Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Corruption Within Our Apex Court

Prashant Bhushan has brought the goodies out in his supplementary affidavit! The ongoing contempt of court proceedings against Mr. Bhushan continues to be one of the most important court proceedings in lieu of public interest in a long-long time. Here is Mr. Bhushan's original affidavit, which in Jack's opinion was itself a historic document. And here is Mr. Shanti Bhushan's affidavit in support of his son. For the background to this, please turn to the Campaign for Judicial Accountability & Judicial Reforms.

Kachri Bai's 1944 FIR

Verrier Elwin and his Man Friday Shyam Rao Hivale had quite a romp while Elwin churned out 'seminal' writings on central India's indigenous people. The image here is of Kosi Bai, a Raj Gond, Elwin's second wife, who is still alive in Dindori. The muck-racking efforts of a few journalists like Raman Kripal have brought to light Kosi and some of the personal failures and exploits of Elwin. As Kripal's articles appeared after Ramachandra Guha's 'comprehensive' biography on Elwin, Guha was forced to respond. Guha's book does detail how Elwin came to shake-off the moral yoke of both the Church and Gandhi, and sheds light into the casual relationships both Elwin and Hivale entered into. Guha has said, 'the truth is rather more complicated.' The truth is that the truth is even more complicated than Guha understands it to be. There were a lot of simultaneous relationships going on. Elwin, the poet anthropologist, 'married to his typewriter', was far behind Hivale when it came to women. While Elwin's relationships have become subject to attention, Hivale's exploits, even more numerous, remain less known. This document is an FIR filed by one Kachri Bai in 1944, where she shows how she was used by Hivale (Chhote Bhaiya). The FIR does not show up in Guha's book and it provides a rather interesting peek into those productive times.
Kachri Bai FIR

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mamata for Didi?

Singh-ji's 'Will Didi Slay the Railway Demon' is spot on in its recommendations of how Railways can stop its procurement leak running over Rs. 50,000 crore in the last decade. Well, it is almost spot on. Singh-ji has made one error. It might be a strategic error, but it is an error nonetheless. His articles assume that the Minister herself wishes to clean up Railways. Big mistake. Didi is interested in only one thing. While it is true that it is bureaucrats that have eaten and continue to eat over 90% of the kickbacks involved in Railways procurement and operation, one cannot be so naive to think that her party has not begun to channel Railways booty into its party-fund for the greater glory of Bengal. By not attacking the Minister directly Singh-ji may have been able to get his news printed, but this has prevented the issues he has exposed from taking a political and thereby public turn. One must turn to a different kind of hack, Suresh Tripathi, not without his own problems, to understand what Singh does not say. Tripathi's writings in his publication Rail Samachar are an informative window into the inside world of Indian Railways. He shows the kind of officials Didi has used to get her Railways work done. Chairman Railway Board Vivek Sahai, enmeshed in recruitment corruption found no problem in becoming Didi's chosen one for CRB or take the continued existence of RDSO Director K.B.L. Mittal legendary for his own exploits. Tripathi also exposes what it is in Didi's management that led to the latest rounds of RRB scams. Bureaucrats are still ruling the roost in Railways gobbling up far more than they can digest. But, Didi is not clean, because her clean image is being used for a feast by both bureaucrats and her party fund collectors. So should there be mamata for Didi, Singh-ji?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Indian Media Wakes Up to Railways Corruption

News of the Great Railways Procurement Robbery has leaked. Will our plumbing job help the nation plug its Railways leak? NDTV belatedly followed The Statesman's initial and comprehensive break to release what it had been holding on to for weeks. The coverage by NDTV shows that since the scam volume is so big, Rs. 5,000 crore annually, they were unsure about it even while they were running the story. This explains why they held on for so long. No such problem for The Statesman, who went whole hog. Dainik Bhaskar then simply stole the NDTV article. The NDTV kicker was when they got Minister of State for Railways K.H. Muniappa to call the entire Railways procurement system 'transparent.' Gill fell off his chair in peals of laughter. I can still hear him giggling from some corner of the earth. Mr. Muniappa you have done a great service to the nation by your comments. You, in fact, do not know just how much you have helped. We salute your transparent transparence. For more coverage of the scam so far, click here, here, here, here, here, and here. Some more plumbing to do, I, Jack, have got to go. Scams away...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Baba Maharia & Chief Seattle

