Sindustan hamara | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Sindustan hamara

mumbai Updated: Jan 03, 2010 01:40 IST
Sylvester da Cunha

(The US State Department has issued an advisory that cites India as having a world corruption score of 85 — in the same league as Sudan, Bangladesh, Liberia and Moscow. Now, is that a nice way to talk about the land of the Rig Veda, Bhagvat Gita and Manu the Just?)

The prison bell rings. Into the yard, file inmates for their daily breath of fresh carbon dioxide. From the Warden’s office high above, they all look alike in their jail ready-mades, topped by RSS caps dyed white. But the Warden’s trained eye can discern the special interest groupings.

The VIPs are the sarkaris. Look, there’s an ex-CM who helped the state get rid of Rs. 6,000 crores. And who can miss the hi-profile Minister who accepted Rs. 4,000 crores for granting out-of-turn licenses? And over there chatting are the police commissioners, excise top-dogs, public service commissioners, high court judges, army generals, the MPs and MLA’s who won by landslides while still guests of the state. There are lots of other sarkaris awaiting their turn in the sun. They are scheduled for the later second and third sessions.

Explains the Warden: “This place was built for 2,000 guests. We now play host to … I think its 6,000 — I haven’t counted since last week. We did have a fast-track plan for a much larger and better equipped facility. But it was delayed by allegations of fraud in the granting of tenders. When re-tendered and construction re-commenced, it was stalled by the collapse of the cinema-cum- casino complex. Investigations eventually pin-pointed sub-standard concrete, corroded steel and the minister’s son-in-law who had no experience of building prisons, or any buildings for that matter.

“By the time things got going again, the accommodation fell far short of the swelling demand. The Department finally allotted us 200 acres outside the city, but the project ran foul of Naxalites, Maoists and the ruthless golf course lobby.”

Back in the yard another distinguished group keeps cool under their beach umbrellas, watching NDTV Profit on the Blackberrys. They are the IT billionaires whose company’s assets ended up in the Cayman Islands and St. Kitts; cooperative bank busters, ponzi schemers, forgerers, hawala honchos and other notables. The legendary share bazaar pirate should have been here but was granted parole to scatter the ashes of his deceased great-great-grand-auntie. (Both ashes and parolee subsequently found to have been lost).

Confides one renowned auditor: “This evening after lights out, we have a special visitor.” “Who?” they ask. “The prison warden. He needs our advice on how to re-write the prison accounts.”

Sylvester da Cunha is one of India’s pioneering admen whose agency creates the widely-loved Amul ads