‘’… it is not just limited to tax evasion but a 'mind boggling crime' amounting to 'theft' and 'plunder' of national wealth having security ramifications, reports PTI’’ – one of India’s Supreme Court judges commenting on clandestine foreign bank deposits of Indian nationals.
Today marks Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. I have listened many times to his moving and inspiring speeches. Today was no exception. Dr. King was then fighting for the liberation of the oppressed and disadvantaged people of his race. The fight goes on to a lesser degree today on many fronts That fight is for fairness and social justice. These facets of life aren’t as pronounced as before. But, they still matter.
Reading the page-long report my mind went to my land. Are the people getting a fair shake from any quarters? My anger went up after I read the report in a newspaper of the looting of the treasury with great abandon. That reminds of emperor Nadir Shah’s plundering in 1730's when he came to Delhi and plundered whatever he and his men could lay their hands on, including a large number of women and girls, thousands of boys as slaves, thousands elephants and horses, and other loots.
I cursorily glanced through the net-assets of Assam Government Ministers as published a day ago, in newspapers on the Web. I copied that page into my computer for a leisurely and deliberate reading . I also send the report to people in this country for wide circulation. The report is faulty because it wasn’t authenticated by a legal authority and it may contain many loopholes in it including properties, it’s believed, in the name of the spouses and children leaving aside their other connected ones.
But taking report at its face value, some questions arise. First, do they (the ministers) draw a monthly or annual salary? Or they help themselves with whatever amount can be taken away as appropriate for them? Second, what’s this loan thing from the Assembly? Does it act like a bank? Then who are in the Board of Directors? Who puts up the money? Of course, you don’t ask such stupid questions of your benevolent government!
Pranab (wise and youthful) Gogoi, Minister, Textiles and Sericulture, has a net-worth of close to 4 crores. As the name suggest, he has a long life to live. Wasn’t the ministry named ‘’Khadi and Gramodyog’‘ in its previous incarnation? Better to change the name because the old name was connected with Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi who was a very old-timer and who liked spinning yarns in a ‘’Charka’‘ (the spinning wheel, "jo~tor" in Assamese). Now we have to seriously consider if the national flag can be changed to something that reflects the present times. A giant crocodile? The animal devours anything that comes in its sight. That greedy fellow is ministering his way into wealth for few generations.
Well, what is good in knowing their assets and liabilities, imperfect and willfully doctored as they may be or whatever they may be, if their income is an unknown factor? Everything is relative. What they had yesterday matters today.
One interesting point in the asset disclosures is that they all, except the Power and Industries minister, have no faith in stocks and bonds - the instruments of a modern economy. That way, they are steeped in old times - real estate, jewelry and other forms of static investments. But he, Pradyut Bordoloi, should be congratulated for being a crorepati - real crorepati, not a fake one as in Amitab Bachhan’s show ‘’Kon Banega Crorepati’‘ . Never mind that there is neither electricity (power) or industry (making useful things and providing employment to the unemployed) in the State. During the power crisis in the midst of sweltering heat about two summers ago, he was vacationing in Europe with his family. That was the height of irresponsibility and callousness! Isn’t there a descriptive saying, ‘’When Rome burns, Nero fiddles’‘? He is in a class like all moochers and scavengers are...
Well, personal-wear every-day jewelry is not an asset to be listed as personal or family property the same way books, clothes and things of that sort are not to be listed. But, the ministers listed them anyway for a good measure of public relations. About books, do they have any or read any books? They are busy devising new ways of stealing money and deceiving people whose greatest joy comes when they catch fish in dried up ponds in winter with other villagers in a communal fishing..
Undervaluing of property is a gimmick everyone of them plays to the hilt. But, truth-telling Asom-Ratna ever-young Tarun-Gogoi beats them all hands down. He lists a residential flat at Delhi worth Rs 5.89 lakh. For that kind of money, Gogoi would be lucky to own a tin-shack with shared toilet and bath at the edge of the city! He also has other property in Guwahati: a plot of residential land and building in Guwahati worth Rs 15.98 lakh, another residential plot at Guwahati was worth around Rs 1 lakh. How much land costs now in Guwahati? Don’t ask because if you’ve to ask, you’re too ‘poor’ to buy it.
Let us look at the salary aspect. In the US at the Federal level, Senators and House members get a salary of $174,000 per year with other perks and benefits. Because they’ve to keep in touch with their electorate they represent, they don’t indulge in buying property outside their constituency. If they do, that question will surely be raised as an uncomfortable election issue. There is nothing like ‘’benami’‘ (property in other’s name). That is racketeering.
You own something or you don’t. There is a powerful tool in the hands of prosecutors here and that tool (law) is called ‘RICO’ (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act of 1970). It created havoc among mafia-dons in the country. Recently the office of US Attorney General, Eric Holder, arrested 127 persons from many parts of the country in one coordinated sweep for fraud and racketeering. But such a law wouldn’t come to a country where the Prime Minister’s office can defy the Supreme Court’s orders. It’s defying the highest legal institution of the land. Is there anything above the Supreme Court? We’re not living in a country like Saddam Hussain’s Iraq or Mahmoud Ahmedinajed’s Iran?
Corrupt practice is wide-spread and operates in many levels. How about Manmohan Singh?. He contests election from Assam and wins. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. If not, there will be another back-up constituency to win from. How does a person win elections from multiple constituencies? It’s just a number’s game.
There is election-fraud right here. How can a person come to a place and the tell the people quite shamelessly ‘’I’m your leader and elect me’‘. Our "khar-khowa’‘ (nothing wrong with that practice!), ‘’hoza’‘ (simple-minded) Asom-basis think emperor-incarnate has come to them to ask for votes. How much does it cost us to vote? Nothing. But he is giving us ‘’pindha-kapur’‘ (clothing to wear), ‘’gar-kapor’‘ (shawl), ‘’chabon-ghanda-tel’‘ (soap and fragrant oil) .
Now, who is the worst of the lot? Duvaliers of Haiti, Ben Alis of Tunisia or the party of ministers in Assam or those of us, like innocent boys and girls, think that things will flourish in Assam again if we follow the proverbial monkey who sees nothing wrong, who hears nothing unpleasant and says nothing hurtful? .
In not-so distant times when someone like Genghis Khan came to another country, they pillaged, plundered, looted and did all those horrific and heinous things. But their own folks were left untouched because they were assets of the land. Now our own folks do all that under the guise of democracy. Since Sonia Gandhi was declared the most powerful woman in India, the country is heading into the toilet!