Lessons from Radiagate…by Pritish Nandy

Many people have asked me in recent weeks what are the lessons to learn from the telecom scandal. Here’s my quick take. A dumbo’s guide? Perhaps.

  • There are no good guys left in politics. Most rob, loot, extort and steal. A few stand by and watch, doing nothing to stop them. If you have some favourite politicians, and most of us don’t, you can check out which category they fall in. The chances of them falling into either of these two are 100 per cent.
  • If you want to know the truth about any scam, keep digging.  There’s no limit to venality here. No man is a thief alone. All thieves have family, friends, associates, girlfriends, and, ofcourse, bosses. Every one of them makes money as they go along. That’s what politics is all about: Joint Ventures.
  • There’s nothing you can’t get done here. Anything’s possible at the right price, if you have hired the right broker. It doesn’t really matter how you designate the broker: lobbyist, PR consultant, policy advocate, political secretary, secretary general of an association or a confederation, peon or pimp. They are the people who get your job done.
  • And when you can’t get the right broker, make friends with top journalists. They can provide you all the access you want. Sometimes foolishly, out of some mistaken sense of self importance. Most times because the journalists themselves are in queue for some return favours from the person in office. They are the new part time brokers.
  • You may be the most brilliant guy around but becoming an entrepreneur in India is not easy. It’s the same bunch of guys (and their cronies and benamis) who get all the licences and permits, and all the accolades in the media for successfully navigating their businesses through the turbulent waters of corruption and ineptitude. So catch on to a coat tail, guys.
  • We have left the Age of Immaculate Reputations way behind, be it in politics or in business. There are brilliant crooks. There are those who hang on to brilliant crooks. And there are those who hire brilliant crooks to get their dirty work done for them so that they can wring their hands in despair and bemoan the corruption all around.
  • You will always find enough clever people to suggest that new laws and regulations should be framed to make businesses run by crooks legit. You will also find there are people around who can coin the right title for the business to sound legit as well. So a robber becomes a seeker of social justice and a pimp, a campaigner for alternative rights.
  • There’s nothing wrong that some smart bureaucrat can’t explain away as perfectly legal. In fact, most of our laws are constructed in a way such that what’s wrong can always be proved right and what’s right can always be proved wrong. The few laws that are not so ambivalent are being changed by the same clever bureaucrats to make them so.
  • There’s nothing much you can do to punish a venal politician or a corrupt Government officer apart from removing them from their current lucrative jobs so that they can walk into the sunset, sip champagne on the French Riviera and live la dolce vita of the idle rich while new rascals grab their job to loot you and me all over again.
  • To run a stable Government, you must be deaf, dumb and blind, all at the same time. If you are not corrupt yourself, that’s a plus for the job because then the media can always absolve you of any criminal intent and blame your colleagues instead. You too can occasionally join the blame game and point fingers at everyone around you. It’s quite fun actually.
  • Even though the media may call you corrupt and blame you for all that’s wrong with the world, remember it loves the bad. It’s the bad that gets their TRPs soaring. So it’s no use doing good stuff to change India, make it a better place for all of us because no media will ever report it. It took Mother Teresa fifty years to be famous. It took Dawood Ibrahim three. Raja was famous in a fortnight.
  • When in the Opposition, look stupid and keep screaming at such a loud pitch that no one can hear what you are saying. If they can, they will point out that you did much worse when you were in power yourself. So just be very noisy. Don’t allow yourself to be deciphered. Old crimes will crawl out of the past and knock you off your moral perch.
  • There are no lessons learnt. Ever. No one has asked who taped these private phone chats, and with whose permission. Everyone’s so busy settling political scores that they have missed the real point. That people in Government will one day tap into your conversations and listen to them is the scariest scenario writers like Orwell once dreamt of. Today it’s an everyday reality.



35 Responses to “Lessons from Radiagate…by Pritish Nandy”

  1. Dear Mr. Nandy and Sharmila,

    India is still a country where anti-culture movements are cinematic entertainment. India is not the US where all punks are jews but all jews are not punks.

    1. We have entered the venture capitalist era somewhere in the late nineties. Before that, every businessman and enterprenuer was made by the government. Rahul Bajaj is a prime example. Tatas and Birlas were made by Appointment of His/Her Majesty in buck-in-ham.

