The latest revelations, exposing union rail minister Pawan Bansal’s nephew being part of a bribery case involving lucrative promotions within the powerful Indian Railway Board, just feel like a rerun of the UPA government’s past sins. Vijay Singla, the son of Bansal’s late sister, has been taken into a four-day custody by the Central Bureau of Investigation (which itself had been accused of being a toothless organisation by the Supreme Court of India) for accepting a bribe of Rs 90 lakh from Mahesh Kumar, who was, until this shameful disclosure, a member of the railway board (staff). While the amount of the bribe taken pale before the hefty kickbacks that exchange hands in murky deals like those within defence, telecom or coal block allocations, nevertheless, the exposé hints at the much deeper and wider nexus of bribery and corruption that the UPA government had been weaving around itself, and that it presently finds itself trapped in. It is appalling that despite the unending string of disclosures on gigantic scams like 2G spectrum, Coalgate, CWG or Choppergate, the government still has the cheek to carry on unabated, showing no sign of remorse or guilt. The cesspool of scam-ridden political, bureaucratic and corporate matrix is getting bigger by the day, threatening to crush the very foundations of our parliamentary democracy.
With the CBI asserting that Singla was supposed to receive at least Rs 10 crore from Mahesh Kumar for facilitating a profitable professional elevation, several questions arise that demand immediate answers and thorough investigation into the matter. Although outwardly this seems to be a case of petty inducement for currying a personal favour, it is Singla’s proximity to union railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal to which the pointers move. Furthermore, one needs to ask what a lucrative promotion with India’s Railway Board, that is vested with powers to oversee and manage one the world’s top five railroad networks as well as one the biggest employers worldwide, with about 1.4 million people on its payroll, can do to one’s personal fortunes, if the bribe itself amounts to tens of crores of rupees. It is obvious that none of the decisions were taken without the rail minister’s tacit consent. In case, investigations prove that not been the case, the minister would be in a spot still, as he would be required to clarify how was it that such underhand transactions were happening without his knowledge in the first place. The Railway Board, with its massive areas of operations, including sub-fields such as mechanical, traffic, engineering, electrical, finances and staff, has its members among Class A civil service under the Union Public Service Commission, ironically a gateway to one of the biggest capital-extensive operations not only in the country, but globally as well. It is no surprise that railways would be an easy target for gold-diggers with political clouts.