“Aao biriyani khilatun” is typical Hyderabad police lingo used while rounding up petty criminals. It’s an invitation for an altogether unpleasant stay that clearly does not include a portion of the city’s celebrated biriyani. And, going by the number of VIPs currently lodged in Chanchalguda jail in Hyderabad, the joke is the police will soon be placing orders for gilded plates of biriyani. There are at least 10 “special” prisoners, all accused in various scams—Jaganmohan Reddy, of course, remains the star visitor, followed closely by industrialists, bureaucrats, a former minister and now judges as well.
In terms of scale too, you have to give it to Hyderabad—the sums involved are mind-boggling, the corruption seemingly endemic. So much so, it’s even started affecting popular culture. Corruption is now an accepted phenomenon, evident in the mass public support for Jagan Reddy. Rich kids who flaunt flashy gadgets are teased by their friends, “Kyun, tera baap scamster hai kya?” Only partly in jest, people have added Hyderabad’s love for money (‘dabbu’, in Telugu) to its well-known tag as the IT city—“dabbudabbudabbu” has replaced “www” as Hyderabad’s dotcom calling card. Why, adman and columnist Anvar Alikhan recollects how his Mumbai sharebroker, unaware of his roots, advised him, “Be very careful about investing in Hyderabad-based companies.”
There’s no shortage of recent evidence. Apart from the travails of Deccan Chronicle (see box), the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has recently come out with a stinging indictment of Hyderabad-based GMR’s handling of the Delhi airport. More recently, the CBI raided offices of Navbharat Power in Hyderabad to investigate the company’s role in Coalgate. One of Navbharat Power’s promoters, Y. Harishchandra Prasad, is a widely respected industrialist who often holds forth in various round-table discussions about flaws in government and industry policies.
Member of the Legislative Council and political analyst Prof K. Nageshwar agrees that high economic growth, political manipulation of the economy and emergence of crony capitalism have created a class of people who want to use political power for windfall private gains. “As long as Satyam founder Ramalinga Raju was producing software, it was fine. But then he got into real estate and tried to make money through shortcuts. That caused his ruin. Similarly, in the case of Deccan Chronicle, as long as Venkat Ram Reddy was in the newspaper business, he did well. Trouble started with their speculative businesses and lavish spending,” he says.
—estimated as one of the highest in India—is also the cause of many ills. An MLA aspirant spends a minimum of Rs 5 crore and a prospective MP at least Rs 10 crore. Obviously, these MLAs and MPs will try to recover their expenses through corrupt means. The linear equation for politics in AP appears to be corruption+welfare=power. It doesn’t help matters that this corruption- and welfare-fuelled boom has created expectations in the middle class who want a share of the pie. “New money has created anomalies,” warns political scientist Jyotirmaya Sharma.
In this regard, it’s indicative that the state has the most number of operational SEZs in the country. “Land is the commodity where the scams take place. Apart from this, AP has a high number of mineral franchises and merchant power plants. Its coastline, 940 km, is very long. Roughly half of this has been given away to the private sector with exclusive sovereign rights over waters. What else can you expect but plundering of resources?” asks ex-Union power secretary E.A.S Sarma. Citing Vanpic as an example, Sarma says the hinterland of about 28,000 acres cutting across three districts has been gifted on a platter. The government even went to the extent of amending the laws meant to protect assigned lands in this case.
This view has more takers. Like FICCI executive director Shobana Kamineni (daughter of Apollo Group’s Pratap Reddy), who asserts that the aforementioned moniker is an unfortunate term for a Hyderabad known for its gentility, Nizami history and classiness. Similarly, Shahed Hussain, a trustee of the HEH Nizam Trust, shudders once the topic is brought up and says that “scam is an undignified word to use”. Stating that such terms make him feel ashamed, Hussain says, “We are, by and large, honest people. I think that a majority of Indians have no role in these scams. We have a conscience. Let it stay that way.”
Worse, an air of cynicism seems to be taking over. The well-regarded former CEC, J.M. Lyngdoh, who has made Hyderabad his home, simply shrugs the term ‘scam’ away. “It’s all part of the new liberalism, isn’t it? When the Telugu Desam was in power, they made money with the help of the NDA. Now the Congress has UPA at the Centre. It doesn’t matter which political party is in power, they all do the same thing.” Similarly, Parakala Prabhakar, political commentator who heads a brand consultancy in Hyderabad, RightFolio, blames the general ‘match-fixing’ between all political parties and even the media for the scams. He wonders whether the present scam probes will ever be taken to their logical conclusion. “After the initial noises about the scams, the Opposition and media keep quiet. It’s like a conspiracy of silence.” Sound familiar? Well, a few months ago, Kiran Bedi had during a visit called Hyderabad the scam capital. That stirred up a minor storm but it ebbed. The worrying thing now for many who love the city is that all this talk has started to smell a bit like stale biriyani.
