IIPM Think Tank Revolutionize Thoughts
Arindam Chaudhuri
[April, 2012]

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.

The gigantic and so-called loss making PSUs had been built on tax payers’ money with huge infrastructure and land; and it was time to create the next generation scam with the ostensible excuse of opening up of the Indian economy. In this second phase, the government started selling off PSUs in totality at a fraction of the price these PSUs could have commanded in the markets – the government did this because the bribes they got from the industrialists was more than what they could have dreamt in their wildest imaginations. Once the PSU sellout was virtually complete and had increased the wealth of our industrial houses further, and made, but obviously, a few dollar billionaires, has come the latest phase! Having virtually run out of ways to get more bribes in a privatised world, and after having sold off most of the public sector wealth (or having sold out the future potential wealth of PSUs by selling away, for example, the tediously researched and documented oil fields’ scans of PSUs, to private oil companies), it is actually the government of India that started the process of creating numerous global billionaires out of our existing industrialists through the SEZ Act – what we at IIPM Think Tank have termed the National Land Loot Act – and other such processes of giving away natural resources over to private hands. Be it the 2G scam or the ‘coalgate scam’ or any other scam, it is the same story. One visit to Kalinga Nagar, Kujang and the likes, tells us the glaring tale of how a handful of companies are becoming abnormally wealthy by amassing an obscene amount of land and natural resources, that too at throwaway prices, thanks to the dacoits running this country in the garb of politicians. There, of course, is no consideration to the thousands of poor farmers and fishermen families who are getting displaced not only from their homes but from their sole source of livelihood. No wonder then that at each and every place, wherever the government is trying to repossess land, there is fierce agitation and bloodshed.

And that unfortunately is the story of India… The story of blood billionaires; billionaires making their billions out of scams, poverty and bloodshed. It’s a crying shame that the country which houses the most number of poverty stricken people is also home to almost the maximum number of billionaires too. After all, in this huge country, there is a lot of land and natural resource still left to be sold away by the “merchants of death” ruling this country! And that is where Vinod Rai, our current CAG, is steadily bringing in front of the public the reality of how the government is trying to hoodwink the people and dole out 2G licenses and mining permits, costing this poor nation losses to the tune of three lakh to ten lakh crore rupees! Everything perhaps can’t be done by getting aggressive. Some things require sincere fact-finding, auditing with honesty and patriotism at the core of the heart. That’s what Vinod Rai is doing, motivating people like us to get aggressive with his brilliant exposes! He is sincerely and silently showing Indians the secret behind the growing number of Indian billionaires in the global billionaires’ lists, thus exposing our blood billionaires and in turn making CAG a feared name!