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Posts Tagged ‘corruption in India’

A Feast of Vultures: The Hidden Business of Democracy in India – Book 24 Review

Posted by Mrityunjay on September 17, 2018

A mud hut. Melancholic inside and Backdrop of Mumbai’s skyscrapers merging into smog. That’s how A Feast of Vultures pulls you in with its cover photo. In a way, it perfectly sets the tone and your expectations from the book. Written by Josy Joseph, it’s a hard hitting book revealing layers of corruption in most basic units of Indian society to the drawing rooms of high and mighty. Drawing upon his two decades of investigating journalism career, the author ruffles several feathers here. If you are interested about the shadowy men who run the nation’s politics, business rivalries that threaten the economic well being of country, of corporate honchos practically owning the country etc then this is the book for you.

How often have you heard or read, “India is the fastest growing economy”? If that was the case, what feastwould explain the dreadful poverty that plagues the nation? I mean, the entire purpose of economic growth leads to better standards of living for citizens, doesn’t it? At the same time, wherever I have resided, whichever business I have tried; I have always ended up realizing something is deeply wrong with this country. Corruption is a part of our DNA. In fact, coming across an honest officer feels like 9th wonder of the world. This book is everything that won’t give you one reason to feel proud of your country, its leaders and bureaucrats. In a way, Josy Joseph portrays a bleak and sinister picture of the Indian system. It’s a miracle that despite the prevalent chaos, we are still standing as a nation. Not because of them but despite them.

Josy Joseph is an award-winning investigative journalist based in New Delhi. He has worked with The Hindu, The Times of India, DNA,, the Asian Age, Delhi Mid Day, and the Blitz among others. He has also been awarded several times including ‘Journalist of the Year’ in print media by the Ramnath Goenka Foundation run by the Indian Express group. This book is a culmination of his breakthrough reportage covering all the hierarchies of Indian society. A Feast of Vultures opens in an ordinary village and winds up outside the palatial residence of one of the richest Indians. In the pages in between, he introduces us to flourishing phenomenon of middlemen in modern India who facilitate access to decision makers, and manipulate government decisions. These middlemen are the ones that sustain the stunning level of corruption in everyday life in India. They are ubiquitous, all pervasive from the grams panchayats to 7, Racecourse road and Raisina Hill, these middlemen are instrumental in deciding the destiny of our great(!) nation.

A Feast of Vultures is an old and sordid tale written crisply, maintaining a taut narration as the author reveals stories of infamous politician-businessman nexus. The early chapters touch on RK Dhawan, who started as Indira Gandhi’s typist and miraculously became one of the most powerful men in the land. Same with Vincent George. These men, who possessed no other virtue except loyalty, decided our fates. A trustworthy aid can soon turn into a confidant and then into a co-conspirator, as trust is the most important thing when there is something to hide. As the author writes,

“The youth-turned aviation entrepreneur, the old man who lives in a mansion and the typist with many properties are all mere glimpses of the influence wielded by the fortunate aides in the Indian system. If you want the Indian system to work for you, it is critical that you understand the power of the personal assistant. Even in this touch-screen era.”

They were instrumental in methodical deconstruction of Indian Institutions and systems. The most entertaining chapter of the book covers the story of ‘Taki’ – East West’s late Thakiyuddin Wahid. I wonder how many of us know this name? He comes across a visionary who started India’s first private airline in many decades, but who was finally gunned down in the 90’s because he grew too big too fast. Mr. Joseph hints about politician-underworld nexus in this case. After reading the text, you will also have a fair idea about the role played by Naresh Goyal (founder of Jet Airways) in this gruesome saga.

Joseph details the effects of these entrenched systems of influence and corruption on the corporate sector. The story of Jet Airways is a textbook example of how literally anyone with enough political connections can start from nothing and become a billionaire. There are open revelations of nexus between politicians-businessmen with terrorists like Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Rajan which only emphasizes how deep the rot is. The narrative is unflinching and unfolds sometimes with the pace of a whodunit, but always retains a faithful journalistic eye. It names names and touches the highest echelons of power.

Then there is this disturbing story that paints the former Governor of Punjab (2005-10), Gen. S F Rodrigueoes in less-than-favourable light. That certainly is a bit of a shock. Army persons were always considered sacrosanct but then don’t be misguided with such lofty ideals and hopes.  Mr. Jospeh also hits hard at the likes of Jindal, Mallya and Ambanis who have bent rules as per their will. Naveen Jindal destroyed the environment of Chattisgarh using all the foul means. Ambani raged an orphanage to build his matchbox residence. Mallya did whatever he wanted to and now leads a luxurious life in London. To hell with warrants, notices and extradition treaties. Then the likes of BJP’s Arun Jaitley and the Congress’s Abhishek Manu Singhvi who play both ways. Happy to appear in court for corporate interests in the day and castigate the governments of the day for selling out to corporate interests that same night as spokesmen of their parties. Even the likes of CBI and Judiciary are full of moles. Top leaders get bail and hearing as per their convenience. Law only applies to common citizens. CBI, the agency created to nab the corrupts is toothless. A former director, Ranjit Sinha had compromised the telecom investigation using all the means available to him and what happened to him? Oh nothing! He must be residing somewhere luxuriously sipping Chivas with the crooked he was supposed to prosecute.