    2. Dhirubai Ambani was among the first who found a way to break into the cordon. He chose to sell shares to anyone and everyone in the government and the media. No one could refuse him because the country’s development could not be deferred further.

    3. Politicians want to rule. Making money and supervising economic activity is not their expertise – these are assisted operations. The primary objective is to rule and, in India, to rule is to preside over private fiefdoms. This may sound medieval but that’s what it is. We are trying to leap frog from feudalism to lasse faire capitalism in one generation.

    4. Did you notice that for all the anti-semitic rhetoric of religious politics, the BJP president, Nitin Gadkari is right now in Israel attending a conference while Sonia Gandhi is shrieking about BJP’s Communalism in the INC plenary?

    5. Will the bitching media stand and stare if Barkha Dutt is sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for 7 years under IPC 120?

    6. The government must stop breeding industrialists. But how?

    7. Gazettes and executive orders should not be allowed to undermine constitutional rights. But how?

    8. If you are preparing a case in favor of a benevolent dictatorships, please consider that they are still dictatorships with an appealing mask. We cannot have our cake and eat it too. Parliamentary Democracy should not be trivialized even in humor.

    9. The opposition party members are an opposition only in the parliament. Anyone who knows anything about politics knows that. On the ground all the loot is shared by both. No ruling party member can perform without giving a piece of the cake to the opposition. The political opposition is not about the action on the ground. It’s about whose fiefdom rules the domain.

    There are serious problems in our country and we know all about it thanks to BBC and the church of England.

    But, as an Indian and a Rajya Sabha member, no one is in a better position than you are to suggest a better way forward. You are close to all of them including the President of India.

    • Reader,
      I see no no importance of the fact that…who is close to whom…when it comes to a drastic change.
      When the problem is deep rooted and infested with mites…then what are the options..!?
      If not your generation or previous generation could do anything about it…do you think new generation would and could be a successful to overturn everything…!? I don’t think so…
      Who gets more benefit out of RadiaGate…!? The competitors of 2G….or those who lost the bid and deprived of the benefits winners would get…might be behind the leakage….
      Sometimes such leaks are purposeful and with vested interests of many…
      Is this a political War or a Corporate War…!?
      Poor common man has nothing to do with it…and for him there is no gain whatsoever out of this entire ho hum….only onion (soaring price) is sufficient enough to bring Tears in His Eyes…. 🙂

      • MonaLisa,

        Drastic change will not come from those who are benefitting from the system. Radia’s gate may be wide open but it will not change the corrupted administration. None of the current scams and scandals can overhaul the system. The next election is 3 years far.

        2G is an outdated technology. The world is in 3G and 3.5G. The tenders for the 3G bids are in the DoT ready to be floated. I am using 3.5G right now in ME.

        So the Corporates are already working on the next battle. 2G is not a Corporate war anymore.

        Right now as we discuss this, there are 50,000 homeless families sleeping on the pavememnts and streets of Delhi in sub-zero centigrade temperatures. The city is freezing cold. Food grains worth INR 25 billions were smuggled out of the country by government officcers. A Raja ripped off INR 17 billion. Kalmadi and the Delhi CM siphoned off INR 3.5 billions.

        The poor, in India, are powerless. They are not even voters.

        This system cannot empower them. This system is designed to collapse.

        On a lighter note, I’d repeat the same thing that I read as a joke. We pay taxes so that our favorite filmstars do not leave the country and settle in England.

      • Reader,
        That’s what my point is….! Everyone needs a change…no one knows how…!

        The tree has groomed from generation to generation on large scale and the roots are so deep…that to uproot it is a humongous Task…

        The platoon of beneficiaries is so big monetarily and powerful that ..though not very large in number ..yet can rule for centuries like Brits..

        This so called Democracy is only on paper…its more like Bureaucracy….and to overhaul or eradicate them is quite next to impossible it seem right now….