It happened in North America 2 centuries ago. It has accelerated for us in the past two decades. Catching up is India. We, of course, are speaking of the destruction of our central Indian indigenous communities. As promised we will continue to intersperse the colossal leaks behind our 'accelerating growth', with documents related to those communities that show a mirror to our environment and community compromising, centralized, and corrupt system. This document is like our own Chief Seattle or to be more accurate Chief Si'ahl speech. What the original Chief Si'ahl speech was, we will never know. But there are many doctored versions available to us. Likewise Baba Maharia, a Bhilala, whose father's name is Maharia, made a speech in the early 90's in Bhilali. What he spoke was documented and translated in English and Hindi. This is the Hindi version. He addressed his speech to the new Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Digvijay Singh, explaining his stand to drown in the Sardar Sarovar dam waters that would flood his village Jalsindhi. It is a speech that hits at many levels. The obvious mis-match between how a community is inextricably linked to its river-forest-gods which are not replaceable or monetizable. Resettlement plans have also no understanding of community labour, which even in simple economic terms makes a community far richer than the assets of its individuals. But, our economic system is of course built on devaluing certain kinds of labour and monetizing of natural resources, so that benefits always accrue upwards and true costs are never calculated.

How to Fix Yourself Crores in Railways

This document shows the corrupt modus-operandi used by firms to set themselves up as preferred suppliers. Pioneer Friction 4th-tier subsidiary of Pennsylvania based Wabtec, thought nothing of informing its parent company in 2005 about the huge bribes it had been paying to the Railway Board and other senior Railway officers. Wabtec, however, got scared of the provisions of the US anti-corruption FCPA law. To escape with a light punishment, Wabtec informed US law-enforcement agencies about the greasing of palms. In 2008, the US Department of Justice penalized Wabtec a sum of $675,000. This is the DOJ document, which also lays bare how those bribes were made. Pioneer Friction was subsequently banned by the Railway Board, but till today the officers who took bribes have not been named. Incidentally Pioneer Friction was one of the 7 companies listed in Indian Ambassador to US Meera Shankar's 2009 letter to PM Manmohan Singh for bribing Indian government officials. The list of parent companies involved includes (A. Manusinghvi, R. Tata, and M. Ahluwalia protected) Dow Chemicals. The CBI is 'investigating' the cases, so 'sincerely' that still no officers have been brought to book.
US DOJ Wabtec Penalty for Corruption Details
Banning of Pioneer Friction

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Railways Vigilance Wakes Up

It is institutionally near impossible for the Railways vigilance to defeat even one platoon in the army of Railways corruption, if senior officers are involved. The highest ranked vigilance officer is still subordinate to a Zonal Railways General Manager. And any serious investigation reports against senior officers, must still pass through the Railway Board on the way to the CVC. And, on the way back from the CVC, the file must again meet the Railway Board. This is why vigilance has had to sit tight and watch the big game in Railways continue to unfold. That said, this time vigilance appears to have found a new lease of life. The following document shows the ongoing massive investigation taking place right now. The purchase of 16 items over 5 years throughout the Railways is being investigated. Will it affect the greater game? Time and 'Didi' will tell.Investigation Into Procurement Corruption

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Day Railways Procurement Became Decentralised

About 10 years ago, it was decided by the minds that be that a significant portion of Railways procurement would be decentralized to Railways zones and Production units. The catch for the zones in particular was that suppliers would continue to be approved centrally, primarily by Lucknow-based Research Design & Standards Organization (RDSO). What resulted? The pre-fixed suppliers formed cartels, fixed prices, and fleeced the Railways, as they still do. They go from one zone to another hiking prices in tender bids in every purchase, claiming inflation or market conditions or providing no explanation at all as they are the only game in town given restricted competition. When the same zone would buy the same Railways part a year later, the price they would face from the lowest bidder would sometimes show as much as a 100% increase in a year. Poor CAG, they reported this occurence as best as they could within their limitations in 2006. But, no one in media or parliament even bothered about the resultant losses worth thousands of crores. The theft still continues in Railways in this fashion. This is the CAG report that speaks of this over-pricing in its own characteristically muted way.
CAG - Decentralization of Railway Procurement 2006(5)

Who Knows About Railways Corruption?

