Fixing the fixers…. by Pritish Nandy

Let’s start with the facts. Niira Radia is a known fixer. She has been around for two decades now, fixing deals for the rich and the famous. Most of her clients are reputed corporate houses. It now transpires she has politician clients as well. Does she have clients in media? I have no clue. What we do know, however, is that everyone aware of how Delhi politics works (including me) knew who Radia was, and what she was up to. We all knew where her expertise lay. Yet none of us exposed her. What’s worse, many among us looked upon her with admiration as someone who could get anything done in the Government.

Why is that? I don’t know Radia. Yet why did I not write about her? The reason’s simple. Much of what we heard about Radia came to us through the political grapevine, the buzzing gossip network that keeps us all in the know of what’s happening. Even the current tapes were being discussed for over six months now and if you trawl the net, you will find that the 2G scam and Radia’s involvement in it is not a new discovery. It’s been around for a while. But till two magazines carried excerpts from transcripts of the tapes, the matter remained in the realm of private speculation, not public discourse.

Does this mean print journalism has more credibility than TV or the net? Does this suggest that it’s only after the printed word takes over that speculation ends and people start taking an issue seriously? In recent months I have seen many stories hit the headlines on TV and disappear. The impact is far less when print ignores them. On the other hand, social networking sites like twitter add a sense of urgency that makes it almost impossible to ignore a story that’s desperately seeking to break. In short, you need all media to work in perfect tandem to reach a story where it needs to go. There’s no better example than Wikileaks. Julian Assange, whatever his critics may do to assassinate his reputation, will emerge as the Man of the Year 2010.

That’s where Ratan Tata’s wrong. Very wrong. There’s a stage where the laws of privacy, however sacrosanct, need to take a backseat to public interest. Tata, in trying to stop more tapes coming out, is only making the public even more curious about what they may contain and whether they could further compromise the Tata image. So whoever has advised him to go to the Supreme Court has done him a serious disservice. If the court stops further publication of the Radia tapes, it will do his image far more harm than if they were revealed. Insinuation causes far more lasting damage than actual revelation because that’s when your business rivals get a free hand to float any rumours they want. And, as we all know, rumours cause greater damage than facts.

Having said that, I know where Tata is coming from. We, in India, have created a system so disgustingly corrupt that it’s impossible for anyone to survive in any business without having to necessarily resort to fixers and middlemen. That’s why people like Radia flourish. Not only because there are corrupt business houses eager to grab special favours from politicians and bureaucrats forever ready to offer them but also because there are also honest business houses who have no idea on how to navigate a system as venal as ours. They need an astute guide through the stormy waters. They need people who can advise them on how to deal with each rascal who tries to extort them at every stage. The system breeds its own Radias who, in turn, approach and compromise people, even good people. Those chucking stones today at Vir and Barkha may well find that the friendly floozy they bumped into at some innocuous party last weekend, who later called back to ask for a few dumb favours was actually a honey trap.

So it may be a good idea if instead of throwing stones from a glass house, we all got together to clean up the house. This must begin with dismantling the corrupt system and exemplarily punishing the guilty, not just booting them out. You and I must also stop subscribing to the belief that corruption in India is a given and can’t be fought. In Japan, prime ministers have gone to jail. In China, top Government officers have been executed. So instead of cynically talking about moral codes for lobbyists, let’s repair and restore our institutions in a manner such that we can combat corruption. But first let’s start by believing it’s possible.

We all thought Bihar was beyond redemption. But Nitish Kumar did the impossible with just an extra million extra votes. That’s all it takes to upset the status quo, bring in change. A few tough steps and we can scare the pants off the corrupt. The question is: Will we fix the fixers or will we continue to wallow in self pity?

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42 Responses to “Fixing the fixers…. by Pritish Nandy”

  1. Mr. Nandy ji,

    Where do we begin?

    I am not an Italian. I need the following:

    A driving license,

    A PAN card,

    A passport,

    My parents’ death certificates,

    An unemployment card,

    A domicile certificate,

    A Ration card,

    A government job,

    A national permit for my vehicle,

    Just 5000 sq ft of agricultural land,

    An environmental clearance to make a green house,

    An NOC from the pollution control board for installing solar panels on my roof

    An OBC certificate

    An import-export license

    Registration of a manpower recruitment agency

    A marriage certificate

    A divorce decree

    A tax exemption for raw materials to build my house

    A proof-of-being-alive for claiming pension

    An appointment with Sonia Gandhi

    A right to sue my MP for making false promises

    An opportunity for my child to be selected in the cricket team

    A ticket to see a match during the CWG

    An opportunity to complain against unruly government bus drivers and conductors

    The list is endless…

    Where do we begin? Hmm…?

