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Will the route of Koda's loot be dealt with?

By TVR Shenoy
November 11, 2009 11:26 IST
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Madhu Koda's political career may be in rout but neither the root of the evil nor the route of the loot has been dealt with.

It may be a tenet of law that Koda is innocent until his guilt is proved beyond reasonable doubt but he already stands condemned in the court of public opinion. So much so that the despondent former chief minister of Jharkhand has already told his followers that he is nominating his wife, Geeta Biruli Koda, from Jagannathpur. (Polling starts for a fresh Jharkhand Vidhan Sabha on November 25.)

But I would like to invite the reader to set aside the blaring headlines about the Rs 4,000 crore (Rs 40 billion) worth of assets allegedly accumulated by Madhu Koda, and instead turn the spotlight on the 'root' and the 'route' I wrote of above.

The 'root' I refer to is the question of how Madhu Koda came into possession of all that money. People are now talking about officers who paid money to get money for transfers. That is possible but is it really the whole story?

Jharkhand is a poor state but it possesses a wealth of mineral resources. It would be rational to assume that there are a lot of barons in the background who would be willing to open their purses in exchange for concessions. And it is this -- the willingness, even the eagerness -- of a section of businessmen to offer inducements that is at the root of the Koda scandal. And so, obviously, nobody wants even to talk about it much less take action to stop the rot.

If Rs 4,000 crore was accepted by Madhu Koda and his associates, then, it is logical to assume that some people expected to make ten times that amount by way of profit. (I speak of 10 per cent but that may well be a conservative estimate; the money could be as little as one per cent of the potential windfall.) But have you heard of anyone speculating as to the identity of the individuals or entities that paid that obscene sum of money to the former chief minister?

Let us now come to the 'route' that I spoke of. The fact is that most of us would be completely flabbergasted if presented with such an obscene sum of cold hard cash. Barring television and the movies I have never actually seen even one crore rupees in one place.

Madhu Koda, I suspect, was as at as much of a loss when it came to actually handling vast sums. He is a relative newcomer to politics, found himself in a chief minister's chair despite being an independent MLA, and had people thrusting money in trade for his signature.

When did Madhu Koda realise that there are time-tested routes for channelling money, and who introduced him to them? There is a vast network that grew up in the 'Licence-Permit-Quota Raj' to route black money into profitable avenues. Nobody wants to talk about them because there is little or no evidence that can stand up in a court of law yet everybody suspects it is true.

How many Indians have even heard of Liberia, in which nation Madhu Koda reputedly spent almost two million dollars to acquire a coal mine? Which continent is it in, and is it landlocked or does it have a sea coast? There was someone out there who was prepared to tell Madhu Koda that Liberia presented a great opportunity. Who was it?

There is talk of purchases of property in other nations too. Let us be honest, what does the average Indian know about the thicket of regulations about foreign investments in, say, Thailand? Or in South Africa?

If there were people willing to offer bribes worth crores of rupees there were definitely other people who were willing to stand behind Madhu Koda's shoulder, offering hints about investing all those rupees. Who were they? Why is nobody willing to talk about them, and in such a hurry to put all the blame on Koda?

By all accounts the tax authorities have enough on Madhu Koda to rupture his political career. (For some time anyway, it is foolish to write him off for good given the state of Indian politics!) But what difference does it make in the larger context?

India needs to increase governmental transparency and decrease ministerial discretion to prevent any more Madhu Koda episodes. But we all know that is not going to happen any time soon. There are just far too many people around with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

The 'root' and the 'route' alike are going to be with India for many years to come. And there is not a thing that the average citizen can do about it.

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TVR Shenoy