Weaving together the daily struggles of its poorest with the shenanigans of its rich, A Feast of Vultures clinically examines and irrefutably documents the crisis gripping the world’s largest democracy. For anyone interested in understanding modern India, this is a must read. I would recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in understanding how our nation functions [or doesn’t].

Happy Reading folk. Cheers.

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Corrupt Indian Health Practices

Posted by Mrityunjay on July 12, 2011

The news of corruption in India is perhaps as shocking as presence of Taliban and Al-Qaida in Pakistan. So when you come across corrupt medical practices and experience it yourself, it can only create a stir in your heart and nowhere else. I have always been somewhat aware of seamy side of commercial medical practice because of my personal background but never been a direct victim of it, until now.

The story goes like this- I had some problem in my lower back so I went to a reputed Orthopaedic specialist. Found him yawning while I entered into his chamber, witnessed his continued yawning while he pretended to hear me for 2-3 minutes and he was still yawning when I left his chamber. His profile says, he regularly visits some of the most prominent private medical institutions in Delhi. He did not ask me much about my medical history, nor checked me personally. All he did was to recommend complete MRI scans of lower spine, dorsal and cervical. Note that, I only had problem in lower spine but the Respected Doctor prescribed all the three parts with specific instruction to go to a particular diagnostic center of his choice.

Now that’s for you, are the modern doctors today. A profession which was/is associated with charity/generosity is being used by pseudo life-givers as a tool to earn unscrupulous amount of money. Whether it’s paediatricians peddling gratuitous medicines by playing on the fears of parents or surgeons insisting on large sum of money before they can commence operations during an emergency or gynecologists pushing for caesarean by scaring the minds of patients or simply writing prescriptions for irrational drugs, majority of doctors have stooped too low. Some doctors, as in my case, prescribe expensive and unnecessary tests for the kickbacks they receive from diagnostic centres or pharma companies. There is no dearth of such cases.

Corruption amongst Indian doctors is rampant. It is my personal experience to witness doctors collaborating with Sonography doctors who do the Doppler’s test and write phony reports about the foetus development. Report will mention things like, the child is upside down or cord is around the neck etc. Private hospitals can’t earn much from normal deliveries so they use all the tricks to make patients go for the caesarean. It does not end there. Several pathology labs (mostly in smaller cities) will take the blood samples, will throw it in the back alley and will submit a report of someone else to the patients. Imagine, these unfortunate patients are prescribed drugs on the basis of such reports. The health professionals who are considered closest to God’s presence on earth because of their life-saving credentials are shamelessly playing with emotionally distressed people.

It is hardly surprising that most of the people have lost faith in the moral and ethical values of doctors. A famous Neurosurgeon in Delhi recommends on an average 10 MRI scan every day and for that he gets to earn 40% commission on every recommendation. Who can we trust when the Supreme Court of India declares the governing council MCI (Medical Council of India) as “den of corruption”. Arrest of its chairperson Ketan Desai further proves that medical education is acknowledged to be a business investment and medical practice gives the returns. Love of money has replaced the basic foundation of modern medicine, i.e., philanthropy. Deception, bribery and conflict of interest have become the new troika that defines modern day health practices in India. Though, these elements are dangerous for any business but downright deadly in medicine. It’s a shame that healthcare has become a money-spinning game.

Every year, thousands of Indian physicians and surgeons visit exotic locations. These visits are sponsored by pharmaceutical companies in lieu of unnecessary prescription of drugs by the so called messiahs of the society. In the light of such revelations, no wonder, doctors hardly prescribe alternative medicines for their patients. Last known, nature never offers bribes. How could these doctors whom society places on a high pedestal look in the mirror afterward? Is it self-deception which allows them to live with the fact that they are being bought? Or they stop questioning these practices by terming this a routine practice in medical field?

What’s the solution? I can’t seem to find any. The Indian Medical Association (IMA), largest association of doctors in India, has never taken an initiative to the declining standards of morality in its members whereas the heads of the regulatory council of medical education, the Medical Council of India is embroiled in allegations of payoffs.

A doctor’s confession published in The Hindu- We, doctors, know for sure from our long years of grueling studies that most of the symptoms are self-limiting, most others are trivial and very few are serious. In the name of evidence-based medicine and defensive medicine, we order a battery of investigations even for trivial symptoms. The cut practice and cost recovery of hospital equipment play a prime role in decision-making. Unnecessary tests are a loathsome burden on patients and, at times, result in false positive results leading to unscientific treatment.

Another practicing Psychiatrist says, Corruption occurs in three forms- split-fee, pharma-company interference and performance of unnecessary tests and procedures. In my experience corruption is practiced by almost all doctors.” To finish with, it would be too harsh on my part to generalize these revelations. There must be a good many doctors who voluntarily choose to put the care and welfare of their patients as their first and foremost priority and concern however hard it may be in an increasingly difficult and competitive market economy but these doctors should be considered more as exceptions rather than rules! The regulatory bodies must take control of the deteriorating health practices in the country or else…

And by the way, I got MRI done only on the lower back and did not visit that orthopaedic specialist again.    


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