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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 18, April 24, 2010

In the Interest of Transparency

Editorial

Saturday 24 April 2010, by SC

What was anticipated for quite sometime eventually happened with Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor tendering his resignation from the Union Council of Ministers on April 18 and the PM accepting it. Earlier on the same day Sunanda Pushkar, the business-woman friend of Tharoor based in Dubai, surrendered her Rs 70-crore ‘sweat equity’ in Rendezvous Sports World, the IPL franchisee for Kochi; this she did to save her friend and absolve Tharoor of the charge that he had unduly influenced the deal between her and Rendezvous. But by doing so she unwittingly undermined Tharoor’s own claim of innocence manifest in his assertion that he had only resorted to ‘arms-length mentoring’ of the Kochi franchisee with the purpose of popularising cricket in Kerala. That is because the Opposition interpreted the surrender as an ‘admission of guilt’.

In the meantime the two-member team probing Tharoor’s conduct in the episode (comprising Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Defence Minister A.K. Antony) revealed that, despite Tharoor’s protestations to the contrary, the reality was just the opposite: the MoS for External Affairs had actively negotiated the ‘sweat equity’ for Pushkar—he had in fact allegedly asked for 10 per cent for Pushkar while the deal was finally settled at five per cent—and so his professed non-involvement in the deal was a myth. In the light of this crucial revelation the Congress’ core committee reached the decision that Tharoor must quit and the latter obliged to spare the party leadership of further embarrassment (even though in his subsequent explanatory speech in Parliament the former MoS took the position that his resignation was prompted by his overriding consideration of enabling the government to concentrate on more pressing and urgent matters facing the nation—like price rise, Finance Bill etc.)

Now with Tharoor having stepped down from Ministership of the Union Government the stage has been set for a vigorous scrutiny into the affairs of the IPL currently driven by Commissioner Lalit Modi who triggered the latest controversy by making public the names of the shareholders in Rendezvous Sports World (which won the bid for Kochi) due to his spat with Tharoor. Modi has lately come under intense pressure to quit but he is holding on defiantly for the present. In the meantime raids have been and are being conducted across the country on those actively involved in the IPL. Incidentally NCP chief and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, heading the BCCI, has reversed his initial stand of backing Modi who finds himself isolated as of today.

In this context, what was editorially observed in The Times of India recently is of considerable relevance:

Cricket is a business enterprise in India and its patrons can’t any more justify their involvement in the management of the sport “purely for the love of the game”. The kind of love they are showering on the game could kill it. It’s better these patrons declare their business interests transparently…

Unless nurtured carefully, IPL stands to lose the gains it has made in the last three years. The fear that sleaze money and betting syndicates may capture the league is real. Cricket has been a victim of betting syndicates and match fixing in the past… A transparent system of fund-raising and decision-making must be put in place to ensure that the game is protected from carpetbaggers and dirty money.

Indeed the real issue is one of transparency. But how to introduce it is a million dollar question.

Meanwhile today (April 22) is Earth Day. On this occasion Dr Vandana Shiva, the Executive Director of the Navdanya Trust, has in an article in The Asian Age, brought out the fact that the “limitless appetite for steel and aluminium for the global consumer economy and the limitless appetite for profits of steel and aluminium corporations is clashing head-on with the rights of the tribals to their land and homes, their forests and rivers, their cultures and way of life”. With the tribals loudly protesting against their forced eviction, she points out:

The only way to get to the minerals and coal that feed the “limitless growth” model in the face of democratic resistance is the use of militarised violence against the tribals. Operation Green Hunt has been launched in the tribal areas of India with precisely this purpose, even though the proclaimed objective is to clear out the “Maoists”… Operation Green Hunt shows clearly that the current economic paradigm can only unfold through increased militarisation and by undermining democratic and human rights.

These are doubtless unsettling thoughts on Earth Day but the truth must be conveyed without equivocation and in the interest of transparency.

April 22 S.C.

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