        When we talk about drastic change…its not necessary whom do you know or whom do we sit with and bed with….
        They all will kick you out of their circle…and you see the devastating chain reaction against you…who has that guts to be The martyr and gather the masses to fight against it….nothing comes for free…who is ready to pay the price for it…even if you find some…would they survive and succeed against the peck of wolves…and vultures…!? I doubt it…! Even Mahatma Gandhi wouldn’t….(He couldn’t even in his own time fight against corruption prevailed in Congress then…or else….Nehru wouldn’t have been 1st PM of India)

        So when the base is crooked(corrupt)…to expect the Building to be straight is too much to ask for…

        Not 2G but 3G is also kind of obsolete…we have 4G in here….
        If there is nothing to gain politically or otherwise…why are they cribbing about it now..?!

        There can always be mid term poll….if wind is blowing against opposition and in favor of ruling party…then why not…!?

        What everyone sees is just the surface…whether wiki leaks or 2G spectrum gate…

        The biggest curse on this face of earth is to be Poor….everything aligns properly…according to ones wish if pockets are deep enough…

        What difference does it make if some XYZ film star settle somewhere else..!? Bollywood is not above all but is the part of this corrupt system …a link of that dubious chain..i

        50000 ppl sleeping on roadside in sub zero temp is a classic example of socio economic gape and ruthlessness of the mankind…

  2. Here is what I mean:

    If you have followed the whistle blower website WikiLeaks so far, there is not a single disclosure about the activities of Israel, both in Israel or Israelis in the US or anywhere else.

    Is that just a coincidence or a simple evidence of living up to one’s beliefs?

    Why do we downgrade and scorn our own culture to appear fair?

    • And note that they rule with a firm hand not mushy missionary stuff. For instance, their response to the Munich episode will never be forgotten. Every anti-semitic generation will be reminded of the consequences through TV and documentaries.

  3. The reason I bring up the Wikileaks is that the Radiagate investigation is following the same lines except that in our case the Congress is calling the shots.

    If Niira Radia is prosecuted for spying and anti-national industrial or other espionage (wich is the case being investigated) then Barkha Dutt may be tried for collusion and conspiracy. Barkha is known to be close to the Sonio family and Prannoy Roy is close to the CPI. So nothing to be alarmed. Except that if she takes one false step in the next few months the buck will stop at her!

    Thats something similar to what the US government is trying to draft against Julian Assange.

    Adrian Lamo, an ex-hacker, spilled the beans on Private Bradley Manning who extracted Military classified documents. Manning was chatting online with Assange when the stuff was being downleaded. Now the federal prosecutors are doing their best to frame Assange in the anti-spyware law and for collusion in a conspiracy against the nation.

    This may not be as captivating as the Clinton-Monica Star-war, but it certainly has the potential of a block-buster. We know that the white house has taken a big risk in trying to ride a black stallion. They are finding it difficult to remain in the saddle!

    Ditto Sonia Gandhi and Co in India as a new scam and scandal breaks out every day.

  4. Here is a challenge:

    Can the media lead a people’s rights campaign sans politics? Does anyone there have the courage to say that human rights is not a political issue?

    Will the media come forward and speak for the people? We are not interested in whose consorts they are.

    There is a law about execution of a convict who is sentenced to death. The convict has to be certified ‘fit’ by an approved medical practitioner prior to execution. Which means a convict is not hanged if he is ill or undergoing some medical teratment. He has to be fit to be hanged!

    Our system and constitution have been convicted beyond all reasonable doubts.

    Will the media please declare it ‘fit’ to be hanged? Or do we have to wait till it conceals its maladies?

    What a pathetic point we have reached:

    Look at the list of slips that are now made on public platforms and not questioned by anyone (Currently by the Congress in its annual plenary session):

    Manmohan Singh: Government “Business”

    Is governance a “Business”, Mr. Elizabeth? (He called himself Caesers wife today!)

    Sonia Gandhi: Some Congressmen are not happy with the returns they are getting from their social work.

    Did Sonia Gandhi mean that the disappointed congressmen are those who didn’t make money in the last few scams?

    Rahul Gandhi: The “Common Man” is one who is not connected with the system.