  2. Mr. Nandy and Sharmila,

    I believe, the source of the corruption is not politics.

    The source of this corruption is the administrative powers and access to public money.

    We do not need a richer government. We need a poorer one. We need a government that has less power and less money.

    We need a government that is subserviant, not a pseudo-communist state.

    We are self-sufficient. We do not need bureaucratic patrons.

    The days of armed invasions are few and rare. Today, we are invaded by the US Dollar, the Pound Sterling, the Euro and the Yen. We need a defense against economic invasions.

    We need defense against the Jain-Marwari, the Indian Jew, who is manipulating the banks and the RBI.

    We need a defense against selective land acquisitions and their enforcement agencies.

    We need a defense against the international power grid of industrialists.

    We need to protect ourselves against WB, IMF and the G7.

    We need to protect ourselves from our own foreign policy.

    We do not need a media for anything.

    To be continued…

  3. The Civil Budget financials for this year are as follows:

    Revenue (recipts through taxes) in 2009-10: 1,047,425.87 Crores which is 104.7 billions

    Revenue estimated in 2010-11: 1088220.79 Crores which is 108.8 billions

    The expenditure approved by the parliament is:

    General Services: 436035.89 Crores i.e. 43.6 billions (Including a defense budget of 91152.67 Crores i.e. 9.1 billions)
    Social Services: 106887.61 Crores i.e. 10.7 billions
    Economic Services: 384401.07 Crores i.e. 38.44 billions
    Grants to states: 156609.89 Crores i..e 15.7 billions

    All this money is up for grabs. And this is only the money in New Delhi. State governments have their own treasuries.

    What would you rather do? Social reforms or learn Italian?

  4. There is a modus operandi in all that the government does. Like any other business.

    While the government offices are ‘cost centers’, the private companies run by it’s nominated entrepreneurs are ‘profit centers’.

    The investors hold direct or indirect ownership of the returns on capital expenditure (Capex), which includes recources namely technology, land, logistics and manpower.

    Operating expenses (Opex) are covered by deficit finance with the help of financial institutions who give loans from the money saved with them by the people.

    So, the money I save in the bank is paid back to me as my salary and merely adds more numbers in my account. This can go on forever, like an insurance company, till I either stop working or stop saving!

    On the other hand, the value of the products of my work belongs to the investors or the government and it is used to amortize the value of the real assets till the evaluation in terms of money becomes meaningless.

    Media is an Opex, and has a nuisance value. It thrusts itself on the government, enterpreneurs and the people for no reason. I can live without 99.99% of the news and entertainment that is churned out everyday.

    The 0.01% that matters is the real-time weather reports.

    As far as my personal life goes, everything else is plain gossip! It doesn’t make any difference when I have things to do.

  5. Sharmila,

    Even in todays post I think Mr. Nandy is keeping a lot of things to himself, probably assuming that readers in Calcutta are not connected with those in, say, Karnataka.

    The media may have woken up to the news-value of the 2G scam only 6 months ago.

    But the Radia tapes and the decoy created by the leaks are ‘not’ why Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi are apologizing to the people.

    The media clamor is not the reason why the opposition is united in their call for a JPC.

    Managing the media is small baggage in politics, neither the aim nor the objective.

    The 2G scam was first brought to light in June 2008, by the Weekly New Age of the CPI.

    CPI Member of Parliament G. Dasgupta wrote a letter to the Priime Minister in June 2008 about the scam.

    This was followed by a letter by Sitaram Yechury of CPI to the Prime Minister on 18, November 2008.

    Dr. Swamy wrote similar letters from October 2008 to June 2010.

    The Radia tapes are only a distraction. The politicians in CPI and BJP know more than the media knows. Sonio is desperately trying to save Mammo.

    The real whistle-blowers do not work through the media. Raja was on a roll with a massive support-group of bureaucrats, corporates, lobbyists including Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi.

    Barkha or Vir would not be taken aback by a few innocuous leaks. The fact is they have been on it since 2008.

