Before the Commonwealth Games, the games with the common wealth.
Over the past few weeks, we have been deluged by news of one Commonwealth Games scam after another.
Even the British queen, a report says, is in cold fury over some of these allegations.
But what of the Indian government?
Our learned Prime Minister continues to stick to his mauni baba routine.
As for the Sports Minister MS Gill, he was busy on Sunday lamenting the sad state of Indian football in the country after the Santosh Trophy final that he “watched (on TV) with great interest” and which Bengal won.
With this being the state of affairs, it was left to Corporate and Minorities Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to state the government’s stand over the weekend.
“Our first priority is the smooth conduct of the Commonwealth Games. Let the games be finished, we are hopeful that the Prime Minister will take an appropriate action (on alleged financial irregularities),” he was quoted as saying.
We are hopeful indeed! What a load of codswallop!
Remember that unlike in the so-called IPL scam, where despite all the sound and fury concrete proof is yet to be produced, there is a pile of evidence at hand in the Commonwealth Games scam already. And yet the need of hosting a successful Games first is being advanced by those in power as a convenient excuse to shield the shocking inaction of the government.
The politics of convenience has already seen the great telecom scandal of our times being virtually hushed up during this government’s tenure. Can we expect any better in a Games scandal that seems to involve not just Suresh Kalmadi and Commonwealth Games committee but also many members of Delhi’s babudom and political class?
In a country where corruption is endemic, can’t the government instead see this as a great opportunity to come down hard on this evil blighting our society? It could spark off the revolution we need, and while nobody wants to see the corrupt hung from lampposts or guillotined, they must be made an example of.
I am reminded in this context of a stirring Tata example of recent vintage, recounted in Morgen Witzel’s just-released Tata – the Evolution of Global Brand.
The biggest financial scandal to hit the Tata Group was the collapse of Tata Finance, its investment arm, in 2002.
The company had been doing very well at that stage, but “some at Tata Sons smelled a rat”.
After the independent review that they commissioned came up with a dodgy report, Tata Sons decided to conduct their own review, which discovered “evidence of widespread irregularities”.
Ratan Tata admitted to Witzel seven years later that the softer option “would have been to quietly plug the hole, make good the financial losses and sweep everything under the carpet”.
“But I could not do that,” the Tata Sons chairman went on to explain. “We would have been allowing the guilty to walk away. I felt that if we did not make this public, then we were implictly saying that this sort of behaviour was tolerable.”
So, he and the rest of the Tata Sons blew the whistle on the scam themselves.
That decision becomes all the more commendable when you consider that it cost the Tata Group a company and somewhere between Rs 500 crore to Rs 700 crore, the money they had to dole out to make good the losses suffered by their customers.
But Witzel goes on to mention how in the long run it only served to enhance the Tata Group’s already shining reputation. When people of India think of Tata Finance today, he observes, what they remember first is not the fraud, but the honourable way that the Tata Group dealt with it and took responsibility.
Probably Manmohan Singh and his band of merry men need to remind themselves that brand India is also in need of a similarly luminous example.
Many a culprit has walked away scot free in the past because of governmental inaction, stoic and otherwise.
At least in this instance, let the government strike when the iron is hot.
We have spoilt those in power rotten till now. It’s high time we followed Ratan Tata’s example.