Two years of Modi rule:
Power to the brute and bully
If there is one achievement that the two-year old government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, can talk of, it is the unaccountable and unbridled powers he has gifted to his brutish cheer leaders and bullying minions. Suddenly they feel and justifiably so, that any institution of the country is subservient to them, would do their bidding, come what may.
For more than two years Saharashree Subrata Roy was behind bars at Delhi’s Tihar jail for refusing to repay Rs 24,000 crore he owed to his investors, in spite of repeated entreaties and warnings from the SEBI and later from the Supreme Court. He of course claimed he was sent to jail at Sonia Gandhi’s instance because out of sheer nationalist sentiments he had opposed an Italian’s candidature as India’s Prime Minister. Sonia ceased to be a PM candidate, if at all in 2004 and Roy was sent to jail on March 4, 2014 ten years later not by the Government or any of its agencies but by the highest court of India for refusal to pay his debtors and investors who felt cheated and on top of it he defied the apex court summons a couple of times till the court was forced to issue an arrest warrant and lock him up in Tihar jail. But he scored brownie points with the Sangh and Sanghis, including Narendra Modi.
Within two months of Saharashree going to jail, there was a regime change and Roy’s bosom pal Modi, who graced each of his ostentatious dos, he proudly flaunts, became the Prime Minister. For last two years, the Court and SEBI kept pressing him to deposit at least a substantial amount of what he owed and walk out of the jail. But the man who owns London’s Grosvenor House, New York’s Plaza Hotel, Aamby Valley City and Force India, and so much wealth that surprised the apex court too, stuck to his guns and hasn’t to date repaid a pie taking the plea that he was broke. Broke! And Saharashree, some joke this!
Finally an exasperated apex court gave in and on May 6, taking cover under the plea that he had to perform last rites for his mother who died at 93, let him out on a parole initially for four weeks. But if that were the raison d’ etre then why also release Roy’s confidant and right hand man, Ashok Roy Chowdhry, a director in one of his Sahara companies was also granted parole. Why? His mother had not died. He did not have to perform any last rites of his mother. But the apex court in its wisdom decided to let Ashok Roy Chowdhry out too. The moment he was out of Tihar, Subrata Roy recovered his swagger, as if he had just returned from an important business trip. His parole was to end on June 3. But just five days later on May 11 the apex court voluntarily extended his sabbatical by more than a month beyond the original parole, till July 11 asking him to deposit a small security deposit of Rs 200 crore against a fraud of Rs 24,000 crore. By June last year the Supreme Court had estimated that the amount along with interest had increased to Rs 36,000 crore and so by now it should logically be somewhere around 50,000 crore. Saharashree is mysteriously and inexplicably now on a regular bail. He doesn’t have to return to Tihar even on July 11. The who’s who of the glitterati and the politicos including Amitabh Bachchan and UP chef minister Akhilesh Yadav came for Roy’s mother’s funeral.He now has time till July 11 to make up his mind to even deposit a bond of Rs 200 crore or simply ignore the apex court directions as in the past and perhaps follow the path of Lalit Modi and Vijay Mallya.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Then we have another cheerleader of Narendrabhai Sri, Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living (AOL). In March this year he held a mega show on the Yamuna river bed defying strict orders to the contrary from the National Green Tribunal (NGT) not to endanger the environment and the already depleting Yamuna river by assembling lakhs of people there and polluting the river. Ravi Shankar thumbed his nose at the NGT and carried on with the programme. The DDA, the DJB and other government and municipal agencies both Central and Delhi government, all put in their mite to make a big success of the AOL event. The Indian Army worked overnight to build a pontoon bridge specially for this occasion and why not? After all he is a big favourite of the Prime Minister. Irked by the recalcitrance of this Sadhu baba, the NGT imposed a fine of Rs five crore upon AOL for defying its directives. Sri, Sri thumbed his nose at the NGT and publicly announced his resolve not to pay the fine. Then the NGT ate a humble pie and watered down its demand asking only Rs 25 lakh. We’re not sure if even that amount was actually deposited with the NGT. It set up a committee and sought a report from DDA and other municipal authorities in the national capital on environmental degradation. But till date more than two months after the event, the AOL has not dismantled its paraphernalia fully and using that as an excuse, the committee has avoided even visiting the site to assess the damage to the Yamuna river bed. Who dared question Sri, Sri when the Prime Minister, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Deputy Manish Sisodia all flocked to the AOL show and made laudatory speeches on the occasion. Naturally when someone wields this kind of clout, he can easily bully the mightiest institution.
In June last year some small time inspector in Barabanki threw a spanner in the works of the most popular instant noodles the Maggi noodles, eaten by young and old throughout the country for several decades. The multi-national company Nestle, producing these and other items like chocolates, coffee and other confectionery suddenly faced a hostile environment with the RSS and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan all coming together to attack it. It took the Nestle nearly six months and a series of court cases right up to the high court, to secure the return of its Maggi brands on the shelves of general stores. But within days of this tamasha, my grocery storekeeper predicted that very soon Ramdev is introducing his Patanjali noodles and his prophecy turned out to be true with Ramdev advertising his atta noodles on every damn TV channel. He put his noodles in the market without bothering to seek the mandatory approval of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) which banned Maggi on the dubious report of some small time food inspector from Barabanki/Gorakhpur. The FSSAI went public objecting to the introduction of Patanjali noodles without seeking its mandatory clearance. The brute known for his offensive language the critics of Modi and Sangh, pooh poohed the FSSAI and instead of approaching the FSSAI introduced many other products like Patnajali biscuits etc to put Nestle and other established brands out of business and we have BJP MP Hema Malini advertising for Ramdev products at that. That in spite of this dirty war, Maggi is back on the store shelves and people are relishing it, is another matter. Baba Ramdev’s noodles failed to attract any buyers but he has this Government’s blessings and so is prospering, buying islands in Scotland and private luxury planes and yachts to fly in, with each BJP state government vying with the other to give acres and acres of land free to carry on his service to the nation.
We need not repeat time and again the list of corporate honchos including the Ambanis, Gautam Adani, the Tatas and all those who spent crores on Modi’s campaign and in turn happily milched the nationalized banks of 114 lakh crores with no signs of remorse in Modi. The list of those who have assumed the power to disdainfully dismiss institutional checks with the brush of their hand and for whom these institutions are bending backwards, is long including Vijay Mallya and Lalit Modi as also all the police officers who indulged in fake encounters in Gujarat in the 12 year rule of Narendra Modi. And last but not the least is the freedom granted to Sanghi terrorists, who were planning a war against the Indian state. There is no other achievement to Modi’s two year regime. But see all these people were aiding and abetting Modi’s ascendance to power and are now reaping the benefits of Modi coming to power. That’s why the Sangh and its cohorts wanted Modi in the saddle and that’s why they will continue to back him, development or no development, governance be damned.