Radia Tapes – Supreme Court Gets It Right!

The Supreme Court made some harsh observations during the hearing on the Radia tapes case in the 1st week of August 2013. As reported in the national press, the court observed that the tapes contained several important issues but the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) remained focused only on the issue of 2 G spectrum allocation. It further observed that “virtually in every government field, private persons, you call them liaisoning officers or middlemen, are present in every nook and corner.  The tapes of former corporate lobbyist Niira Radia’s purported conversations with politicians, industrialists and journalists pertained to multiple issues, but the probe just focused on the 2G case.”  The CBI Counsel, Senior advocate K K Venugopal , also  admitted that some of the conversations disclosed issues “more serious than 2G”. Venugopal, who was asked by the court to assist in the matter, said: “These conversations talk about cross-border financial transactions, buying media houses, getting at the helm of affairs of PSUs. Some of them give rise to money laundering. There seems to be interference with routine matters of governance and it is very widespread.”

In chapter 3 of my book I have portrayed this same condition in great detail. It was in this background that I was able to prove that it was Rajiv Gandhi alone, and none else, who was the initiator of economic reforms in India. Others never gave up their obsession with power to licence any economic activity for obvious reasons that are visible to the whole country in the words of the Supreme Court of India. The influence of the private persons, liaison officers, lobbyists, middlemen, consultants has affected policy formulation for long, and worse its actual implementation. The umpteen scams that have damaged governance in the country in the last 10 years are all due to the recurrence of the climate of the licence-permit-quota Raj prevailing before Rajiv Gandhi initiated radical economic reforms by delicensing more than 40% important industries included in the Industries (Regulation & Development) Act. These industries could not be established unless an industrial licence was obtained by the entrepreneur. No licence was issued immediately: first a Letter of Intent (LOI) was issued and after commissioning the plant, it was converted in to a licence. It could take several years. In this process, capacities got blocked as no production got started, demands supply gaps created shortages, which led to imports and smuggling also. Foreign exchange shortage in those days made development a bit difficult. But for Rajiv, India might have missed the information revolution! Had he been alive, the country could have witnessed the next phase of genuine reforms, obliterating the culture of licence and associated scams. After him it has not only been revived, resurrected and reinstated but also strengthened. Now the concept of single window clearance also has been converted to multi window clearances, as under a licensing regime the number of rent seekers goes up. In the name of reforms, we are only auctioning family silver (as was very vociferously alleged by an incumbent cabinet minister at the dawn of the 21st Century!).

I was apprehensive about the leadership in 2009 and stated in my book that if failed, we would have to wait for a trustworthy leader in 2014. I prayed I could be wrong! But we are almost in to the 2014 general elections. Let us hope we succeed in achieving our reforms goals in all sincerity.

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