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Not screaming scam

 | February 15, 2013

One is a fraud if one sees fraud and keeps mum

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There is a common joke going around in India about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He is extraordinarily honest. But presiding over an extraordinarily dishonest group of ministers in New Delhi.

Manmohan has often been called a gatekeeper who has diligently allowed the corrupt and the crooked a free access through the portals he guards!

Now, one more member of Manmohan’s Cabinet has been decorated with a similar halo. He is the Defence Minister, AK Anthony.

Reverentially called Saint Anthony by his fans and followers, because he is also known to be squeaky clean, he finds himself trashed about by a wave of tsunami.

With assets that are said to be even fewer than Manmohan’s, Anthony may never have himself made any money under the table, but the recent AugustaWestland Helicopter scam has pulled him into a boiling hot broth.

As a columnist quips, “the real tragedy of the federal coalition government is that it has not reconciled the issue of personal honesty with institutional responsibility and probity. Which is why St Antony too deserves to be in the same doghouse as Manmohan Singh”.

Manmohan during his prime ministerial tenure looked the other way when the 2G scam resulted in crippling losses to the exchequer. He also blinked during the Commonwealth Games scandal. There were also other huge financial irregularities that Manmohan made little effort to stop. He sat at the doors of Parliament – so to say – and smiled or kept mum as thieves merrily made their entries and exits.

He was also reportedly unhappy that Afzal Guru – one of the men found guilty of attacking Parliament some years ago – was hanged in New Delhi without his wife and son being kept in the loop.

But are we to believe that the execution did not have the prime minister’s sanction?

If it did, as it surely must have, could he not have ensured that the family was informed and allowed to meet Guru for the last time?

If this is what honesty is all about, it kind of puts to shame the very meaning of the word.

Blissfully unaware

Anthony, sorry Saint Anthony, may be perfectly saintly. In the copter deal, which involved India signing for 12 AW-101 machines for 560 million euro, a probe by an Italian investigation agency has revealed that bribes totalling 51 million euro could have been paid to middlemen.

What is more scandalous is that this bribery was suspected three years ago, and Anthony kept quiet.

It is only when Italy arrested the CEO of Finmeccanica – which is the parent company of AugustaWestland – the other day that the Saint was shaken out of his slumber.

Anthony has now ordered a probe by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation.

Shamefully, this is not the first time that Anthony has kept himself blindfolded to corruption. Last year, Army General VK Singh came out with a shocker: he had been offered Rs 14 crores to push the Tatra army truck deal.

He said he had told his Defence Minister about this, but he took no note of it – till Manmohan went to the media with the “news”.

Anthony also remained “blissfully unaware” of a huge kickback in the Rs 10,000-crore deal with Israel Aerospace Industries. Or, so it was implied.

Is this possible – at all?

The problem with Anthony and Manmohan is that they have freely provided cover to some of India’s most crooked men. And it is very difficult to believe that these two highly regarded ministers had no clue about all this.

As radical philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb pens in Antifragile, one is a fraud if one sees fraud and keeps mum. Of course.

Gautaman Bhaskaran is a Chennai-India based author, columnist and film critic. He is also an FMT columnist, and may be contacted at[email protected]


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