    NDTV has close ties with the CPI through Prannoy Roy, which is well known.

    Dasgupta, Yechuri and Swamy’s letters to the PM could not have gone un-noticed. Barkha was being used by Sonio to find a smooth landing. That does not happen always.

    All the same, Raja has succeeded in exploiting the divisions between print and tv media. They may cease fire in due course.

    But we always knew what tabloid TV is worth. Nothing new.

    • Reader – Quite true. I am sure there is much more than what meets the eye. Barkha and Vir were pawns. I am given to believe that it is the Tatas and the Ambanis who run this country. That is where the money power lies. The Government, the bureaucrats, the media , they all work for India’s mightiest.

  6. News of the moment:

    Wikileaks owner Julian Assange arrested. Just shows that you cannot have your cake and eat it too.

    You can’t live in a system and kill it too. Nazis had one way. The Jews have another.

    His credit cards were blocked. His bank accounts were sealed. Even his Swiss accounts were frozen. An Interpol red alert was issued on a flimsy case. His web-sites were hacked and blocked. His communications were cut off.

    Freedom of speech, did you say?

    Important learning: You cannot beat a system by depending on any of it’s services. (Remember Gandhi and his dress-code!)

    Can someone ask Arundhati Roy if she wants to migrate to London and speak against the Queen and in favor of Maoists?

    Incidently, Assange was hiding in London, where else?

    Another co-incidence is the LTTE movement, that had been subdued after Prabhakaran’s death is being seeded again in London. Tapes and videos are being played out to make a case of genocide. All sympathizers of Prabhakaran are requested to contact the nearest English Embassy… Long Live the Queen!

  7. Mr. Nandy Sir,

    Aapne Khosla Ka Ghosla dekhi hai? Agar nahin toh zaroor dekhna. Labzon aur haqeeqaton ka antar bahot sahi andaz mein bayan kiya hai.

    It is one thing to be able to express something better than others and it is another thing to say something that others do not. Media has both the role and responsibility for the latter.

    ===

    Aap bewajah pareshaan si kyon hain ma’am
    Log kehte hain to phir theek hi kahte honge
    Mere ehbaab ne tehzeeb na seekhi hogi
    Mere maahaul mein insaan naa rehte honge

    … … … Why are you upset for no reason (Sir!)?
    … … … If people say so, they must be right
    … … … My society has not learnt it’s culture
    … … … Maybe humans do not live in my street

    Noor-e-sarmaaya se hai roo-e-tamaddun ki jilaa
    Hum jahaan hain vahaan tehzeeb nahin pal sakti
    Muflisii his-e-lataafat ko mitaa deti hai
    Bhook aadaab ke saanche mein nahin dhal sakti

    … … … The face of civilisation is lighted by wealth
    … … … Culture cannot thrive in our surrounding
    … … … Destitution kills sensitive emotions
    … … … Hunger cannot be cast into refined conduct

    Log kehte hain to logon pe ta’azzub kaisa
    Sach to kehte hain ki naadaaron ki izzat kaisi
    Log kehte hain — magar aap abhi tak chup hain
    Aap bhi kahiye gareebon mein sharaafat kaisi

    … … … Whats perplexing if people are saying so?
    … … … It’s true, whats respect for the poor!
    … … … People are saying – but you are still quiet
    … … … Say, whats civility among the poor!

    Sahir

    Translation mine.

    The poor and the uneducated citizenry who are ruled by a strange english constitution and its machinations use agents and touts to help them through.

    Pre-independence these translators had official recognition because the government positions like Collector etc were occupied by real foreigners. Many of these middle-men were also lawyers, teachers, journalists, diplomats (ICS) and post-masters. They were even honored by the English government, specially if they wrote cynical literature against the citizens or mocked at the customs and rituals.

    Today, that disease has become a curse called fixers and lobbyists.

    • Wah Wah … well said.

    • Lobbyists are everywhere…..they didn’t cropped up like mushrooms a one fine day….Sugar Lobby and Oil Lobby has been ruling Indian Politics since decades….
      Why such a crowing about it…!?
      It sounds more like ….Oh…! they have it…! Hmmm….Why are we left out…!? WHY CAN’T WE…HAVE IT THAT WAY….!?

