What are your observations from the preliminary investigations in the corporate espionage case?
First of all, from the manner in which it has been made public, more questions than answers have emerged. Firstly, the Parliament session has started but no statement has been issued by the government as yet. On the one hand, the Police Commissioner makes it out to be a very big case and on the other the government has made no commensurate statement.
Secondly, it appears to be too good to be true. Corporate espionage is not a new or unique development. The manner in which it has been publicised, there seems to strategically underlie the impression that this government keeps a safe distance from corporates, whereas the government’s policy decisions and enactments proposed in Parliament show quite the contrary.
So, I think the government may be using this case as a public relations exercise. It is really hard to believe that only some grade IV staff and some low-level corporate staff were involved in the theft.
The other notable thing that comes out of the case is that all critical energy-related Ministries are involved. Therefore, this might as well be a clear message from the government to the corporates that you cannot deal with low-level staff. To deal with this government, you have to deal at the top level. There are a series of doubts. Therefore, it makes it all the more necessary for the government to come up with an official statement and to ensure that the investigations go right up to the top.
The case indicates that the so-called consultancies are doubling up as front organisations for corporates.
Some people are already pitching for legalising lobbying in India. These are attempts to create an environment which is more corporate-friendly. We think that anybody interested in transparency should pressure the government to come out with a statement. The Prime Minister, who claims to support transparency, should come up with a statement. The fact that the files were stolen from government offices shows that we still live under a system of maximum government and minimum governance. Quite contrary to what the Prime Minister claims.
There are several issues between ONGC and Reliance—some of arbitration, some of gas thefts. Unless the government comes clean on these aspects, it is difficult to comment on this case more comprehensively. Therefore, it is difficult to believe that corporate espionage happens at such low levels of the government as the government is trying to make us believe.