Was INSAT-4B victim of malicious malware Stuxnet?

The Ministry of Communications & Information Technology recently said that all the ministries/departments of the Union and state governments are implementing a crisis management plan to counter cyber attacks and cyber terrorism that includes measures for prevention and respond to malicious code/virus attacks.

The Indian government’s response has been triggered by the spread of a malicious software (malware) worldwide. Reports of a sophisticated software program, known as Stuxnet, infecting computers used to control critical industrial systems like power stations, nuclear plants, and electricity grid worldwide first emerged in July 2010.

The deadly worm was first discovered at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant. According to the leading internet security firm Symantec, the worm existed at least a year prior to its discovery or even before that.

Stuxnet particularly targets industrial control software, SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition), created by German engineering firm Siemens. The majority of infections due to the worm were found in Iran, followed by Indonesia and India.

Till now we have seen computer viruses, worms, or trojans attacking PC’s or servers and deleting files and documents or wipe off website access. But the arrival of Stuxnet has changed everything as it not only affects the systems but also threatens lives of millions of people.

This piece of malware, which mainly spreads through the USB drives, allows the attacker to take control of critical infrastructure systems. The malware can be planted in the systems and can be activated whenever the attackers want it to.

“In the worst case scenarios, safety systems could be switched off at a nuclear power plant; fresh water contaminated with effluent at a sewage treatment plant, or the valves in an oil pipeline opened, contaminating the land or sea,” writes Paul marks in New Scientist.

According to Symantec, the authors of the virus are capable of monitoring inputs and changing outputs. “So this malware could lead to system shutdowns, explosions or inability of control important attributes like pressure and temperature, critical to power plants and process-driven installations,” its analysis states.

Stuxnet has affected industrial control systems in over 150 countries, including India.  Till now, the malware has affected around 10000 computers, which includes some of systems installed at petrochemical plants and power houses.

According a Critical Infrastructure Protection Survey conducted by Symantec, half of India’s critical infrastructure providers have experienced cyber attacks and there is no system in place to secure networks, gateways, critical communication and information infrastructure in the country.

A lot of Indian critical infrastructure uses SCADA system. It is used by oil companies (GAIL, IOCL, HPCL, BPCL), nuclear power plants, and even airpots. PowerGrid Corporation also has seven SCADA-based systems.

A senior official of Power Grid’s IT department revealed that a Stuxnet type of virus originating from China attacked one of the routers in the power sector.

Reports in the Indian media state that the government is already fearing a cyber attack on the power transmission lines and air traffic control systems in the country. A plan has been drafted to thwart such attacks in a meeting, held at the PMO last month. It was attended by all chiefs of staff and Home, Telecom, Defence, Finance, and IT secretaries.

Although the government claims the virus has not been found on any defense equipment or facility, nothing can be left to chance. India’s network centric warfare strategy is a potential target for malicious malware like Stuxnet.

The threat to India is very real, says Devendra Parulekar, an IT risk assurance expert at Ernst & Young. Parulekar said that given the fact that India is surrounded by hostile neighbors future attacks (even terror strikes) through Stuxnet or similar malware is a real and looming threat.

Infact, a reputed cyber warfare expert has even hinted at a possibility of India’s INSAT-4B being destroyed by Stuxnet. Some experts have also hinted that the malware was created to target India’s space program.

“India’s Space Research Organization is a Siemens customer. According to the resumes of two former engineers who worked at the ISRO’s Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre, the Siemens software in use is Siemens S7-400 PLC and SIMATIC WinCC, both of which will activate the Stuxnet worm,” Jeffrey Carr wrote on his blog Firewall.

However, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has denied any such possibility.

Many theories have been floated about the motive behind Stuxnet and where it came from. An senior Iranian official, on Monday, accused Siemens with helping US and Israel in creating Stuxnet that attacked the country’s nuclear facilities.

“Siemens should explain why and how it provided the enemies with the information about the codes of the SCADA software and prepared the ground for a cyber attack against us,” Brigadier General Gholam Reza Jalali, who heads Iran’s Passive Defense Organization, told an Iranian news agency.

In its report in January this year, even New York Times (citing confidential sources) has said that the malware was jointly created by the US and Israel to sabotage the Iranian nuclear program.

Whatever the motive and origin of this deadly malware, Stuxnet is capable of causing massive real-world damage and India will have to be very alert to prevent such attacks on its defense equipment and critical infrastructure.

