It didn’t even take a full year after India got independence for the first corruption scandal to make the headlines. In independent India, the first corruption case dates back to 1948. With the economy gaining new heights, scams have only got bigger with time. The number of zeroes to the amount lost to the exchequer has increased exponentially. India stands at the 76th position out of 175 countries on global anti-graft organization Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.
Here we have enlisted some of the most infamous scams in India that shook people’s faith in their government.
1) Jeep Scam :
In 1948, the Indian government awarded a contract to a company in England for the supply of 200 jeeps. VK Krishna Menon, the then Indian high commissioner to Britain, bypassed protocol to sign a deal worth Rs 80 lakh with a foreign firm for the purchase of army jeeps. The case was closed in 1955 and soon after, Menon joined the Nehru cabinet.
2) Cycle Import scam:
One of the first political scandals of independent India, cycle import scam happened in 1951. SA Venkataraman, the then secretary of ministry of commerce and industry, was jailed for accepting a bribe in lieu of granting a cycle import quota to a company. His conviction was challenged in the Spreme Court. However, the apex court upheld the lower court’s decision.
3) Mundhra Scam:
The state-owned LIC to invest Rs 1.26 crore in enterprises related to Haridas Mundhra to bail him out of the crunch and to help him manipulate the stock markets. The expose done by Congress MP Feroze Gandhi came as a huge embarrassment to the clean image of Nehru’s government and eventually led to the resignation of Finance Minister TT Krishnamachari.
4) Maruti Scandal:
Sanjay Gandhi’s Maruti project involved the most brazen story of cronyism and corruption in the country’s history. Even before the company was launched, former prime minister Indira Gandhi’s son Sanjay Gandhi was favoured with a licence to make passenger cars. The government issued a letter of intent in September 1970, which allowed Sanjay to produce up to 50,000 cars in a year. Sanjay Gandhi was awarded the licence to produce Maruti cars even before the company was formed. Banks gave concessional loans and the production started. When charges of nepotism began to fly thick and fast, it was decided to get a feasibility test done on Maruti by the Vehicle Research & Development Establishment, Ahmednagar. The prototype could not pass the test. Still, in July 1974, Maruti was granted an industrial licence to produce 50,000 cars.
5) Bofors Scandal:
Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and several others faced the ire as they faced allegations of receiving kickbacks to the tune of Rs 64 crore from the now defunct Swedish arms company Bofors AB to facilitate the deal for the 155mm howitzers. In March 1986, a $285 million contract between the Govt of India and Swedish arms company Bofors was signed for supply of 410 155mm Howitzer field guns. The allegations were first made by the Swedish radio in April 1987. It was alleged that Ottavio Quattrocchi, who was close to the family of Rajiv Gandhi, was a major player in the scam.
6) 1992 securities scam:
Stock broker Harshad Mehta, who was so far hailed as “Big Bull” of Dalal street, came under the scanner after it emerged that he was using bank receipts of public sector banks to buy stocks. He cleverly squeezed capital out of the banking system to address this requirement of banks and pumped this money into the share market. He also promised the banks higher rates of interest, while asking them to transfer the money into his personal account, under the guise of buying securities for them from other banks. Mehta deployed well over Rs 1,000 crore and triggered the biggest bull run in the Indian stock market. The BSE Sensex rose from around 2,000 points in January 1992 to 4,467 points in April that year. The Sensex tanked to 2,529 points in August, wiping out over Rs 100,000 crore in market capitalisation. This scam was of about Rs. 2200 crores and involved fraudulent printing and sale of stamp papers in the various parts of the country. The scam rocked Parliament and Mehta was jailed.
7) Fodder scam (1996):
The scam that sealed the political fate of former chief minister Laloo Prasad involved large-scale embezzlement of government funds, made by producing fake bills to substantiate payments that were never made. The fraudulent transactions were made in the name of procuring cattle feed under the the Animal and Husbandry department of Bihar government for over a period of 20 years, under successive regimes. Those small-scale falsified transactions flourished over the course of years, got systemised, and snowballed into a Rs 945-crore scam. The scam was exposed by then state finance secretary VS Dubey who ordered inspection across all districts. “A large amount of money was withdrawn from the government’s treasury. In short, it was a loot of government’s money by the government’s officials backed by the political leadership,” Rakesh Asthana, the famed CBI’s superintendent of police who uncovered the scam and formally started prosecution against a sitting chief minister, according to Rediff.com.
8) Coffin scam:
During the Kargil war, the then ruling government of the National Democratic Alliance was accused of purchasing 500 caskets worth $2500 each for the martyrs, which was presumed to be thirteen times the original amount. A Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s report found several fraud in the transaction of coffins. It was reported that the government had incurred a heavy loss of 1,87,000 dollars in the entire transaction. Later the Supreme Court absolved the NDA government of any wrongdoings.
9) Stamp paper scam:
Estimated at a whopping Rs 20,000 crore, the scam involved large scale printing of counterfeit stamp paper in 12 states including Maharashtra. Abdul Karim Telgi, prime accused in the case, appointed 350 people as agents who sold the fakes to bulk purchasers, including banks, insurance companies, and stock brokerage firms earning around Rs 200 crore a month. On June 28, 2007, Telgi was awarded 13 years of rigorous imprisonment and fined Rs 202 crore. During his narco test, he allegedly revealed the involvement of Maharashtra political leaders like Sharad Pawar and Chhagan Bhujbal in the scam.
10) CWG scam:
In 2010, the country witnessed one of the major political scams involving a pilferage of around Rs 70,000 crore. Apparently, out of the allocated amount, only half of the amount was actually spent on the Games. The athletes were allegedly asked to shift to shabby apartments from the ones that were allotted to them by the authorities. Inflated contracts were allegedly handed out to the suppliers causing huge loss to the exchequer. All the accused, including the then chairman of Common Wealth Games Suresh Kalmadi, were charged with criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery for purpose of cheating and were also charged under sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
11) 2G spectrum scam:
Believed to be the biggest scam in Independent India, 2G spectrum scam involved illegally under-charging mobile telephony companies for frequency allocation licenses causing heavy losses to the excequer. In his 2010 report, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India valued a shortfall of nearly Rs 1,76,645 crore between the money collected and the money which the law mandated to be collected. Andimuthu Raja, the former Union Cabinet Minister for Communications and Information Technology, is the prime accused in the scam. After the shocking expose, Raja was indicted and forced to resign from the erstwhile UPA government. He is also being tried in the case and is languishing in Tihar Jail.