While taking up cudgels for the beleaguered Robert Vadra and DLF, many Congressmen and their apologists are frothing at the mouth, asking why India Against Corruption (IAC) is not prosecuting these two.

The question is either mischievous, or born of ignorance. A whistleblower neither has the wherewithal of an investigative agency, nor the powers required for prosecution. His job is to blow the whistle, period.

Daal mey kuch kala hai ” (in effect, meaning there is something fishy) is the trigger for his suspicion. Lest the whistle is blown out of spite or over-enthusiasm, we do need a regime that checks both. But that does not mean the one who is blowing the whistle must provide clinching evidence that would stand scrutiny in the court. That is the job of regulators and investigative agencies.

The allegations made by IAC must be investigated by the Registrar of Companies (RoC). He should bestir and ask how come DLF is showing Rs 65 crore as advances to a clutch of Robert Vadra-controlled companies and the latter are showing them as unsecured loans. To be sure, accountants and auditors of the two sets of companies are different and their take on a given accounting issue might be different, despite GAAP, but isn’t it the job of the RoC to take the lead in finding out the truth behind the transactions?

The job of conscience-keepers in this country is made more difficult by the absence of meaningful whistle-blowing legislation, with the one on the anvil being government- and public servant-centric.

Who will blow the whistle then against private sector shenanigans, which are as deleterious in their impact in corrupting the moral fabric of the country? L’affaire Robert Vadra would indeed be the test case.

‘Corporatocracy’

Though rejected outright by the robotic spell-check, corporatocracy vividly describes the nexus between politicians/governments, corporates, multilateral financial agencies and white-collar crime and loot. In his mea culpaConfessions Of An Economic Hit-man , John Perkins gives a graphic account of how the US governments, usually with the Republican Presidents at the helm, carry out economic crimes against unsuspecting or naïve Third-World nations by making American corporates their economic hatchet men. Back home in India, the Vohra Committee of yore had also given an equally graphic account of politician-industrialist-criminal nexus to explain the progressive degeneration in political values in the country.

In the US, the mulcting of Third-World countries was done by obliging American corporates in return for plum jobs in these countries, without exposing themselves, as indeed the politicos, to congressional scrutiny. Had these hatchet jobs been done by the American government agencies themselves, their actions would have come in for congressional scrutiny.

Much the same is being witnessed now in India. Finance Minister P. Chidambaram is legally right, though not morally, when he says that the matter is between DLF, a private sector company, and Robert Vadra, a private citizen, and, therefore, no investigations or probe can be ordered, as government resources are not involved or have not been bartered away, as was the case in the 2G and coal scandals.

But the entire complexion of the issue might change, once it is established that the seemingly private matter after all was about public resources — land.

Land always bristles with problems and possibilities. Its agrarian character, with its belittling implications (in terms of valuations), cries for conversion into urban use that calls for considerable influence-peddling, before the fruits of such conversion are savoured by the real-estate company.

Symbiotic relationship

To be sure, the matter, as it is, is now in the realm of conjecture and informed guesswork, but only a thorough and impartial investigation would establish the truth.

That corporates bankroll political parties is common knowledge. Equally well-known is the fact that they extract their pound of flesh when the party they have thus bankrolled is voted to power. This is payback time.

Policies are rewritten afresh to suit them. Given this symbiotic relationship between corporates and politicians, can any anti-graft legislation make a serious impact for the better without the corporate sector being roped in?

That is why the proposed Lokpal legislation should also bring the corporate houses within its investigative sweep. There are two types of bribe-takers.

The first don’t take chances and ask the bribe-giver to deposit the bribe in distant, clandestine bank accounts. CBI comes a cropper in establishing the trail.

But more brazen ones take it in India itself, but under the cloak of a company, usually a shell company, which confers perfect anonymity, especially if one doesn’t become narcissist and make it eponymous.

When a big corporate house puts money into an unknown closely-held company, it could have political ramifications impinging on the exchequer and use of public goods. That is why Lokpal, whose writ does not extend to the private sector company, would be doomed to failure.

(The author is a New Delhi-based chartered accountant.)

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