In short, everyone concerned. But, such is the structure of our national administration that no one is prepared to do anything about it. The following two documents are a part of intense criticism levelled in 2005 by the CVC, pushing Railways to change its approval system, which causes immense revenue losses amidst tremendous corruption. In the second document here, a Board advisor rightly labels the approval system as irrational and absurd and something that causes losses which he underestimates to be worth 'hundreds of crores'. He even mentions CVC's knowledge of the overwhelming corruption in quality inspections. So much for Railways safety. The beauty is that 5 years have passed since these discussions. So entrenched are negative forces in the Railway Board and RDSO that the system remains the same to this day. No Minister, even those who have been better administrators and less corrupt than others have been able to break the obduracy of the bureaucratic nexus.CVC About Problems in Approval System

Advisor Board About Corruption in Procurement System


When you step onto a Railway coach next time, remember that much of the grime laden upholstery and fittings that you see are worth their weight in gold, given the amount of money already spent on them over the years. The dirty floors you step on these days made some suppliers multi-millionaires. The latest form of this age-old racket is courtesy a letter issued under the mandate of ex-Member Mechanical R.K. Rao and ex-Finance Commissioner R. Sivadasan in February 2007. This letter gifted pre-fixed suppliers an approximate cost in some cases more than double the market rate for 7 items labeled 'fire-retardant'. The business has already run close to Rs. 1,500 crores in the last 3 years. Even after accounting for reasonable profits, the scam runs anywhere between Rs 500–1,000 crore. The items upgraded to allow for 100% over-pricing and huge kickbacks are flooring sheets, cushion fillings made from recron, seat covers, suspension washers, silent blocks, and brake gear bushes. This letter is an anomaly within Railways, as it shows that the estimates, usually never given like this, were not prepared independently through a costing analysis, but likely prepared by the suppliers themselves. This letter is itself an open admittance to the scam.

The Fire Retardant Railways Scam

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Aaloo had a Khansamah. Apart from cooking wonderful food, the Khansamah is believed to have charged 2 l's for arranging a meeting with the Potato. This is the route through which 3 suppliers, all agents of one multinational are believed to have got final approval for contracts to make a killing selling odour control systems for Railways toilets. For the past 5 years they have sold lakhs of smell dispensers as well as their fragrances to Railways at 10 times the cost at which these products are sold in London. In early 2010 Railways vigilance appear to have decided that enough money had been made by the bureaucrats and suppliers concerned. This is that document. When you visit a Railways toilet next time (try not to think of Jack and Gill) remember: the stink you generate, is big money - big & dirty.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Annual Corruption of Rs. 5,000 crore Statistics

This document, prepared by a serving officer shows statistics of the Railways procurement robbery. Even after underestimations, and not including the leaks taking place in the purchase of fuel, the figure arrived at is Rs 5,000 crore annually.
Stats - How Railways Loses Rs. 5,000 Crore Annually to Corruption


The Railways has been a cash-cow for decades. After the reign of C.K. Jaffer Sharief, it is not the Railway Ministers, but the top Railways Bureaucrats who have made the most money. Conservative estimates put the figure of revenue loss due to exorbitant over-pricing allowed to chosen corrupt suppliers at higher than Rs. 50,000 crores in the past decade. It is primarily at the the Railways Research & Standards Organization (RDSO), Lucknow, and in the Railway Board, New Delhi, that competition is closed, suppliers fixed, for suitcases of cash and brothels of prostitutes. This document (a letter + annexures), written by a senior serving procurement officer, provides a structural view into how this corruption takes place, and how, using conservative and educated estimates, a minimum of Rs. 5,000 crore leaks out to suppliers and for kickbacks to bureaucrats every year.
Railways Procurement Scam (Letter to Minister)

Railways Procurement Scam Annexure


Every community collectively creates something unique. The Savara in Orissa, for example, have a philosophically complex and outright beautiful cultural understanding of death. It adorns their paintings detailing an up-turned tree leading to the underworld and speaks through their shamans, who are women. The Savaras never die, ultimately their souls take the form of butterflies (see here). The Surma & Mursi in the L'Omo Valley in Africa have the most exquisite concept of instant body art. The beauty lies in using natural make-up to show one's creativity in an instant. And almost as soon as it is born it dies (see here). Mainstream Indians also have a unique gift to the world: Corruption. It is our art-form; it is our excrement; it is our cage. Everything we touch we smear and trap in our gift. It is grease that springs from our inequalities, strengthens them, and increases them. It is the most powerful - bureacrats-politicians-corporate honchos - who are the most corrupt; they make sure we remain a leaking nation. This space is dedicated to exposing those leaks, by itself leaking documents that make us better understand our own excremental art form, in all its pervasiveness, its uniqueness, its destructiveness. It is an initiative to plumb the depths of our ocean of corruption. This space is also dedicated to documents that show how our corrupt and unequal system is destroying older systems of knowledge, of freedom and equality and beauty that still exist in some pockets of our myriad tribal and nomadic communities.