    Did anyone consult the “Common Man” before making the system? Whose system are we talking about? Will someone ask the Minister of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Mr. Jairam Ramesh, if the common man is aware of his system of hidden agenda? I call it The Congress party’s Ministry of Extortion and Fibbing affairs. (MoEF)

  5. Reader – Great set of arguments here. I was however under the impression that cables from Israel’s embassy in the US was leaked??? Parliamentary democracy is wonderful in theory but somehow fails miserably in a country like ours where every goon is elected and plunders and loots. I do not see any option we as a nation have. One party is as bad as the other. The day we have a Narayan Murthy or the likes of him from the corporate world run the country ( like a corporate ), there may be a marginal difference. Even this would be experimental politics. Why is it so hard to create a Kalam or a Murthy? Children are the key. If the next generation is not structured to realize what this country needs, we will always remain in a whirlpool.

    • Tatas Narayan Murthys in the parliament will make or parliament like the American Senate of industrialists. We’ll become a faithless country of performing flea like the US.

      I am not sure it is a good model. But surely worth a thought. It’s the best there is today. Definitely better than ethnic Europe or sham constitutional democracy of the Queen-dom of England.

      • Correction: first line… our parliament not or..

      • It’s a bad idea to appoint or elect Industrialist,actors,sportsmen into the parliament….
        Some would be useless and others would act like leeches…
        popularity is not and should not be the barometer of eligibility…in any case….

      • I do not endorse Bollywood here, I speak of people who are proven leaders in their field.

  6. I think it is time to think and act differently. We need the educated lot, the thinking lot to view politics as a career option.

    • Sharmila,

      We are at a cross-road.

      In my opinion, social service or political representation or law making is not a career. Anyone who expects a Return on Investment should not be a law maker.

      • I dont expect a career option to always be a ROI, what ROIs do Teachers and Doctors expect when they take to their careers? Politics must be viewed as a nobel profession.

      • Sharmila,
        There is nothing Noble about any profession anymore…everything is a business…corporate owned business…

      • But there are exceptions. My teachers from school and college still teach in the same institutions, they have barely received a pay hike in the last few years, they drive the same two wheelers, they live in the same houses, they lead the same life. In fact, on a an average ( and certainly not all ) the teaching and the medical profession is still nobel. Yes there is increasing corporate influence, but there are some good people with good intentions left in this world.

    • Most of the Congress ministers are professionals and highly educated. But they are very inept social servants. They are CEO of their portfolios running a profit center for themselves and their party.

      Your suggestion will surely work when the basic literacy levels reach the grass roots. It might be too late by then.

      I would love to see a country held together by one single principle – Indian-ness.

      But thats a Quixotic dream.

  7. News Live:


    Food Prices surging in metros. Battle royal to control onion prices in Delhi. Home grown rotten onions being sold on the street at US$ 2 for a 1000 gms. Another exports scam in the making. Government officially prohibits onion exports.


    Union government has proposed to the President to change its name to Onion Government.

  8. 🙂 Onion Gov. sounds far better….!

  9. Muraliraja Says:

    Reader, Sharmila & Monolisa,
    As Israel came under discussion I am referring this example. I have been to Israel, stayed there for a week. It’s a memorable trip. That country has inspired me to a greater extent. It made me change my perspective about my own country.
    Israel is built brick by brick by their citizens.
    Israelis have a sense of responsibility. They feel countries development is their collective responsibility. Every Israeli I spoke is proud of their country. Starting from following traffic rules to paying income tax, they consider it has their duty. And when their government heads in the wrong direction they never fails to question them or bring them down. Most of all they respect fellow citizen which I hardly find in our country.
    When the citizen has no self respect for him or respect for his fellow citizen, how can that country grow?
    With respect comes unity. With unity comes power. With power comes growth. Power to raise; Power to question; Power to fight;

    Unfortunately, selfishness thrives here.
    I find more people discuss about our countries plight online & less people on road to fight for the right. How many of us used RTI? How many of us went to villages & created awareness about RTI or any other government scheme or facility?
    Have any media house reached out to under privileged or rural citizens of our country & created awareness of government schemes,rules,opportunity etc. Does any kind of empowerment happened?
    Without awareness, without empowerment were is the question of growth, proper living conditions, peaceful life etc.
    Unless our citizens have self respect & respect for others, nothing is going to drastically change except prices of common items & wealth of politicians & business magnets!
    I like to quote Walt Disney here “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
    Hope someday every citizen(or atleast 1/4th) of this nation understands this & start working for for a truly !ncredible !ndia.

