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Millennium Post

Of tapes, lies and business interests

The Supreme Court’s order asking the CBI to investigate a number of issues pertaining to the Niira Radia tapes is a welcome development. Already, the epicentre of the 2G telecom scam – the phone conversations between corporate lobbyist Radia with multiple personalities, such as industrialist Ratan Tata, eminent journalists and the then telecom minister A Raja – has only created muck storm in the media and public sphere, but haven’t been probed adequately. The apex court’s latest missive to the CBI, therefore, is well-timed, since the judges have categorically stated that they suspect ‘collusion between government officials and private enterprises.’ Evidently, the conversations pointed to the wide-ranging nexus between corporate interest groups and government offices, bureaucracy and other public bodies that indicated a ‘deep-rooted malice’ and ‘corrupt means being adopted by private parties to extract gains.’ Naturally, the SC bench has expressed deep reservation about the manner in which gigantic business houses are pulling the strings within the government, particularly Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd among others, thereby severely affecting the free and transparent run of the public offices within the country. Time and time again, crucial decisions pertaining to various industrial sectors of the country, have been reached after backroom negotiations keeping private profits in mind, rather than national interests.

In fact, the Radia tapes signified not just the collusion between government and the business sector, but also how the top media people too were neck-deep in the muck that is corruption in India. In the wake of the 2G scam revelations, several other cases of rampant corruption have come to the spotlight, particularly the coal block allocation scam and the AgustaWestland Choppergate. The culture of kickbacks, as personified by the likes of Niira Radia or the middlemen in the shocking defence deals, is hollowing out the administrative apparatus from inside out and clearly, this needs to be checked. The SC probe order into the Radia tapes, therefore, opens a window of opportunity for the much-maligned CBI to restore some of its lost credibility by ensuring a time-bound and uninfluenced investigation into the scam. The conversations that were recorded as part of surveillance into Radia’s income tax lapses blankly pointed that the lobbyist had built her business empire, worth a whopping Rs 300 crore, through unscrupulous means, pulling strings and affecting public sector decisions. It’s time, the case gets scrutiny from right quarters and the CBI must ensure that it does not succumb to external pressure once again.
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