Why the fragrance of biriyani has given way to the stench of scams
As a staunch and thoroughbred Hyderabadi senior citizen, I am ashamed and amazed at the frequency and quantum of corruption in recent years (Hyde and Seek, Sep 17). The legacy started with Mari Chenna Reddy and it was carried on by his followers irrespective of political hue and honed perfectly by YSR. To begin the loot, you have to get elected; once elected, the modus operandi is simple. Do not upset the applecart of the poor and illiterate, who constitute 60 per cent of the electorate, provide a few goodies and at the time of elections, ensure the gullible free flow of cash, liquor, biriyani and saris. The EC’s vigil on such shenanigans is an eyewash or grossly mismatched. The Centre is not just a passive onlooker but a conniving partner. The police and bureaucracy are perfect handmaidens. As ex-Praja Rajyam Party leader Chiranjeevi once commented, when it came to corruption, Naidu a was a retailer and YSR a wholesaler. I’m sure Jagan’s assets are to the tune of Rs 1,00,000 crore.
M.A. Raipet, Secunderabad
All the people involved indirectly in scams are from the Andhra and Rayalaseema regions, not from the Telangana area. And hence the demand for a separate state, of which Hyderabad will be the capital.
Vineet Reddy, Hyderabad
Telangana has its share of scamsters, be it Balraj Gouda, who started as a toddy tapper and is now worth Rs 1,000 crore, as a major pointsman in the AP liquor mafia. Others include Balraj’s own patron Devender Gouda, along with Damodar Raja Narsimha and P. Sudarshan Reddy, both significant investors in the breweries that produce most of the spurious and non-duty paid liquor.
Subba Rao, Dallas
Just wait for the next elections when new political parties come into power. We’ll aim for global recognition.
Ram Yeggina, Hyderabad
Corruption begins at the top in Andhra Pradesh. Consider the huge sums paid as bribe to Lord Tirupati and Shirdi!
V.N.K. Murti, Pattambi
Our courts are too sloppy and ineffective. In a civilised democracy, such Olympian corruption would have led to the instant appropriation of dubious assets and the guilty would be put in prison. In the US, scamsters are handed severe punishment in a year. Ditto with the UK. It is only in our country that a few hundred families can usurp the precious assets of the country.
D.C. Joshi, Jaipur
Andhra Pradesh/Hyderabad’s dalliance with financial irregularities started perhaps with the chit fund culture. In the IT industry, the state’s reputation of faking resumes and surrogate interviewing was always legendary—all for a one-way ticket to the land of milk and honey—the US.
Arun Maheshwari, Bangalore
It’s thoughtless of Outlook to have criminalised Hyderabad so. Hyderabad might have reported more scams than any other state, but it’s all thanks to an active citizenry, not courtesy judicial activism or a ‘free’ press. If political corruption is really on top of every reformer’s mind, they should force their way into joining the principal political parties such as the Congress or BJP and enforce values from within rather than start new outfits. For, whatever said and done, these few parties have attained critical mass and will remain where they are. It’s foolish to think one can decimate their influence.
Sundara Yerrapragada, on e-mail
I have no e-mail right now due to power failure, hence this letter by snail mail. Not only does Hyderabad reek of scams, it also became highly communal after the fall of Babri Masjid, with the communal MIM taking another communal party, the BJP, head-on. The bomb culture was brought in during the NTR regime. With abductions and killings galore, the city also scores high on the crime graph. All ‘development’ in the city is tied to the real estate business, leading to lopsided growth. The late YSR used Indiramma-Rajiv welfare schemes to the hilt to help his son.
S. Raja Ram, Hyderabad
Why single out Hyderabad? What about the National Rural Health Mission scandal in Uttar Pradesh? Is it not reported because it’s too close to New Delhi and there are too many interested players and parties to contend with?
M.K. Saini, New Delhi
The scam capital of India is our very own national capital, New Delhi. The only difference is that Delhi’s power elite have learned how to hide their dirt professionally, something the more naive Hyderabadis, Bangaloreans and Chennaiites have yet to learn.
