Though the governments – whether at the Centre or in the State – have been claiming that wiping out corruption is one issue on the top of their agenda, there are enough indications that corruption has been going on at various levels. One news-item on the front page of this newspaper on Saturday has loudly stated that of the 72 absconding economic offenders in the country, the government has managed to bring only two – yes, only two – in the past six years. This revelation has been made by the government in response to an RTI query made by a Mumbai-based citizen. It was in February this year, S P Shukla, Minister of State for Finance, had informed Lok Sabha that as many as 72 persons charged with frauds or economic offences and irregularities had fled from the country, and that efforts were being made to apprehend them and bring them back to the country. Prior to that, in January 2019, the government had stated that there were 27 businessmen charged with committing economic offences, including default in loan repayments since 2015 who had fled the country to avert arrest. Based on these two information Mumbai-based citizen Jeetendra Ghadge filed an RTI application seeking to know how many of these offenders or scamsters had been actually apprehended and brought back to the country. What the petitioner was informed in the reply is that only two of them had been actually brought back to India, and the remaining persons are all at large.
These absconders include the likes of Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya, Mehul Choksy, Sanjay Kalra, Neeshal Modi, Dipti Chetankumar, Umesh Parekh, Ashish Jobanputra, Hitesh Patel, Rajiv Goyal, to name a few. What is disgusting is that the government has not been able to catch the huge majority of these economic offenders despite issuing Look-out Circulars, Red Corner notices and what not. What the common man will surmise is that either the Look-out Circulars and Red Corner notices are themselves useless pieces of government orders, or that officers who are supposed to act on the basis of these orders are inefficient and hopeless, or may be even hand-in-glove with the culprits. Once in a while there are news items which appear to suggest that some of these offenders are high-profile operators who have close links with higher-ups in the corridors of power, which help them remain at a safe distance from the tentacles of the law. While the above-mentioned persons are economic offenders of the highest order, someone should find out how many offenders of various categories, and how many people connected with the series of scandals which have rocked Assam in the past 10 to 15 years and are wanted under provisions of various laws have remained absconding so far. The APSC scandal, the police officers recruitment scandal, the various scandals in the Social Welfare, Education, PWD and other departments – there are countless numbers of scandals and irregularities which have taken place in Assam where investigations and trials have not reached their logical ends.
And then there are quite a sizeable number of incidents/cases or complaints of land-grabbing particularly in Guwahati city, many of them reportedly involving names of police officers big and small. Names of at least two former DGPs of Assam had got entangled in two different scandals, one involving a fraud financial company, the other involving a case of land grabbing. Unfortunately, one DGP committee suicide, while the other died of some illness. And then there are frauds apparently happening in the Board of Secondary Education and even in one university where insiders allegedly provides duplicate marksheets with increased marks in lieu of huge sums of money. Most such incidents go unreported for obvious reasons. But one simple RTI query costing only ten rupees will probably reveal the number of many such scandals and frauds going on in Assam. Political leaders – the majority of whom are inefficient as far as public service is concerned – will not get into such activities. Even leaders of the numerous student bodies are not interested in contributing towards eliminating corruption; rather majority of them seem to be willing to become part of it. The so-called intellectuals are not known to have shown any inclination directed towards eliminating corruption. But one RTI application by a patriotic and courageous citizen can set the ball in motion the way Jeetendra Ghadge of Mumbai has done.