(This article first appeared on the website of Indian Defence Review on April 21, 2011)

Dangers of Robotic Militarization

As India prepares to induct more unmanned aircraft systems (UAS – with defensive and offensive capabilities) to neutralize future threats from Pakistan and China, a new report from Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has warned that increasing use of such aircraft may create a ‘Terminator-like’ world and also make conflicts more likely.

The internal report titled “The UK approach to Unmanned Aircraft Systems” raises moral, legal, and scientific issues with regard to excessive use of unmanned systems in conflicts across the globe.

These aircrafts can be launched in combat areas and are flown by “remote control, via satellite links, or by pilots sitting thousands of miles away,” says Chris Bowlby, Producer of Robo War.

Currently, the unmanned aircraft systems are being developed and deployed by around 50 countries. They are extensively used in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, some Latin American countries, and now Libya.

The report states that use of unmanned aircraft systems involves the removal of risk to ones own forces in warfare. This raises a lot of ethical issues. “For war to be moral (as opposed to just legal) it must link the killing of enemies with an element of self-sacrifice, or at least risk to oneself,” the report argues.

Another research report, written by Chris Cole, has also raised a similar issue where he states that “the core concern with regards to the use of armed drones is the ‘Playstation mentality’ whereby the geographical and psychological distance between the drone operator and the target lowers the threshold in regard to launching an attack and makes it more likely that weapons will be launched.”

Cole’s report also raises the scary possibility of the vulnerability of the unmanned drones to technical failures and hacking. “Far from resolving conflicts, their indiscriminate nature is fueling further anger, mistrust and division between human communities and perpetuating cycles of violent conflict,” his report adds. Reports of civilian casualties in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a result of drone attacks have already been used by extremist elements to fuel anger against the US forces.

The British MoD report also states that the extensive use of unmanned systems in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan has facilitated the use of force in places where it was almost impossible to operate in. As a result such systems have increased the possibility of wars.

Questions have also been raised on the possibility of fielding fully autonomous armed systems. “To a robotic system, a school bus and a tank are the same – merely algorithms in a programme – and the engagement of a target is a singular action; the robot has no sense of ends, ways and means, no need to know why it is engaging a target. There is no recourse to human judgement in an engagement, no sense of a higher purpose on which to make decisions, and no ability to imagine (and therefore take responsibility for) repercussions of action taken,” the report states.

The report states that the desire to save manpower costs and lives will drive the demand for more unmanned systems with more autonomy.

According to a US Department of Defense presentation, the US has atleast 7000 drones (one in 50 troops in Afghanistan). Senior US Air Force officials argue that it no longer makes sense to spend $1 million in training a pilot (who can play manned aircrafts) to fly a drone and that future drone operators may not be such pilots.

And with new softwares being developed which will enable drones to think like pilots to prevent mid-air collisions with other drones and human-power aircrafts, there are also fears that the role of humans in operating such lethal systems will shrink drastically.

“Such a scenario may lead us towards a Terminator-like reality,” the report argues. It calls for immediate action to determine what could be an “acceptable machine behaviour”.

(This article first appeared on the website of Centre for Land Warfare Studies and Indian Defence Review on April 25, 2011)

The three theaters of the Arab world


Arab spring was always a media short hand. After spending some time in the region, I have in my focus three distinct dramas being played out.

From North Africa – Tunis, Egypt – to Jordan and Syria is one theatre. This is the arena of positive evolution.

Then there is the GCC theatre. Saudi Arabia is the spider in this web, its tentacles deep in Bahrain and Yemen, two countries it shares border with.

The third is something of a solo number with Muammar Qaddafi dancing between minefields being inexpertly laid by an Anglo-French pair of plotters. The Americans, having had their fingers burnt in Iraq, are clearly keen not to be seen conferring martyrdom on another Arab despot.

In an excellent interview with a journalist who specializes in Africa, Fareed Zakaria conclusively established Qaddafi’s immense popularity with sub Saharan Africa where people are collecting donations to help Qaddafi. Surely slaughterers of their citizens are made of harsher stuff.

Little wonder African leaders have been jointly pleading with the international community not to apply UNSC resolution 1973, as a means to advance Western interests.

