Opinion

AP’s top guns behind bars

Updated on: Jul 11, 2012
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Andhra Pradesh is faced with a strange situation. The four pillars of a free democracy—legislature, judiciary, executive and the press — find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

The high security Chenchalguda prison in the capital, Hyderabad presents a grim view of the state of affairs. Among the present set of inmates are powerful representatives of these four pillars, facing serious charges of corruption.

COOLING THEIR HEELS

Lok Sabha MP and President of the YSR Congress, Mr Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, has been in custody since May 27, charged with illegal assets. A State cabinet Minister, Mr Mopidevi Venkatramana is also lodged here.

Two very senior IAS officers—Mr B P Acharya (former Home Secretary) and Ms Y Srilakshmi (Principal Secretary rank) are in the jail for months in different cases. Mr Acharya is charged with bringing loss to the State exchequer as Managing Director of the Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corporation (APIIC) and benefiting Emaar in a township project. On the other hand Ms Srilakshmi is alleged to have favoured the Obulapuram Mining Company of former Karnataka Minister and mining baron, Mr Gali Janardhana Reddy (who also spent months in the prison).

In the case of judiciary, the CBI special court judge, Mr T Pattabhirama Rao has been booked for accepting bribe to grant bail to Mr Gali Janardhana Reddy in the mining scam. He has also been suspended by the High Court and is lodged in Cherlapally jail.

The fourth estate, which has been highlighting the sensational cases and trying to play its role has also been caught napping. Though unconnected with the present cases, Mr Suryaprakasa Rao, the editor of a Telugu daily Surya , is cooling his heels in the Chanchalguda jail for allegedly cheating a large bank for a couple of crores.

Given the current state of affairs in the State, the famous remarks of the former Prime Minister, P V Narasimha Rao, who also hailed from AP, seem apt. When asked about the Jain hawala case, wherein he was an accused, Rao would quip “The law will take its own course”. However, the paradox in the State today is what course will the law take, when the keepers of the law themselves are caught violating it?

In a more recent and strange instance, a Director General-of-Police ranked officer, Mr Umesh Kumar, was on the run for a few days, when he was served a non-bailable warrant. Involved in a no-holds-barred legal fight with the present DGP, Mr Dinesh Reddy, the high ranking cop made a dramatic entry into the State Secretariat after four days.

NO ONE ABOVE BOARD

Scams, corruption charges on politicians and executives are getting common in most States in the country. Perhaps, Andhra Pradesh is no exception. However, the Court driven, simultaneous investigations by the CBI into several of them, involvement of the rich and powerful, holding responsible positions with public image in Andhra Pradesh seems to be a differentiator.

That the State which was held as a model for development, governance, technology initiatives, data generation on several development indicators, has landed itself in such a mess, is a cause of serious concern. From a favoured investment destination, Hyderabad seems to be deteriorating into a destination for investigations.

To top it all, the chief investigator in several cases, the Joint Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, Mr V V Lakshminarayana, finds himself under the scanner in the case of an expose of his cell phone call data and allegations by Mr Jagan’s YSR Congress party that he was selectively leaking information to some media and working with vendetta. The Central Vigilance Commission has asked for a report on the matter.

Do these events represent a vibrant democracy where transparency and public accountability are becoming more important, or a fall in standards in these strong pillars?

At one level, it clearly shows that the high and mighty can also be penalised for their actions. But at another level, the recent by-elections verdict which gave a thumbs-up for the YSR Congress Party in 15 of 18 State Assembly seats and one Parliament seat, shows that the voter has not taken a serious view of the ongoing investigations at least in the short term. It is only hoped that the present churning only leads to strengthening of the foundations of democracy.

Published on July 11, 2012

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