Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

India Corruption Scandals Stall Government as Lawmakers Spar over Inquiries

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

India Corruption Scandals Stall Government as Lawmakers Spar over Inquiries

Article excerpt

A series of India corruption scandals is likely to add to India's reputation as one of the riskiest countries in Asia for investors.

India's Parliament was frozen for a 20th successive day Thursday, after opposition parties continued their noisy calls for a cross- party inquiry into a telecoms scandal that has rocked the Congress Party-led government.

In the past few days, the government has managed to pass a couple of minor, uncontroversial bills. But more significant business has been delayed, while shouting has stalled all serious political debate.

The government had planned to push key reform bills in this session of Parliament that would ease land acquisition for industry and help maintain rapid growth in Asia's third-largest economy. Parliament was also waiting to discuss India's increasingly violent Maoist insurgency and consider laws governing prisons and schools.

"Nothing could be more unfortunate for a democracy than its Parliament not functioning for over a fortnight," said an editorial in the Daily Pioneer newspaper.

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But with the current session ending on Dec. 13, it seems unlikely that any of the important bills, many of which are controversial, will be passed.

Massive telecoms scandal

India's biggest ever political scandal came to a head Nov. 14 when Andimuthu Raja was sacked from his post as telecoms minister after he was accused of presiding over the rigged sale of second generation (2G) mobile telephone licenses and bandwidth in 2008.

This is estimated to have cost the country as much as $40 billion - a sum around the size of India's defense budget, or, by the reckonings of some nongovernmental organizations, enough to feed the poorest 10 percent of Indians for an entire year.

Also in the past month, federal investigators have arrested leading business executives in a housing-loan probe and organizers of the graft-tainted Commonwealth Games for stealing from public funds.

Meanwhile, a series of leaked telephone conversations between a corporate publicist Nita Radia and some of India's biggest power brokers has gripped India, offering as it does a window into a world of widespread and corrosive corruption involving big business, government, and the media. …

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