Former editor of the formidable Economic & Political Weekly, Paranjoy Guhathakurta, has been busy collecting material on the Adani Group. Bhasha Singh spoke to him on crony capitalism and the current government’s policy changes to favour certain corporate groups.
What have been the other policy changes that may have favoured particular corporate groups?
Whenever Governments have brought in changes in policies, some corporate groups have benefitted more than the others. Rules, for example, were tweaked in relation to power projects in Special Economic Zones. They benefitted the Adani Group.
Would you say that instances of crony capitalism and corruption have increased in the last four years?
In 2014 Modi-ji had said, Na khaoonga, na khane doonga. We have, however, seen several individuals or firms. I can off-hand give you four to five examples. Amit Shah’s son’s businesses multiplied 16,000 times in just a few less years.
Lalit Modi’s company bought shares of a company controlled by Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s son at a price that was over 9,000 times the face value of the shares. Union Minister Piyush Goyal and his wife started a company, which was later bought by the Piramal Group and they got a lot of money for it. It is not a crime for people and ministers to make money. I am not even bringing in Chanda Kochhar’s family in this discussion or, for that matter, Gujarati diamond merchants Nirav Modi or Mehul Choksi.
An office of the Income Tax Department caught fire recently in Mumbai; it could, of course, be the result of an accident. But there are some who hold the view that some very important documents were destroyed in the blaze. The way Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya flew out of the country… Gautam Adani’s elder brother has matrimonial relationship with Jatin Mehta of Winsome Diamonds. He too is no longer a citizen of India. Now Winsome Group has huge dues, loans that have not been paid to banks. Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi took the money of Punjab National Bank and went away, didn’t they? The PNB is the second-largest government-owned bank in India.
Modi claims that nothing like the 2G or CWG scams have happened in his tenure! But I have just given you a few examples of sweetheart deals.
But why is the media silent and why is there is little talk in public?
You give me the answer. I don’t know why there is so little noise these deals. A large section of the media is probably silent because it believes there are more important issues to be discussed and debated.
Is there any pressure from abroad or the involvement of multinational corporations?
One of the world’s biggest shipping companies has an association with the Adani Group. This is the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC). The headquarters of the MSC are located in Switzerland. While this company may benefit because of the change in the Government of India’s shipping policy, the question I am raising is why is there so little scrutiny or oversight about this important policy change.