Unlike T. N. Seshan, when you meet Vinod Rai, the current Comptroller and Auditor General of India, he comes across as a very suave and soft-spoken bureaucrat. At the recent convocation ceremony of our graduating students, when our institute’s Director Dr. M. K. Chaudhuri challenges Vinod Rai and says that he isn’t bold enough like Mr. Seshan and is not as strongly taking the government head-on as he should, he very firmly says that he is doing what he is constitutionally allowed to do. So what does Vinod Rai have to say about Pranab Mukherjee’s public snub that 90% of CAG findings are dropped in the first stage? “Yes, Mr. Mukherjee is right in some sense. CAG raises questions and it’s true that a large proportion of issues do get answered to our satisfaction in the very first stage,” he says very politely, yet very firmly; and at no point in any self-doubt about whether he was doing less than he should be. Does this sound slightly lame? Perhaps. Specially because, being slightly aggressive about such issues myself, I might have personally liked Vinod Rai to stretch his constitutional limits slightly more, redefine them, and take the government head-on perhaps more loudly. But then all human beings don’t have the same approach to dealing with identical issues. Our current election commissioner Dr. S. Y. Quraishi is a very soft-spoken, music loving man; but he is the man behind bringing democracy to the killing fields of Bihar, Bengal and UP! Similarly, Vinod Rai is a man who again is soft-spoken, abhorring the limelight, but doing his work with amazing sincerity, courage and commitment. Similar to what T. N. Seshan did with the Election Commission, Rai has made CAG a household name in India and a body that Indians are now looking up to with respect to exposing our government’s corrupt practices! Today, our government fears his reports like nothing else, for in these days of heightened social activism and rampant corruption, those are CAG reports that are giving the maximum ammunition to critics of the government. So what is the CAG authority doing and why is its role so important? Well, CAG is bringing to public the sham and the shame behind India’s Blood Billionaires – the saga of corruption and transfer of national wealth into private hands at the cost of the tax payers’ money and the country’s national interests.
What exactly do I mean? Well, the annual Forbes billionaires’ list now regularly features a significant number of Indian businessmen (almost 30 plus) with an accumulated worth that’s a staggering USD 200 billion plus (almost 15% of what the entire Indian population earns in a year). In fact, of these billionaires, three of the names also appear regularly in the top 20 of the global rich! The only other economy that outscores India still on these parameters is USA, which still has one or two more billionaires in the said list. Today, India is the only Asian economy to have so many billionaires in that list; next to it is Japan, with a history of many years of stupendous national development! How did this awesome Indian miracle happen? When I go abroad, this intrigues everyone! They are amazed that while billionaires like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and others have made their fortunes after years of investing in brand building, R&D and by painstakingly focusing on capturing international markets, we have managed so many billionaires without having any brand in the international markets. Look at the BusinessWeek-Interbrand survey of the world’s 100 top brands – not one is Indian. That kind of explains the story. While the Japanese, French, Swiss, Germans, Italians and the likes get beaten hands down in the billionaires’ lists by Indians, they are the ones who dominate the top brands’ lists... and of course, not to forget the Americans, who spent a hundred years competing in the global markets, creating brands, investing massively in R&D, losing out to competition, fighting back again, and finally creating wealth and billionaires. Then how are the Indians dominating the various lists of global billionaires? The answer is quite simple actually – Indians are there right at the top within these lists purely through scams, loot and the criminal transfer of national wealth into private hands… consequently ensuring mindboggling market capitalisation for their companies and the billionaire status for them; and all this without churning out a ‘single’ global brand or product! Yes, that’s the truth!!!
After Independence, our industrialists were given a monopoly market to operate in, thanks to the bureaucratic system of bribery-driven work culture we created. Over the years, the private sector industrialists were further helped by the government (after more quid pro quo greasing of palms by these industrialists) in amassing additional wealth and profits by allowing them to buy public sector products – like, say, steel – at subsidised prices, while these very private companies sold the finished products – like, say, buses and tractors – in the markets at the market price. Thus, real and potential profits and wealth of the PSUs were transferred to private sector balance sheets without flinching; and at the same time, PSUs were branded loss-making failures! This was the first phase of growth for our Indian business houses, giving rise to monopolies and fraudulent rupee billionaires. Since this first experiment kept us a third world and third class country, the second phase of growth started post liberalisation.
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