Who will hang the pig head?

Published: Wed, 04/01/2009 - 09:03 Updated: Wed, 07/01/2015 - 07:22

Informed sources claim that he was forced to his death as he refused to submit to the unrelenting demands of some corporate houses for favours that they did not merit. The minister, too, was threatening the harassed official. Quite evidently, he could not handle this stress and took his own life

In February, 2009, a senior government bureaucrat jumped to death from his highrise office. The report of his suicide was tucked inside capital's daily newspapers. No one paid any attention to this incident as it was casually explained away as an outcome of depression and stress. Informed sources claim that he was forced to his death as he refused to submit to the unrelenting demands of some corporate houses for favours that they did not merit.

Sources have told me that the global slowdown had made many of these private companies so desperate that they wanted to get relief from a particular government department at all costs. The minister, too, in this case, was also coaxing and threatening the harassed official to do as he was told. Quite evidently, he could not handle this stress and took his own life.

Instances of pressure on government officials and bank managers from the cash-strapped companies have spiked in the last few months. Many officials are cracking up and some recent deaths of senior bureaucrats in harness (not suicides) are attributed to unreasonable demands being made on them by realtors, construction companies and trading houses. What is compounding their misery is the absence of any kind of support or protection from the government.

The message to many of the upright ones is very clear: submit and take a commission or your life could become miserable. Worse, there are sections within the ruling establishment who are in cahoots with many of these amoral businessmen and do not shy away from using their office to call up bankers or officers who can help their friends.

Recently, a senior officer of our financial establishment swung a Rs 1,000 crore credit line to a realtor whose land bank is replete with dubious deeds. Similar deals are being worked out between companies that are defaulting in their payments to banks and other financial institutions. Obviously, a lot of money is changing hands at different levels at a time when the country is in election mode. Worryingly, these deals are not constrained by the code of conduct of the
Election Commission.

Since the economy began to unravel a few months ago, some private companies have their eyes on the considerable cash reserves of the public sector banks, which seemed to have survived the slowdown due to tough regulation. Also, they have made enough hints at the government to allow them access to ample foreign exchange reserves of the Reserve Bank of India. In fact, the Tatas, which is reeling under $1 trillion debt due to its mindless acquisition of Corus steel plant and Jaguar, had written to the prime minister to consider this proposal.

Anil Ambani's Reliance, which has shopped a lot abroad for companies and assets, wanted a similar bailout. Their argument was that they would pay a lot more interest for these funds than what Indian government investments were getting in US treasuries or other banks. Indian corporates were paying interest to the tune of 15 per cent to take care of their short-
term needs.

Mercifully, Manmohan Singh did not bite this bait knowing the abysmal track record of many Indian companies when it came to servicing loans. In our country, only poor people and the middle class pay instalments of their loans on time.

The real fear is that if there is no stable and strong government at the Centre, then there is little guarantee who would safeguard national interests. Small parties representing predatory interests would compromise the integrity of the central government. Even when the UPA was in power, there were scores of instances where the government was seen succumbing to pressures from private capital.

Mercifully, the RBI governor, YV Reddy, stood his ground and did not allow new-fangled ideas to help free-market buccaneers. The most bizarre proposal was to use our foreign exchange reserves to create a New York-based fund with investor George Soros and park it in different US companies. The slowdown, surely, would have wiped off this fund.

Indeed, the next few months are critical for the stability of our economy. If politics becomes a handmaiden of corporate interests, then misery awaits ordinary Indians.

 

 

 

Editor of Delhi's Hardnews magazine and author of Bad Money Bad Politics- the untold story of Hawala scandal.

Read more stories by Sanjay Kapoor

This story is from print issue of HardNews