The Anglo-French desire to dress up their designs with altruism, is just not selling. The Arab public is taking the Anglo-French propaganda with large doses of salt. “Foreigners have entered my house in Mesrata”, says Rafiq Hamadi in Baghdad, “and When I shoot them, they run to the media with the story that I am ‘slaughtering’ my people!”

In the short term, it appears Libya will be divided between East and West. The world, including the Arab public and 20 million Muslims in Europe will see the partitioning of the country for what it is: not to stop the “slaughter” of the innocents but for Libya’s light crude for which European refineries are specially geared.

Bahrain, meanwhile, has been an avoidable tragedy. Avoidable, because the Americans very nearly navigated an agreement between the Crown Prince and the opposition. But hardliners in Riyadh and Manama scuttled it.

Events in Bahrain deserve to be understood because they will resonate for a while. A 37 km causeway links Dammam headquarters of Saudi Arabia’s exclusive oil bearing eastern province, which also happens to be a Shia majority region. In fact, in one of the districts, Qatif, the Shia population is over 90 percent.

Ever since the Ayatullahs came to power in Teheran in 1979, the Saudi state has been firm in handling Shia restiveness in the province, real or imagined. Since King Abdullah’s benign rule, Moharram processions and other Shia practices have been tolerated. But vigilance is as total as can be in a police state.

Across the causeway, Bahrain is, by comparison, a haven of openness except that political freedoms are cleverly circumscribed. A large segment of Bahrain’s 1.5 million population are expatriate.

Nearly seventy percent of the 8,00,000 Bahrainis happen to be Shias. The rulers, however, follow a strict Sunni school. For over 200 years the Khalifa family have been Emirs of Bahrain.

A decade ago Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa declared himself King. An Emir, he thought, had colonial connotations. Kingship would lend itself to the possibility of a “constitutional monarchy”. Along with Kingship, almost in sequence, comes a Crown Prince – in this case Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

King Hamad, ever since he ascended the throne has had his uncle, Khalifa Ibn Salman al Khalifa as Prime Minister under whom, by popular consent, corruption has flourished as it has elsewhere in the Arab world. He was one of the targets of recent demonstrations.

Infection of popular protest from Tunisia and Egypt arrived in Bahrain and youngsters, Shias and Sunnis, began to collect at Pearl Square for peaceful demonstrations. They even mounted Mahatma Gandhi posters.

The, police largely Pakistani, cracked down hard. In the ranks of the protesters there was some confusion. Did they want freedoms? A free press? Participatory democracy? Constitutional monarchy? or that the Kahlifas must flee?

American special envoy, Jeffery Feltman, the Crown Prince and moderate Shia leader Shaikh Ali Salman secretly met and hammered out a compromise agreement.

The Prime Minister, seeing his power recede, agreed to Saudi Interior Security chief Prince Naif’s hard line. No quarter should be given to the Shias who will be the staging post for Iran. Brutality on the Shias was unleashed. And now the Crown Prince and the Prime Minister are probably in rival camps. Obviously the story is not yet over.

(Saeed Naqvi is senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

Why Bhushans are wrongly targeted?

That there is a concerted campaign to malign and tarnish the image of Bhushans has become obvious in the last few days. Apart from the controversy over the alleged fake CD raked up by Amar Singh, the Indian media reported on a land allotment allegations against the Bhushans without verifying the facts about the people who made such allegations and their agenda.

Below is a letter written to former Additional Solicitor General Vikas Singh who filed the petition against Bhushans in the Allahabad High Court.

My Dear Vikas,

I belong to 1970 batch of the School. I would have liked to congratulate you on your successes (senior counsel and Additional  Solicitor General of India, etc) but have serious reservation after  having  witnessed the means adopted by you in courting  success.

I saw your interviews in the media on the allotment of farm house plots at Noida to the Bhushans, on opposing their being members of the drafting committee and somehow felt that we did not go to the same school with the motto “For God and Country” (for Xaviers).

In your interviews with the media you projected yourself as a paragon of virtue, uprightness and transparency and  found faults with the Bhushans for taking plots in Noida, implying that they had taken favours from Mayawati for PILs filed by them. You objected to  their being on the drafting committee of the Jan Lokpal Bill which was with the overwhelming consent of the civil society which started the movement.

I hope  you will not have any objections in answering the following inconvenient questions on the allotment of plot to you in Noida, the filing of the writ petition in Allahabad and cleverly linking it to the so-called largesse to the Bhushans and thereby questioning the  appointment of Bhushans. There are some questions also on your being designated as a senior counsel of the Supreme court.