Ganesh Natrajan, on e-mail
Mumbai and Delhi can beat Hyderabad hands down.
Kiran Voleti, Chennai
Apropos you Sep 17 issue, which damned Hyderabad as a city of scams, I’d like to ask if Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai can claim to be holier than thou. Besides, many of the scams in Hyderabad relate directly or indirectly to the family of one person—the late ysr. And I really wonder why you slyly inserted Vikram Akula’s resignation from his microfinance firm into this ‘Hyderabad’ story! It was a different matter altogether.
There is another facet of coruption - partisanship in deeming someone corrupt. People claim that there is none corrupt in my caste/community/party and only corrupt people in so so caste/community/party. Hence, they support even convicted Corrupt people from their caste/community/party. This gives corrupt people strength and they bravely say that we will go to "people" (election), who will decide whether they are corupt or not.
Thus Jagan Reddy has been deemed "innocent"(going by the results of by-election) even before his case has come up for hearing.
In such a situation how can corruption be fought against ?
The state where even the name is a scam (yes..the emergence of the state and later naming the state as Andhra Pradesh is mired in controversy), what can u expect?
In anthropology there is a theory called Culture-Personality Theory.
It says the culture influences the personality of the people.
AP is being ruled by people from 5 to 6 districts (Krishna, Guntur, East and West Godavari, Kadapa, Nellore etc) in all the fields of public life.
the culture of these places is such that – “People think it is smart work and sign of intelligence to cheat fellow, unsuspecting citizens”. to prove their smartness they have been cheating from birth.
Telangana people are the biggest sufferers, Hyderabad is the biggest victim.
Maybe there is some truth in the article. I have distinctly noticed amongst my friends from AP (in the last 10 years or so) that irrespective of their professions and hobbies their discussions usually veer around real estate and how to make quick money. A evolved society is one where people take time for their hobbies, encourage arts, music and other fine skills by contributing either their time or money, perform voluntary work, read extensively and spend time to enrich themselves through sharing of knowledge and ideas about literature.
However in AP, inspite of the super-duper rich people, there are no privately sponsored renowned centres to propagate arts, dance, music, paintings, sculpture where people from around the world can come and learn (like Kalakshetra in Chennai). There is not even one major book store worthy to be called a bookstore. The existing ones are downsizing and replacing book shelves with electronic goods. Most people in Hyderabad entertain themselves with crass entertainment centered around masala movies and pubs and fast food. Even there are newspaper reports about thefts in renowned temples. How low can a society go? It is the only city I have seen in India where inspite of traffic signals, the traffic man has to tell the people when to stop.
Once upon a time Hyderabad had the finest schools. Today the ones that are prominent are typical poultry farm like tuition factories where students are taught to "crack" entrance exams. No social skills are taught, neither are they allowed to think for themselves. Everyone is in a rush to crack exams, get a degree, get a IT job, go to the USA and make money. When the only principle a society values is that of making money, then greed wins over reason and decency.
Historic facts r well documented,every one knows that Telangana people didnt want to merge with Andhra state,they wer forced to and merged without their consent,wit some gurantees which never wer adhered,im asking when andhras r not called seperatist in 1952 how can telanganas can be called seperatists?.
when you migrate to other reasons ur obligied to accept their disctinct culture, language way of life and u should understand how their culture evolved over the years.
Telangana culture and language evolved wit synthesis of Telugu,Marathi, Urdu and Kannada. we r Proud of it.
because andhras didnt have city which can be made capital, its fact andhras had their offices under tents, they had deficit budget, Telangana had big City Hyderabad with Infrastrcture, Hyderabad belong s to every Indian as Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi and Banglore, belong to every Indian,no one can deny fact as Mumbai is in maharastra,kolkata is inWest bengal, Banglore is in karnataka. Hyderabad will b in Telangana.
when talk about Rights please think abt Responsblties, please tell me 1 reasons y telanagna should b part of andhra pradesh.
Telangana state will b Geographical Entity it wont b Lingustic entity.this state wont b Monopolised by single Language but Belongs to every Language wer every indian will b comfortable.
There's no hope for this country anyway. Corruption is now in the DNA, and even the 'anti-corruption crusaders' are corrupt to the core. Thirty years ago one might have imagined that a military government might purge the Augean stables, but now the military too, is completely corrupt. 25 years ago, the scams which shocked us - Bofors, for example - would be utterly lost in the small change of today's slush money. Twenty years from now, if this country still exists as anything more than a formality, today's scams will be too small to take account of.
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