When the UPA Government was in power, the media did its job of extensively reporting on scams that happened on the Government’s watch – especially those scams which highlighted crony capitalist relations between the ruling party and certain corporates. In the past four years however, huge scams and instances of crony capitalism involving key leaders of the ruling BJP have received scant attention from most of the media. It is easy for people to forget such scams, as a result of this. This is why Liberation is introducing a regular ‘Scam Watch’ section – reminding its readers of scams which our newspapers and TV channels may not be telling us about. We have already covered the NPA scam, including the loot of banks by Nirav Modi and Mallya, in previous issues. Beginning this month, we will publish reports and updates on the latest news on scams in Modi rule.
An investigative report by Aruna Chandrasekhar in Scroll.in on a 1,600 megawatts coal-fired thermal power project in Godda, Jharkhand of Adani Power Limited has shown how “Government documents...show that Jharkhand has amended its energy policy in 2016 to allow the company to charge a higher price than what other thermal projects bill the state.” A BJP Government amending its energy policy to benefit a single company owned by Adani, a man known to fund Prime Minister Modi’s political campaigns is a copybook instance of crony capitalism.
The report says “A confidential government audit report, of which Scroll.in has a copy, calculates that the revised terms could cost the state an additional Rs 296.40 crore every year. Over the course of 25 years – the duration of Adani’s power purchase agreement with Bangladesh – Jharkhand could end up paying the company an additional Rs 7,410 crore.” This audit report by the office of the state accountant says that the agreement with Adani amounted to “preferential treatment” and would result in “undue benefits” to the company.
Moreover, the Jharkhand Government is violating laws protecting adivasi land, to grab land from villagers for the Adani project. According to the The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, a project must qualify for “public purpose” if a Government is to acquire land for it. Public purpose can only be decided through social impact assessment – which involves consultations with the affected people about costs and benefits. And even if a project qualifies as “public purpose”, the consent of 80% of the affected landowners is needed for land acquisition.
The Adani project will not provide power to Jharkhand or India at all – it can obviously not qualify as ‘public purpose.’ Residents of ten affected villagers told Scroll.in “they were forcibly kept out of the social impact assessment hearings and alleged that their land was fenced off by the company without their consent.” At the venue to these hearings, “the company’s agents controlled the entrance”. Champa Devi, who owns nine bighas of land in the village of Motiya, told Scroll.in, “They said it to us straight – will you give your land? We said no. They said we can’t let you in.” Baby Devi who owns nearly 100 bighas of land in the villages of Buxara, Petwi and Baliya Kitta said “When we went there, they said they are only allowing people with yellow and green cards – Adani ID cards they called them.” When one woman, Anita, managed to sneak in and demand how many of the participants in the hearing actually owned land, the administration began a lathicharge on those outside the venue who were demanding entrance.
The land acquisition is illegal for another reason too - because “Godda is part of the Santhal Parganas Division, which is governed by the Santhal Parganas Tenancy Act, which does not permit the transfer, lease or sale of agricultural land, barring a few exceptions.”
Note: This scam has international dimensions. Electricity from Adani’s Godda project will be sold to Bangladesh – and Bangladesh too will have to pay higher than the usual price for power. What is Adani’s coal source for the Godda project? “In March 2018, the chief executive of Adani Enterprises in Australia, Jeyakumar Janakaraj, announced that coal from its Carmichael mine in Queensland state, which is still facing roadblocks, would be used to produce electricity in the Godda project for Bangladesh.” The “roadblocks” are massive protests by Australians against a project that would devastate the Great Barrier Reef – the world’s largest coral reef system. And of course, importing coal from Australia is bound to prove hugely expensive for India. So – Modi’s sponsor and favourite Adani is facing protests in India, Bangladesh, and Australia alike, profiting from the destruction of environment and livelihood in all three countries. There is a need for protests in all three countries to make common cause with each other.
On 22 June, the IANS reported that “A district cooperative bank, which has BJP President Amit Shah as a director, netted the highest deposits among such banks of old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes that were abruptly demonetised on November 8, 2016, according to RTI replies received by a Mumbai activist” Manoranjan S Roy. The RTI replies were provided by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). The second highest deposits received were by the Rajkot District Cooperative Bank, whose chairman Jayeshbhai Vitthalbhai Radadiya is a cabinet minister in the BJP’s Gujarat government; this bank received Rs 693 crore withdrawn notes in the first five days. Remember, “All the district cooperative banks were banned from accepting deposits of the banned currency notes from the public after November 14, 2016 – five days after demonetisation – on fears that black money would be laundered through this route.” The IANS report added, “Incidentally, the figures of Ahmedabad-Rajkot DCCBs are much higher than the apex Gujarat State Cooperative Bank Ltd, which got deposits of a mere Rs 1.11 crore.”
If this news was not startling enough, what followed was certainly startling. News18 and Firstpost (owned by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries) and Times Now took down stories based on the IANS report, within a few hours of having published them, without giving any explanation for so doing! Economic Times did not take down its story, but edited it (again without any explanation) to get rid of any mention of Amit Shah! It seems that much of India’s media crawls before Shah and Modi, without even waiting to be asked to bend!
The NABARD has issued a clarification regarding the report, but has not denied the IANS report itself. In such a case, the clarification does not really explain why the Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank with Amit Shah as a director received what is no clearly a disproportionate amount of demonetised notes in the five days after the Note Ban announcement, and before District Cooperative Banks were banned from accepting such notes. The NABARD statement raises more questions than it answers. As a Twitter user @Neeraj_2018 observed, NABARD says that 98.66% accounts deposited less than Rs 2.5 lakhs in the bank in question. This means that approximately 1.58 lakh accounts deposited around Rs 395 Crore (considering each deposited Rs 2,49,999). So, does that mean that the remaining 2 lakh account holders deposited around Rs. 351 Cr?
ON June 18, 2018, the Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) in Mumbai questioned senior Goa BJP leader Vasudev Parab for more than six hours, in connection with a huge haul of drugs, including the ‘date rape drug’ Ketamine, recovered by the DRI in a raid on a factory owned by Parab. A ‘date rape drug’ is a drug used to drug women on social occasions without their knowledge, in order to rape them.
On June 20, PTI reported that “A huge quantity of heroin and party drugs worth around Rs. 40 crore were seized from the official residence of the chairman of Autonomous District Council (ADC) in Manipur's Chandel district” - Lunkhosei Zou, a BJP leader. A sum of Rs 13 lakh was also seized from the BJP leader’s house.
Now, just imagine for a minute that senior or elected leaders of any other party – the Congress, the RJD, the SP etc were to have been linked to such illegal drug trade scandals – the media would cover it non-stop, complete with ‘mirch-masala’ about party drugs and date rape drugs. But the BJP, linked to the Sangh Parivar whose morality-policing outfits habitually assault parties, pubs, or ice-cream parlours where young people are innocently having fun, has leaders deep into the shadowy trade of illegal and dangerous drugs, but much of the media has buried the story!
In his January 2018 interview to fawning Times Now anchors, PM Narendra Modi boasted that ““Maybe the people who live abroad and those people who keep travelling abroad, they will know the respect that the Indian passport carries today. I don’t think earlier anybody experienced the strength of the Indian passport.”
Well, scamster Nirav Modi is certainly enjoying a peculiar strength of the Indian passport under Narendra Modi’s rule. Despite India having revoked his passport, Nirav Modi is able to use the passport to travel around the world freely? What is the mystery behind this amazing power of the Indian passport? We still wait for the PM to explain it to us.