2G Scam was in many ways India’s version of the famously infamous Watergate Scandal. If the latter toppled the chair of Richard Nixon, the erstwhile President of United States of America, the former has emerged as an apostle of opprobrium to Indian Politics and Media alike. And herein lie no exaggerations rather trunk of utter deceit, maneuvering of public to gross personal interest and manipulation of rules to suit the quid pro quo arrangement that was put in place as a part of the well chalked out plan.
Former telecom minister, A. Raja is in fact just one of the faces of the multi-headed Hydra, the ominous creature having more heads, each driven with malicious intent to destroy the very fabric of so-called system. 2G Scam is one of its own kind in the history of scams in a country where flubbing away with resources belonging to people is a natural trait of those in power and commanding authority of some kind. Aren’t we used to seeing the wife and kids of a public servant exploiting the facilities being provided to him such as telephone, car, servants, etc. going out of their way to make sure that every penny being shelled on them is utilized to the hilt?
Mr. Raja in this case has turned out to be an exclusive public servant with credentials that would put many of his successors to shame in times to come. You see the moment he took charge of the telecom ministry the first thing the DMK party member did was to erase the concept of public interest from his record. Well, that was compulsory too since there were quite many parties he had to take care of during his (in)auspicious tenure, these being the private corporate players, some of the top honchos from the world of business and media, the lobbyist, people belonging to his own department and not to forget had to oblige the scions of the political party he represented. No wonder the man was overly burdened with responsibility that required him to bungle so much that he could not find a way out of the self-created labyrinth at the end of it.
CAG (Comptroller Auditor General) India has pegged the losses to the exchequer as a result of the 2G Scam at Rs. 1.76 lakh crore or $ 40 billion at current rates. For a layman who fails to understand the nuances of the misdeed, it refers to the loss incurred due to the under-pricing of the second generation (2G) spectrum. Telecom is one of the fastest growing sectors in India with the pace of development inevitably making room for the occurrence of blunders and not mere follies. This explains the proposition following which the concerned companies were handled out the same license for both GSM (Global System of Mobile) communications and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) technology. The black-listed organizations also enjoyed the privilege of using more spectrum than what their license specified.
The very first charge sheet submitted by the CBI pointed fingers at the Attorney General of India, Goolam E.Vahnavati besides the canny lobbyist Nira Radia among 125 witnesses. This bizarre calico included doyens from the corporate hub as well, these being senior executives hailing from Loop Mobile India Ltd., Idea, Spice, Tata Teleservices and Videocon Telecommunications. While the ugly skeletons had just started tumbling out what one found difficult to grapple with is the way democratic ideals had been shrink-wrapped and sold away like sabzi-bhaji!
There is a term called, Maskenfreiheit that refers to freedom one enjoys in the garb of a mask, the word having an association with John Updike, that’s what he was fond of, hiding behind his characters! 2G scam also appears as a ballad where Maskenfreiheit seems to rein supreme with men and women squirming past each other, every individual looking forward to materialize his or her own vested interest. When Nira Radia tapes found its place in the public domain, the collusion between the mediawallas, politicians, lobbyists and corporate moguls didn’t flummox one as much as the extent to which the amiability existed between the conniving partners.
Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi are those faces of Indian media that influences youngsters in unimaginable ways, many aspirants who want to make it big in midst of crunching deadlines and mounting pressure, look up to them for inspiration. But then no one is infallible and they too succumbed to the luring bonhomie with the high & mighty eventually turning into nothing more than a courier. Endless amount of whining and offering clarification could do little to get rid of the blot they now bear in their respective career though life certainly moves on not only for them but also the spectators who enjoyed every moment of the tamasha! Mr. P. Chidambaram should thank his stars that the Finance Ministry note didn’t turn into a disaster well, Janta Party President Dr. Subramanian Swamy would take care of that for sure!
However Kanimozhi Member of Parliament and daughter of DMK Chief Karunanidhi, Shahid Balwa, Director of Swan Telecom (now Etisalat DB), Vinod Goenka, Managing Director DB Realty and the likes of Sanjay Chandra, Managing Director Unitech ltd. were perhaps not favored so much by luck. A very interesting feature of this entire jamboree was the ‘money trail’ which also has a fascinating pattern indeed. This included induction of foreign partners and the decision of the companies to expand their equity bases by doing so. For instance Swan Telecom sold 45% of its shares to Etisalat for Rs. 4200 cr and interestingly didn’t have any major asset except the license which was obtained for Rs. 1537 crores. Fiddling around with FCFS (First Come First Served) further served the purpose of those who had the aid of Raja all throughout in their misadventures.
Except for the lack of an ounce of voyeuristic quotient, else 2G Scam had immense potential to garner the status of India’s Profumo Affair. This 1963 British political scandal handsomely dealt with the extra-marital affair of a British Minister with a Russian spy. Kahani thodi filmy hai except that our 2G Scam lacked the usual masala on certain fronts! The way progress is being made in due course of time in the arena of scams – the Bofors scandal, Hawala scam, Fodder scam, Adarsh scam, CWG Scam, phew! I guess a new beat would come up soon for our journo bhaisahab, that of the scandal-beat, scam pundits would analyze every successive case with a fresh perspective and thereafter dig at the TAM ratings for the whole thing is that ki bhaiya sabse badi hai viewership!
What! Did someone say Lokpal? Dilli abhi door hai mere dost!!