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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 13 New Delhi March 17, 2018

Nirav Modi Heist and Chowkidar Narendra Modi

Sunday 18 March 2018

by Ram Puniyani

Corruption is a big menace in different countries, including ours. We witnessed the spectacle of the movement against corruption demanding Jan Lokpal, at the dharna at Jantar Mantar in 2011. The battle-cry of that surge was primarily against the Congress, and as a marginal balancing act occasionally the BJP was also named. Anna Hazare, who was projected to be the central leader, was presented as the second Gandhi. He was flanked by the current Chief Minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, for whom the central concern was Jan Lokpal and who posed as if that was the panacea for all the ills of the nation. Not to be left behind, the present Lt. Governor of Pondicherry, Kiran Bedi, was at her best performance in articulating this need. Two more names need to be mentioned, one Baba Ramdev, the entrepreneur taking Patanjali production to new heights of business, and Sri Sri Ravishanker. All of them currently are quiet on the issue of corruption.

Mass sentiments were created against the leaders to the extent that people were writing “Mera Neta Chor Hai” (My Leader is a Thief) on their hands. All this was aimed at targeting the Congress. We had witnessed the arrest of corrupt elements like Satyam’s Raju during the Congress regime. Also in the 2-G scam many heads rolled; now as matters stand, the whole scam is supposed not to have existed and the vehement champions of the Congress corruption are at the helm of power, as the 2-G hoax has been deflated in the Courts.

That is the past. Our memories are short. Having defamed the Congress on the issue of corruption, the worthies who led the campaign have safely been promoted either in their political clout or business enterprise. On the back of this the present Prime Minster rode the anti-Congress wave to proclaim two major jumlas (phrases). One, Na Khaunga: Na Khane Dunga (Neither will I not indulge in corruption nor will I let others do the same). And Two, elect me as a Chowkidaar (watchman) to protect the nation’s wealth. His managers worked hard and the nation seemed to believe in these jumlas.

Now there is this Nirav Modi on the horizon. Nirav Modi, the diamond entrepreneur, seen standing behind Modi in Davos, ran away with Rs 11,300 crores (though currently the figure is much higher), and is untraceable by the government. The loot was cleverly organised through breaking the system of loans, where he was helped by Punjab National Bank officials, and without any collateral security he could steal the coffers of the bank. His uncle, Mehul Choksy, whom Narendra Modi affectionately addresses as ‘Mehul bhai’, also made good his escape, announcing to his employees that they will not be paid their salaries and dues, throwing them to the wolves of unemployment and hunger. These are not the only affluent entrepreneurs who have been around our Prime Minster. Another Mr Kothari of Rotomach pens has also cleaned the coffers to a good extent and as an exception has been arrested. One further recalls the pattern of great escape of these plunderers of public money. Vijay Mallya of Kingfisher fame, made it to the Rajya Sabha, and with Rs 9000 crores of bank dues made good his escape as the CBI loosened the Look Out notice, not to stop him from leaving the country, but telling the authorities to just inform when he leaves. One also recalls the escape of Lalit Modi, whose performance has been on a similar line, and he has been the beneficiary of the good association of the BJP’s Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhara Raje Scindia.

Most of the promises Narendra Modi made in the wake of the 2014 elections turned out to be hoax. Bringing back black money from abroad, putting Rs 15 lakhs in everybody’s account, reducing the prices of commodities, increasing the strength of the rupee, to name a few. In a way his promise of being a Chowkidar turning out to be another jumla, should be no surprise. No doubt there are severe problems in our banking system. There are loopholes, which those in the circles of Narendra Modi have exploited. The point is: where are the checks and balances? How come most of the big fraudsters have made good their escape? Are they too clever or did the methods of Narendra Modi give them ample opportunities to run away with the booty?

All said and done, Narendra Modi has been the darling of the corporate sections of society. In Gujarat after the carnage of 2002, he created a make-believe world of Vikas (development), the Gujarat Model of Development. This model basically involved giving the industrialists all the facilities to do business as they liked. So Tata got Nano shifted to Gujarat and also told his colleagues that you are not on the right track if you are not doing business in Gujarat. The business houses of Ambani, and more particularly Adani, made great strides to jump up in the scale of business. Many of the likes of Nirav Modi may be close to these business houses, whose plunder projects are synonymous with Vikas for our Prime Minster.

The wonder is: where are anti-corruption warriors, Anna Hazare, Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Ramdev? Are they sleeping when corruption of a far bigger order is in progress right under their nose? One can mention that the Anna Hazare movement was planned by the RSS think-tank, Vivekananda International Centre, and the full mobilisation was planned by this parent of the BJP; surely it yielded rich political dividends for its electoral child, the BJP.

So while Narendra Modi slept, Nirav Modi and his friends made the heist and ran away. Public money of such a great amount has been plundered. There is now talk of privatisation of the public banks! Can these entrepreneurs be trusted to keep the public interests in mind if all this is handed over to them? The need for social auditing and control over hard-earned public money could never have been more empahsised. Narendra Modi’s soft corner for the corporate world has been there for all to see right from his Gujarat days. It is really the time to wake up!

The author, a retired Professor at the IIT-Bombay, is currently associated with the Centre for the Study of Secularism and Society, Mumbai.

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