    • Well said Murali. Israel is a model state.A large amount of the patriotism in Israel comes from the compulsory induction of the young men in the army and service for a few years. This is something which should be considered in India. I would love to see every family send one person to the forces. This way netas, industrialists, bollywood stars, cricket players, the nameless and the faceless well and truly have a sense of patriotism rather than faking it.

  10. Muraliraja,

    I believe for every one of us who has an access to the net and is able to voice and share opinions, there are at least 10 million Indians who feel the same but cannot reach out.

    You are absolutely right about Israel.

    Even if we discount the Israeli people’s cohesion and harmony for size and numbers, their superb efficiency is evident in steering the governance of the world’s only superpower – the US! Within a mere 100 years they have transformed from small traders in New York and Chicago to policy makers in the White House!

    If we could develop that order even if only within our own boundaries we would be a more peaceful and greater nation!

    • A serious option to get India on the right path would be to go the Israel way. Israel is a model state.A large amount of the patriotism in Israel comes from the compulsory induction of the young men in the army and service for a few years. This is something which should be considered in India. I would love to see every family send one person to the forces. This way netas, industrialists, bollywood stars, cricket players, the nameless and the faceless well and truly have a sense of patriotism rather than faking it.

  11. Sharmila, MonaLisa, Muraliraja,

    History is a great teacher. I agree we must learn from their success.

    Our model, however, has to be custom built to our needs.

    The Israelis have the longest and consistent history of civil wars and ethnic cleansing – from the days when Moses had to evacuate his people to the days of Constantine to the second world war.

    They are the world’s most racist community ever known. No one can match their prowess in spreading racist divisions.

    We do not need that punk-culture in our society. What we need more is the devotion to science, technology and social commitment to well-being.

    For example, Wikileaks have had two consistent campiagns on their agenda since its launch: 1. Anti-war; 2. Anti-corruption.

    This is admirable considering that most retired Mossad operators become arms dealers!

    Lets customize the campaigns for ourselves and discard the dealership part!

  12. News Analysis:

    The entire cabinet of the Congress party in the central government are a bunch of liars including Manmohan Singh.

    Here is an example: How much did food prices rise in the market last month? over 50%…!

    While here is the official figures released by the government:

    1. Food Price Inflation has reduced from 15.7% in March to 6.1% in November ’10.

    2. Wholesale Price Index has reduced from 8.8% in August to 7.5% in November ’10.

    They expect us to believe this?

    This is where the slip shows Mr. Eliza Doolittle aka Caesers wife…. While you claimed that stuff above you instructed the RBI to reduce SLR from 25% to 24% releasing INR 4.8 billion cash in the market! Why do we need more cash in the market?

    Obviously Mammo Eliza, Montek SMS and Daddu Mukerjee had seen this onion coming!

    Then why are such ridiculous (fake) figures released officially through national economic newspapers?

  13. Muraliraja Says:

    Sharmila, MonaLisa & Reader,
    I agree our model has to be custom made for our needs & aspirations.
    Our population & landscape is entirely different from theirs.
    So obviously we need to adapt a different model.
    But what we should understand & believe is that it is possible to be in top no matter what the situation is. (when it is possible for a nation with population less than 1% of our country population)

    The way our politicians,corporates & fellow citizens take care of me gives less hope. Petrol, Onion…..soon LPG & diesel. Then everyone from road side vendor to 5 star hotel will hike price. The only place I don’t see a hike is in my salary slip. Guess I should run fast to earn my bread.

    • Muraliraja,

      It is really a testing period for those who invested in the education provided by the system in the hope that the system would cater for their needs.

      I firmly believe that only a person who is completely in his/her comfort zone can be motivated to do anything more than what is required for survival.

      No one can over-throw a system when they are not even equipped to help themsleves. I believe Sharmila said the same thing a few days ago.

      This is where Obama and Osama both enjoy an advantage.

      A very long long time ago Parashurama did the same in Kerala. He created the sadaka, the chatta and the thia cults!!!

    • Yep, we shall all have to run fast to earn onions.. 🙂

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