      Everyone needs to look back and think how they reached to their present position/designation…how many toes they stepped onto…! Or Whose lap would you sit on for your Gain…of any kind…!?
      Li’ll introspection….is so….much required before cribbing about today’s situations….It’s not gonna be better on its own…but A MILLION $$ Q IS….WHO BELL THE CAT…!? Ehh…..where is KBC….!? Is AB around…!? Ask if you could….
      It’s given and proven that India is a country of Scamers….

      • Hmm…! “Didn’t crop up” ….tch tch…! too many mistakes …

      • Very sensible question: Why crib about it?

        Why should a handicapped person crib about his handicap. He must learn to live with it. Specially if the whole world has the same handicap!

        Lobbyists are God’s gift to mankind, right?

        Wrong.

        What applies to my personal life applies to my social life too.

        I don’t need a lobbyist to interact with people in my family.

        I don’t need a lobbyist to fall in love.

        I don’t need a lobbyist to propose to a girl.

        I don’t need a lobbyist to produce a child.

        I don’t need a lobbyist to do my work.

        I don’t need a lobbyist to be happy or sad.

        What applies to my personal life applies to the social life too.

        Where I need a lobbyist in social life, I’ll do my best to avoid it.

        AB is not a social reformer or a politician or an industrialist. He is an entertainer. It is not his job to ‘bell the cat’.

        The real athletes and performers in a circus pull the show for 3 hours, not the clowns.

      • Where does AB fit into the scheme of things here??

      • Lol…Reader…!
        everyone like to have things his/her own way…..but world doesn’t run according to our wishes…It is what it is….
        If you want to introduce some changes your way…you have to be prepared to work for it from the grass root level….no one put it on silver plate and offer it to you….
        or accept it the way it is….
        Where and when did I say that Lobbyists are God given Gifts to this world…!? No one like You and Me need them yet they exist,survive,flourish and multiply…shows their higher demand in some and certain areas….
        Reader and Sharmila
        AB is an entertainer by profession….before that he is a citizen of India….Things should affect all the ppl of the nation equally….unfortunately so…that’s not the case though….
        Anyway…..I didn’t mean anything Bad to or about anyone…..Not crossing the line either….Here I was just referring KBC about the Q “Who will bell the Cat”?…. AB can ask that Q if he could….. 🙂
        May be I have a weird way of humor…Only Sensibles (like me) can understand that…! hehehe….. 🙂
        Or….may be I shall stop writing…!

      • MonaLisa,

        I am challenging the very first premise that you stated above… about the world not being what I want.

        Tell me, how come I am not the world but two strangers outside my house become a world?

        How come I am not a society, everyone else is?

        Hmm…?

      • And sorry about the KBC.. I didn’t get the humor.. I am a bit slow on the u[take.. my engine takes a little time to warm up… but once I start rolling, the speed is good enough for a take-off!

      • Reader,
        Seems like you put too much mileage on…or the starter is gone…..so have a starting trouble…hehehe…. 🙂
        Sounds like you are in need of foreplay….as according to you your transmission is fine…. 🙂
        Every Frog has his own pond….which remains his own world until he gets out of it looking for a lake or something bigger….
        To live in that pond one has to worry about the water resources otherwise one day all the water of that pond might evaporate leaving the frog high and dry….
        Its like all the systems in the body are interlinked with each other….Body runs perfectly fine till any of those systems bail out on you…. same applies to governing body….in and out your home…in the society…in the world….Human is a social animal….Are you not…!?

      • MonaLisa,

        Why does one have to worry for a living?

        BTW, I am surely not an amphibian. If I am driven out of my conditions, me genes refuse to mutate and evolve. I just die.

        I am a deep water fish with a horn, like a sword-fish.

        All bodies run out of working parts at some age and some time. I am not looking for a life-time achievement award for being old!

        If the world doesn’t suit my needs, I’ll design one for myself even if it is rudimentary and neanderthal. I am not craving for the moon!

        🙂

  8. Very diplomatically written post by Mr. Nandy…quite disappointing….seems he wants to fight or wants others to fight the battle yet he himself tries to play safe game….no intellectual in his right mind dare to fight the system living within the system…..they always look for martyrs to fight for them….. 🙂
    Besides he has no plan how to fight the corruption spreaded from top to bottom like termites….
    Instead he is looking for a pesticide guy ….. 🙂

    • Reader,
      You are showing all the signs of Old Age…. 🙂

      • How old is old? I am 9 years old. Never grew up after that… 🙂

      • ” Despicable Me “……! 🙂

        Nine is old enough…! ppl stopped counting after Nine till ‘Zero’ was introduced….
        It is a natural no….In a way a complete no.
        Planets are 9 in Astrilogy
        Mars is allocated no. 9 in Astrology
        Rosary has 108 beads….sum total of that no. is 9….and so on….