Questions relating to Noida Plot and filing of Writ Petition No 21663 dated 13th April 2011 and disposed off on 16th April 2011:

  • Is it not true that you applied for the farm house plot at Noida on a public advertisement in the newspapers?
  • When  did you come to know that the value of  the plots was four times the value mentioned in the brochure and how did you arrive at that value?
  • If  the value was four times the market value why did you not challenge the scheme through a PIL on account of the colossal loss to the exchequer? Why did you apply under the scheme?
  • Will you kindly disclose the contents of the letters you wrote to the Noida Authorities relating to the method of allotment of plots and place it in public domain so that it can be determined that these letters were not written for the purpose of intimidating the authorities into allotting a plot to you?
  • What was your grievance in the court against Noida Authority? Was it that it adopted a wrong procedure in the allotment of the plots or was it that you were allotted an inferior plot? Were Bhushans made a party or averments made to them in the petition?
  • Why did you go to court on 13/4/2011 when the intimation of the reservation of plot was done by the Authority in Jan 2011? It may be mentioned that you filed the case after the notification on the drafting Committee of the Jan Lokpal bill and after Shanti Bhushan had declared his assets relating to his plot in Noida.
  • What was the deficiency in your petition that it got disposed on 16/4/2011? Was it deliberate to gain publicity and to keep the plot also.
  • Is it not true that the usage of the plot is for farm/agricultural/horticultural and allied purposes and that a very limited portion can be used for construction purpose?
  • Is it not true that the annual rent for the plot is 9 lacs which works out to 4.5 lacs per acre? If this is enhanced to four times (the extent of undervaluation according to you) then the annual rent will be Rs 36 lacs or 3 lacs per month.. Would you agree to pay the same?
  • Does not the price of Rs 1.75 crores per acre (calculate the interest cost) and 4.5 lacs per acre as rent  for  land for agricultural use not too expensive? In which part of the country does agriculture give this type of return? Was the bogey of undervaluation deliberate? Did you not find the valuation of  2,50,00,000 sq mtrs (two and a half crores square meters)  of land  granted to Jaypee for a pittance (Rs 500/sq metre) and for commercial use alright? It had a subsidy of over 1,00,000 crores and yet you did not challenge it through a PIL?
  • Why did you make Bhushans your target after the filing of the case? Would it be wrong to conclude that you filed the case with the specific aim of defaming the Bhushans?
  • Would you declare your asset and put it in public domain for all to see as to how much of assets you have accumulated at what price and in what time period?

I am sure you will not.

Questions relating to your elevation as a senior counsel:

  • When did you join the Bar?
  • When were you designated as a senior counsel?
  • How many years of independent and active practice led to your becoming a senior counsel?
  • How many other lawyers have  become senior counsel in a similar time period?
  • Do you hold the record for becoming a senior counsel in the shortest period of active practice?
  • Were you selected through a transparent and a non-discretionary process?
  • If not then why did you not challenge it as the situation was the same as the allotment of the plots?
  • Did you enjoy the friendship of some judge at the time of your elevation?

Questions relating to your objections to the Bhushans on the drafting committee:

  • How many cases have you filed in your life in public interest?
  • In case any then for whom, for what cause and the fees charged?
  • In how many cases you have been engaged against a PIL, for whom and the fees received?
  • Were you fronting for corporate/political party or had a personal motive while opposing the  appointment of Bhushans and for which you filed the case?
  • If you have not done any pro bono work then what makes you a spokesperson for civil society? This has reference to your suggestion of removing the Bhushans (after filing a case having a shelf life of 4 days to gain publicity and to be given an opportunity to air your hidden agenda) and replacing them with Fali Nariman and Anil Dewan and your contention that there should not be any activist lawyers on the panel?
  • Did you refer to the same Falli Nariman who defended Union Carbide in Bhopal tragedy? Anil Dewan is well known to the Bhushans and will never agree to replace them. Did you have their consent to use their name and was it not a breach of ethics of pitting one against the other!
  • You might have seen Soli Sorabjee defending the Bhushans despite his differences with them. The  entire legal fraternity has not said a word against them including all those eminent lawyers who have appeared against them. At least they are grateful for the hefty fees that they earned due to them and acknowledge the just causes they espouse and fight all their cases without compromising with the opposite side. To accuse them of colluding with Mayawati and receiving favours was  malicious as you  know that it was not true.
  • Yes, Mr Shanti  Bhushan may be rich but it is money honestly earned  and accounted for. He has never shied away from fighting a public cause or having charged for his time while fighting a public cause.
  • He never accepts money in cash and when he does, he issues a receipt and accounts for it. Though one of the highest tax payers in his category, he has never agreed to the income tax conferring any honour on him.
  • The record of the Bhushans in fighting for the people of the country and the poor in terms of number of cases and the quality is unparalleled and the entire legal fraternity will not be able to add up to that number.
  • If you cannot fight for the poor and making money is your sole objective then do so by ethical means and do not foul mouth honest people who have made sacrifices and shown great courage in doing so.

