By Sagarika Mitra:
Another tryst with corruption, another instance which makes a mockery of justice and one of the other occasions where democracy remains a silent spectator to corrupt practices, which ironically has come a long way to become the backbone of an unstable economy. The 2G spectrum scam seems to have been opening various angles to a story that involves corporate honchos, journalists who are household names, politicians and finally lobbyists who are mere puppets in the hands of their employers.
Who would have ever thought that a leading industrialist would have vested interests in reserving berths for a particular politician? Who would have ever thought that journalists play an immensely important role in not only disseminating information but also manipulating it in the favour of a few? Also, who would have thought that a lobbyist had the authority to act as a broker of power that connected all these self assumed pseudo power brokers?
All this started when 2G licences were issued to private telecom operators at throw away prices in 2008. This not only led to the probe of the entire scam but also brought into public domain a few shocking revelations. Former telecom minister, A. Raja, very conveniently over looked all the recommendations of TRAI, finance ministry, the law ministry and flouted all the rules. Licenses were issued on first come first serve basis. No proper auction method was followed and a few companies like Unitech and Swan got the licences without any prior telecom experience. Reports also suggest that the cut-off dates for the applications advanced by a week and the entry fee for the licences in 2008 pegged at 2001 prices. The government incurred an estimated loss of 1.76 crores on account of the scam which holds potential of destabilising roots of the ruling party.
Another angle which interrelated with this issue shook the basis of ethics in journalism as it brought in the forefront the involvement of top journalists in manipulating reservation of cabinet berths in the parliament. This triggered off when a few tapes were leaked into the public domain. The infamous tapes came to be known as the Radia Tapes as they held transcripts of conversations of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia with her employer, journalists and many politicians.
A name that gained overnight fame for all the wrong reasons — Nira Radia became a question mark. Suddenly everyone was talking about her, people wanted to know more about her and the reason that made her so powerful?
She is the PR for big names like RELIANCE INDUSTRIES and TATA. Her involvement in the allocation of spectrum was established when the transcripts of her telephonic conversations with Ratan Tata and many others were leaked into the media. A few magazines even published the conversations which clearly suggested that she voraciously lobbied for A. Raja.
In the year 2007, finance ministry got complaints that Niira Radia has made around 300 crores in just a short span of nine years. Not only this, she was suspected to be an agent of foreign intelligence agencies.
So, Directorate-General of Income Tax (Investigation) ordered to record Niira Radia’s conversations following a complaint received by the Finance Minister on November 16, 2007. More than 5800 conversations are now with Supreme courts custody.
These conversations suggested her involvement in the spectrum scam in a very big way. The other angles that came with the revelations, as mentioned earlier, shook the basis of journalistic ethics. They came as a proof of degeneration in a profession which was once considered a noble calling. The ugly truth was successfully brought out and the stench which enveloped the system came out in the open, hurling accusations at the unauthoritative way of governance. They established a clear give-and-take relationship between those in power, those who made full use of the power and the middle men who ‘Yes Sir-ed’ very dutifully.
Then came another angle which spoke of breach of privacy, when Ratan Tata moved the Supreme Court in order to protect his right to privacy. He demanded that further publication of the transcripts should stop immediately and also urged the court to find out who leaked the tapes in the media.
The entire scam which made headlines over the past few months came to be an amalgamation of corruption, misuse of power and shattered ethics.