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Monthly Archives: April 2016

Why puzzling questions about #PanamaPapers can only be answered by a forensic audit

The Panama Papers exposé by the Indian Express throws up some puzzling questions — like who (covertly) owned some of these companies?

a quick and dirty story.

 

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What we talk about when we talk about Punjab

Between October and January, Scroll.in’s Ear To The Ground project reported from Punjab.

The idea, as in Mizoram and Odisha, was to create a snapshot of the state. How are its people doing? What are the largest processes shaping the state?

When Scroll.in moved to Punjab, it was late October. The state was simmering. Farmers were angry and upset. The cotton crop had been hammered by a whitefly attack. The other kharif mainstay – basmati – was fetching lower rates than the grains sold to the Food Corporation of India. Over preceding weeks, torn pages from the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Saheb, had surfaced in some villages. There was much anger against the state government for not preventing this desecration. Protesters had blocked roads and railway tracks. In response, the state police had opened fired, killing some protesters.

Travelling around, however, it soon became evident that this anger against the government has been building for a while.

Questions the CBI should answer before closing its probe in the Jindal coal block case

Even under the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, the Central Bureau of Investigation’s inquiries into the captive coalblock allocation scam continue to be half-hearted. In the latest instance, as the Indian Express reported on April 2, India’s apex investigating agency has closed its probe into how former Congress Member of Parliament Naveen Jindal’s Jindal Steel and Power Limited landed the Ramchandi Promotional coalblock in Odisha.

This was one of two blocks allotted by the previous United Progressive Alliance government – not for captive use – but to convert the coal in these blocks to oil using a technology that had never been used before in India. The other block was North of Arkhapal Srirampur in the same state. It went to Strategic Energy Technology Systems Limited – a joint venture between India’s Tata Group and South Africa’s Sasol, an energy and chemicals company.

Controversy surrounded these allocations from the start.

And so, it is surprising to see the CBI’s explanation for wanting to close the probe. This, of course, is an old pattern. Back in 2014 too, the CBI was closing coal cases with gusto. See this. And this.

Explainer: Why #PanamaPapers is just the tip of the iceberg

The leak of information from the database of Mossack Fonseca, the giant law firm headquartered in Panama, is a reality check.

Not because the information, which went public in India late Sunday night, exposes over 214,000 offshore companies typically used as structures to evade taxation connected to people in over 200 countries.

Or because its dragnet includes 140 politicians and public officials including the president of Argentina, the king of Saudi Arabia, the children of Nawaz Sharif, folks close to Russian president Vladimir Putin, and more.

It’s daunting because – for anyone trying to understand black money flows – it is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Why the Kolkata flyover collapse is a warning for India’s infrastructure industry

out today, this story on why kolkata’s vivekananda flyover collapsed.