Corporate Oct 24, 2012
Up to now, the focus of the anti-corruption momentum, which began with Anna Hazare in April 2011, has been the corrupt politician and government servant. We've heard of, and we've been talking about, the CWG scam, the 2G scam, Coalgate, and, more recently, about Robert Vadra and Nitin Gadkari.
On the surface of it, it's only politicians who are getting caught in the web.
That's because media focus is only on them, the corrupt, not paying too much attention to the other part of the equation, the corruptor.
It's changed a bit after Coalgate .
The Times of India listed the following private sector organisations as beneficiaries of coal allocations: Strategic Energy Tech System, Electro Steel Castings, Jindal Steel and Power, JSPL and Gagan Sponge Iron Ltd, MCL/JSW/JPL and others, Tata Steel, Chhattisgarh Captive Coal Co Ltd and CESC Ltd and J&S Infrastructure.
In the Vadragate incident, DLF has been dragged into the headlines and into prime time news; in the Gadkari incident, IRB makes news for all the wrong reasons and is dragged into the mire.
Whenever these companies have been mentioned in these contexts, they have never been the primary targets - they are unintended, collateral victims.
It's important to re-read and re-interpret the current anti-corruption mood in the country. While, on the surface of it, the angst is against the politicians, bureaucrats and government servants, there is, as is obvious in the instances cited above, no sympathy for the corruptors either.
Anna Hazare, Kejriwal and their ilk have focused on corrupt, high-profile politicians - and have forced media to do the same. It will not take long for media (and activists) that they could benefit from the prevailing mood in the country by focusing on the other half of the corruption eco-system - those who are guilty of paying the bribes.
It is apparent that, thanks to the prevalent systems, bureaucracy and culture, certain industry verticals are under pressure to bribe - and they will be the low-hanging fruit for investigative journalists and activists. Just as recent events, especially the Vadra-DLF story, have demonstrated that there are no more holy cows, no more omerta as far as politicians are concerned, so it will be with India Inc. No company will be protected, no professional executive to0 big to be named and shamed.
It's time for India Inc to prepare itself for the new order of things. Try and identify incidents of wrongdoing, however small. Be prepared for either activists, media, your competition and disgruntled employees to release the news - and have your responses ready.
Anticipation and readiness are all-important. Because you will be outed. No one is safe any more.