Catch-22 in Indian Parliament

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Yet another sting operation. Yet another scandal. Yet another set of lawmakers caught on camera greasing their hands.

Yes, it’s the Tehelka-Aaj Tak sting operation that netted a dozen MPs of the Indian parliament cutting across party lines. This time they took money for asking questions in parliament.

This expose was headed by Aniruddha Bahal (yeah the same dude who did the Operation Westend exposing the nexus between defence contractors and politicians, which ended the political career of Bangaru Laxman) with the name Operation Duryodhan. The mission: Catch corrupt MPs on camera taking bribes for asking questions. The expose shocked the nation, and prompted swift suspensions across party lines. The worst affected of the lot was BJP (6 of its MPs were caught on camera) which till yesterday was stalling the Parliament on the Natwar Singh-Volcker issue.

I was leafing through Bahal’s website, to get a lowdown on the whole operation. Bahal explains it in details all the way from the meticulous planning, how each of the MPs were approached through middlemen, even the details of the cover his team had (For details on how it began, click here). They were using the cover of the fictitious North Indian Small Manufacturers Association (NISMA) headquartered in Moradabad.

I was particularly interested in knowing if any of the questions submitted by NISMA were asked in the Parliament. They were not, but they entered the Parliament’s system that accepts questions and then shortlists a few to be read out during the Question Hour.

Here is a selection of some of the questions which were actually submitted to the Parliament.

Whether the Railway Ministry has placed any order for purchase of the Yossarian Electro Diesel engine from Germany? Is the ministry aware that the Tom Wolfe committee report in Germany has halted its induction into the Euro Rail system?

I ask Aniruddha Bahal, “Why only Yossarian? Why not Doc Daneeka or Milo Minderbinder or Major Major?”

Whether the Government has given sanction for the seed trial of Salinger Cotton of Monsanto? If so, has a report been prepared on Catch 22 cotton so far?

Has the ministry lifted the 1962 ban it imposed on the book “For whom the Bell Tolls” by Ernest Hemingway and the 1975 ban on Ken Kesey’s book “One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest” and Hunter Thomson’s book “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”? If so, when were the bans removed?

Bahal could not resist inserting his website’s name somewhere:

Whether the government is aware that a domestic flying license has been denied to Cobra Cargo for starting operations in India? Since when has Semper Sursum Private Limited, the holding company of Cobra Cargo, applied for the domestic cargo license?

And here is Bahal’s tribute to the Indian blogging community:

Is it true that while NRI firms such as India Uncut of USA, Sepia Mutiny of Britain and AnarCap Lib of Netherlands have been allowed to invest in Indian SSIs, the reputed German investment firm Desipundit has been denied permission? If so, the reasons thereof? Is the Union Government of India planning to make automatic the long procedure of permission for SSIs to import new technologies such as Trackbacks, Pingbacks, Blogrolls, Splogs and Hitcounters?

That these questions actually been submitted in the Parliament is in itself mind-boggling. Due to some divine interference, these never made it to the actual shortlist of the questions that are asked during question hour. Otherwise imagine of the blokes standing up in parliament and asking the Minister of Industry (is there one like that?) about Yossarian, Tom Wolfe or Sepia Mutiny? Not that it would mean much to our Parliamentarians in Slumber!

Long Live our democracy and our democratically elected representatives!