Each day I wake up I realise I’m totally out of sync with this tech-age; that I’m not fashionable. It’s just a few years ago I learned that PDA stood for ‘Personal Digital Assistant’. So when Sunanda Pushkar (SP) told NDTV “I don't know. I can only say it's very sad that in a country like ours that they don't believe in PDA because the point is we are a country...” I was totally flummoxed. I was wondering what a stupid PDA had to do with her defence of the ‘50Crs GF’ tag or Shashi Tharoor. Thankfully, Sunetra Chaudhary quickly clarified that SP’s PDA means “Public Display of Affection”. These things keep changing faster than I can learn. And hold on, I did go to a convent school for a few years of my primary education. You know, we were taught about cows and dogs.. as in 'domestic animals’. In some exams we even loved drawing pictures of animals. But hell, that convent never taught me what “cattle class” was. And SP insists only those who went to a convent school would understand that. I’m now wondering if it’s a good idea to ‘sue’ my school.
So this Sunanda was on all the English channels and all the ballerinas in the news channels were shocked over the 50Cr GF comment and how it was ‘sexist’ and an insult to ‘womankind’. All very nice! But it doesn’t alter the fact that 50 or 70crs of ‘sweat equity’ was the reason why Tharoor was sacked from the ministry earlier. Nothing had changed in between to bring him back. That was a question no news channel wanted to ask. Well, it’s election season in Gujarat so that part can wait. I’ve seen the Bachchan movie “Khoon Pasina” and even heard of the rock-band ‘Blood, Sweat & Tears’. Salman Khurshid explained the blood and tears part well. There was his ‘Ink & blood’ comment and then how SoniaG had ‘tears’ in her eyes over the Batla House shoot out.
However, it took the Tharoor-Sunanda duo to bring home the full understanding of ‘Sweat’. Theirs is a true love story as Tharoor indicated in his tweet-back to Narendra Modi. Like PDA this ‘sweat equity’ is also a concept that’s not very old. Start-up companies which don’t have lots of money issue equity shares to people like lawyers, marketers etc. in lieu of cash payments for their services. The shares, of course, are liquid assets like any other. But this sweat can also be misused to reward people as bribes under crony capitalism. And the best place to borrow capitalist concepts from? You guessed it – US of A! Nobody does it better. Every form of economic system or ideology has its evils; or should I say evil people? For instance govt officials handing over land or public facility to a private citizen or entity for a small price and then getting kickbacks. Or buy a piece of land dirt cheap, sweat over it with govt help and then sell it for an extraordinarily high value. I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably thinking Robert Vadra but we’ll get to him later.
In the meantime let’s remember what Swami Vivekanand or even Stephen Covey has talked about many times. Good is difficult to emulate but evil can and will always be exceeded. In other words, it’s hard to pick up good practices or habits but bad habits are usually exceeded from where they were picked up. If one is a smoker, chances are the person is probably now smoking more than the person from whom the habit was picked up. Remember September-October 2008? That’s the time many crony American companies with fake balance sheets and figures, companies with nothing but paper assets crashed. Those included AIG, Merrill Lynch and housing loan companies. While many in the public suffered, the owners or management members of these companies made a killing. The sweat love story is not very different. You’ve heard of Cash4Votes, of Cash4Questions in parliament. Here’s something similar: Kids4Cash. The story is old and also features in Capitalism: A Love Story by Michael Moore.
In the year 2001 a private company in Pennsylvania (PA), US offered their company, PA ChildCare, to replace a county’s Juvenile Detention home and the contract of detentions outsourced to them. The two people who offered this “social service” were as Greg Zappala and attorney Robert Powell. As it happened Powell had a friend in Judge Michael Conahan who shut down the public juvenile facility since it was “run down” and stopped its funding by end 2002. In due course the contract to run the detention centre was handed over the privately run PA ChildCare of Robert Powell. That’s not all; the contract was a $58 Million per year lease. So essentially, Powell’s company built his private detention centres with public money and had an annual lease amount too. Nice, isn’t it? But, that’s not all.
Powell’s company added a sister company to the original PA ChildCare and both started operating juvenile detentions for the govt. Powell’s business of reforming of spoilt brats of PA flourished. He even bought a private jet and yacht that was ironically named “Reel Justice”. Now that the detention business was privatised, more and more kids were convicted for juvenile offences. The number of kids being sent to the detention centres grew, business grew. In a 5 year period Judge Mark Ciavarella (seemingly a partner in crime of Judge Conahan) sentenced an astonishing 6500 kids to Powell’s detention centres. You see, the more kids they sent to the juvenile centres the more the money to the private businessmen. More money to the private businessmen meant … Hmmmm! That’s the beauty!
Both Judges Conahan and Ciavarella received up to $2.6 Mn in kickbacks and bribes. It came to be known as the “Kids for Cash” scandal which broke in 2008. Both judges also didn’t report this income and didn’t pay income tax on it. The case broke just around the time financial markets were crashing in the US. Both judges were prosecuted. On February 18, 2011, following a trial, a federal jury convicted Ciavarella and the prosecutors said the former judge used children "as pawns to enrich himself." On August 11, 2011, Ciavarella was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison as a result of his conviction. On September 23, 2011, Conahan was sentenced to 17-and-a-half years in prison as he pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy. On November 4, 2011, Robert Powell was sentenced to 18 months in prison for failing to report a felony and being an accessory to tax conspiracy. Consequent to the frauds all the 6500 convictions by Ciavarella were also overturned. Read more at Juvenile Law Centre site.
There are only two things that separate the crony capitalism of the USA and India. One is that their media, probably equal with India’s in every other way, does not directly support crony capitalism. The other is the Justice system. The US justice system appears to be fair and is definitely far swifter. It is merciless on any criminal regardless of who the person or entity is. Out here, there is an outpouring of tears in the media for Rajat Gupta and he would have probably not been tried for another 25 years even. The concept of sweat equity was originally a good one. But as we keep observing, crony capitalism ensures equity and assets pass to hands without anyone running or breaking into a sweat.
Just about two years ago Sunanda Pushkar was a hounded woman with many media crooks painting her a “vamp”. Now, she is being painted a “victim”. For the media everybody is a victim where it concerns Narendra Modi. In her interviews she goes around saying “there’s no money on the table”. She even quotes from Jerry Maguire and says “show me the money”. Well you see, viewers are either idiots or didn’t attend a convent school to understand that the very reason for “sweat” equity is because the start-up doesn’t have enough cash. Question remains, why exactly was she given that equity for. There’s no evidence she had done anything for the Kochi IPL team, unless it’s a big secret. She didn’t run and break into a sweat. It must have been Kochi’s way of expressing affection. Sweat is thicker than love, it’s priceless.
To be continued...