      • Hmm..any more on Nine? my lucky number on all counts..

  9. MonaLisa, Sharmila and EF,

    MonaLisa is right about the cake and eating – enjoying a system and killing it at the same time – these are people like Rudolf Hess who enjoyed Hitler’s patronage till it suited him and then fled to England in 1941.

    If we have to mount a resistence of any sort, in these days and conditions, we must abandon all the benefits of the current system and draw a new roadmap that is entirely independent.

    It is not impossible. Half the country is waiting for it! The rest will join if it works…

  10. KBC Question:

    What is the difference between Sharmila Tagore and Sharmila Tiger:

    1. Spelling Mistake…….. 2. No Difference…….

    3. Hyderabad and Hong-Kong… 4. Past Tense and Present Tense….

    Phone-a-friend; Audience Poll; Expert Advice; Double-Dip: All Open

  11. Anand Khare Says:

    Does this one suits Niras of present times,

  12. Sharmila,

    I seriously doubt if the Tatas, Birlas or Ambanis are running the nation. Their economics is about productivity, which in industrial terms, is the tail-end of the food chain.

    People like Mittal and Jindal, who are bigger than Tata in net value, operate mostly outside India. Jindal Steel and Power, for instance, is a US$2.3 billion conglomerate in steel, power generation and mining in Asia, Africa and South America. The M&A investments are done from Mauritius.

    The real players in India are the FDI, the Foreign Direct Investments.

    The WB and IMF are like retail outlets for the powerful FDI companies operating out of the US and Europe.

    Here is an example:

    One very influential think-tank on sustainable FDI is based out of Columbia. It is called the Vale Columbia Center Advisory Board.

    The star players are: Roger Agnelli, Jeffrey Sachs , Ricardo Froilan, Paolo Scaroni, Shoei Utsuda, Peter Eigen and Carl H. Hahn.

    Their network knows no boundaries. The can make or break governments. They write constitutions, they write laws and they write charters.

    They are advisors. The people who take their advise, rule.

  13. News of the moment: 7 headlines in 7 seconds…

    Sonio celebrates her 65th birthday today. BJP protests in the parliament. Karunanidhi denies Raja’s involvement. Cho Ramaswamy says DMK may ask Raja to keep away for some time. Indian Mujaheeddin ask the country to share the pain. Vir Singhvi apologizes for his indiscretion. Congressmen wish Sonio a happy birthday.

    Caution: Each headline is different. They are not related.

  14. News Analysis:

    Has the Kyoto Protocol (UNFCC on Environment) really failed?

    My take is that the Kyoto Protocol has served it’s purpose and is not required anymore.

    The New World Order, dreamed up by think-tanks in the G7 wanted a legal mechanism to intervene in the governance of technological growth in the 100+ developing nations. The UNFCC was employed as the ombudsman to steer the process.

    A world without boundaries is a favorite midsummer night’s dream among the CEOs of holding companies in the G7. Their primary mission is to manage the change required to realize this dream.

    In my opinion, some unwritten codes that they follow are:

    1. If a person or nation feels unequal to change, that person or nation is an investment risk.

    2. Do not be disrespectful to the vulnerable. Buy them.

    3. Keep a tab on indigenous developments. Do anything to keep the market value of the G7 intellectual property.

    4. Release the economic activity of a developing nation from the influence and administration of local politics and culture.

    5. There is no such thing as a common benefit if it does not give them preferential benefits.

    I feel, the Kyoto Protocol was the first experiment toward consolidating that theme on a global level. It has worked remarkably well.

    The scientific community who are designing the technology for protecting the environment do not need a political process to market their products. If the technology works, it will sell in the market.

    What the G7 want is a monopoly on the world markets and no local governments in between to protect their nations from the international traders’ rackets.

    The Kyoto protocol was just a milestone in the business plan of various carbon capture and new generation technologies. The Oil and Gas Industry is already on course.

    And this one, I believe, improves on the IT boom in the past.

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