows, but the last year of the first decade has become synonymous with scams. One column is too less a space to mention all the scams we have seen this year. A look at some of the big scams that rocked the country this year.
The Tower of Deceit: The Adarsh Housing Society
The Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society scam in Mumbai, the commercial capital of the country is unique. It takes the meaning of the word co-operative to new heights.
The building was originally meant to have six floors for families of Kargil war heroes. But bureaucrats, defence officials and politicians cooperated so beautifully that the height of the building was raised from six to 31 floors.
Defence land, and land belonging to the state government was transferred to a private housing society. Looking at the people who had flats allotted, it seems every official who had to sign the file got one flat in return!
Three chief ministers, generals, an admiral, politicians and top bureaucrats are said to be involved in this scam. One chief minister had to quit.
The Central Bureau of Investigation is handling the matter, while the army is holding a probe.
Out of 104 units only three have been actually given to families of Kargil war heroes -- what a shame!
Image: The Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai was meant for families of Kargil martyrs but flats were alloted to high ranking defence officers, politicians and bureaucrats
Looting the airwaves: The 2G scam
122 telecom licenses were issued without auction, while the concerned minister said they were issued on a first come first serve basis, as if they were tickets in a movie hall.
The cut-off date for applying was advanced without notice. Over 500 companies applied and only 122 got it. Many people say the first come first serve base was not followed and the licenses were issued to specific companies only.
All was fine until these companies started selling their licenses to other players at whopping profits. The CAG report has said that the loss to the government amounts to Rs 176,000 crores.
Some of these companies were real estate firms. Six companies were registered at one address only. There is no law against registering six companies at one address nor is there a law saying real estate companies cannot apply for telecom licenses -- the CAG report may say they flouted eligibility norms but the minister doesn't agree.
The good minister is said to have ignored the advice of the finance ministry, law ministry, telecom commission and the prime minister.
The minister, obviously, must be taking his name literally. For Raja means King and the King may listen to everyone's advice, he doesn't have to follow them.
One entire session of Parliament was washed out because of this scam. The minister resigned, but he remains a Raja in his party, even after the CBI raided his home and offices.
Image: Former telecommunications minister Andimuthu Raja is at the centre of the 2G scam
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
The more, the merrier: Commonwealth Games scam
Suresh Kalmadi became public enemy number one in the CWG scam, but he has pointed out that he was only part of the organising committee and others like the Delhi government, the Delhi Municipal Corporation, the sports ministry and various other government departments were also involved.
The more, the merrier -- after all it was the Common-wealth games and the people in authority probably decided to share the available funds as their common wealth.
Roofs of stadiums and a overbridge collapsed due to inferior material and bad construction. If that wasn't enough, imagine they rented a liquid soap dispenser for Rs 187 from one firm and bought the same from another for Rs 9,379!
The Central Cigilance Commission, the enforcement directorate, the income tax department and the Comptroller and Auditor General are investigating the CWG scam. On top of all these, we have the V K Shunglu committee looking into the same scam.
By the time all these departments investigate all the other departments and come up with their respective reports most of us would have lost interest.
So far three men have been arrested and there are allegations that some one is trying to kill them in jail. But the big fish and fat cats are still outside.
Image: Commonwealth Games Organising Committee Chairman Suresh Kalmadi is being investigated currently
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
Radiagate: The tapes scam
They are transcripts of the conversation Niira Radia, a corporate lobbyist, had with various businessmen, politicians and journalist. Radia works for two of the biggest businessmen in India among others. Her clients include Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani -- as a famous television journalist often says, 'it doesn't get bigger than this.'
The Radia tapes have opened the legendary Pandora's box. So far it has toppled one minister and tarnished the public image of many heavy weight businessmen, politicians and for the first time also journalists.
And to top it, one of the journalists mentioned in the tapes tells the rest of us, 'If you are a journalist of any consequence Niira Radia would have called you.' Tsk...tsk...tsk...
The tapes have proved what most people always suspected -- that big business had a say in government formation. But no one knew that journalists could be among the lead players in Delhi's corridors of power.
The tapes also say that a grandson paid his grandmother Rs 600 crores to become a Cabinet minister. The 2G scam is called the mother of all scams, and here we have a grandmother!
Image: Niira Radia, the lobbyist, whose phone conversations revealed the dirty underbelly of power
We are family: The Karnataka land scam
When he got caught in the act, he first said that his sons would return the property. He then went on to say that past chief ministers had done the same thing. Karnataka Governor H R Bharadwaj and Yedyurappa frequently get into mud slinging matches on this topic, but nothing changed.
Yedyurappa did not deny the allegations, he just brazened it out. His government has since appointed B Padmaraj, a former high court judge, to look into the land scam.
The BJP high command is, obviously, not as high as the Congress high command. In spite of all the noise they made, they could not make the Karnataka chief minister resign. BJP President Nitin Gadkari declared a couple of days ago that what Yedyurappa did was 'immoral, but not illegal'!
And now it seems that if the BJP wins the local body election, all would be fine with the high command. Moral of the story -- 'If you win elections, it's alright if you are corrupt.'
In Karnataka, there is even a bigger scam in the export of illegal iron ore, but that's another story.
In Shimoga, the chief minister's son, B Y Raghavendra is accused of converting residential property to commercial space. A son, truly worthy of his father.
Image: Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yedyurappa, accused of allotting prime land to sons and relatives
Chinks in the armour: The Sukhna land scam
What makes it unusual is the alleged involvement of high ranking army officers. Two lieutenant generals among others have been implicated in the scandal.
For most of us we expect politicians and bureaucrats to be corrupt, but the defence forces have always been held in high esteem by the common man.
The officers are accused of giving a no-objection certificate to four companies to lease 71 acres of land near the Sukhna military station in Darjeeling district. The four companies belong to the same individual.
When the media flashed the news, the army ordered a court of enquiry and also withdrew the NOC.
The generals were court martialed, but the damage had been done.
The builder first said he is setting up a resort and then an educational institution. The army had earlier not given a NOC on security grounds and now has cancelled it on the same grounds.
The defence forces are not above the law, but must be above suspicion.
It is the crumbling of the last bastion.
Image: Serving generals were implicated in the Sukhna land scam