That is why I say that we did not go to the same school and am ashamed that you are a part of the Alumni! If I do not receive a reply I will put the letter in public domain.

Yours sincerely

Arun Agrawal

(Disclosure: Shri Shanti Bhushan fought my  PIL on Cogentrix case for seven days in the Supreme Court, did not charge a rupee in fees or expenses and his professional time was worth Rs 30 lacs. He also wrote the foreword to my book titled  Reliance: The Real Natwar)

(PS: What was the bill for the invite at Kota House – refer below) Was it paid in cash or cheque? I hope neither of them are your clients!)

Date: Fri, 19 Nov 2010 17:56:21 +0530
Subject: Invitation
From: singh.vikas60@gmail.com
To: angrywal@hotmail.com

November 15, 2010

Dear friend,

It is a moment of immense pride for all Michaelites that two amongst us Shri Raj Vikas Verma & Shri Arup Roy Choudhury have taken charge of two important PSUs namely National Housing Bank & National Thermal Power Corporation respectively.  As an alumni, I thought it would be befitting that we join to celebrate this occasion.  My wife Mrs. Minu Singh and myself take the pleasure of inviting your wife and you for a musical evening with drinks and dinner at Kota House, Gold & Silver Room on 5th December 2010 at 2000 hrs.

I request invitees not to extend this invite to others on your own as it is a limited number private dinner.

Thanks for your cooperation in this matter.

Look forward to seeing you all.

Best regards,

[Vikas Singh]
Former Additional Solicitor General of India
St. Michaels 1975 (Cambridge) batch

Was Madhu Koda framed?


Forty-year-old Madhu Koda, a tribal politician without a political party, has been in jail since 30 November 2009 for allegedly laundering Rs 4,000 crore. As many as four government agencies — the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Department of Income Tax (IT), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Jharkhand Vigilance Department — have been probing the matter for 17 months now. A recent ED handout claimed that the agency ‘is all set to attach properties worth Rs 130 crore allegedly belonging to former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda and his aides’.

This was supposed to be the first breakthrough in the ED’s investigation, as it went about tracking down the ‘proceeds of crime’—properties and assets acquired with the Rs 4,000 crore allegedly laundered while he led Jharkhand for two years till August 2008. By an order issued by the ED on 12 April 2011, a copy of which is with us, properties of Quantum Powertech Pvt Ltd, Bharat Glass Tube Ltd, Bill Body Vyapar Pvt Ltd and IAG Company Ltd have been ‘attached’ (taken over by the State). There is no mention of any property owned by Madhu Koda in the ‘order’. This, despite the fact that on 4 March, the ED filed a chargesheet against Koda at a special court in Ranchi, Jharkhand’s capital, that charged him with amassing illegal wealth of over Rs 1,340 crore.

The agency’s attachment order, read alongside the chargesheet, throws up an obvious question: if the ED has proof of Koda and his associates having amassed over Rs 1,340 crore through ill-gotten means, then why has less than one-tenth of the alleged ‘proceeds of crime’ been attached?

This is not all. The Income Tax department filed an affidavit at the Jharkhand High Court on 12 November 2009 that summarised its investigation as follows: ‘Search and seizure operation…was conducted in the case of Madhu Koda, Binod Kumar Sinha and Sanjay Choudhary on 31.10.2009. Altogether, 69 premises have been covered…seizure as per the last report is [Rs] 23.65 lakh and US $3,430’.

The IT department also informed the Court that it had written a letter to the ‘vigilance wing, Jharkhand, seeking information regarding misappropriation of public funds’ by Koda. The Jharkhand vigilance bureau filed a fresh chargesheet on 2 April 2011 against Koda, alleging that he took Rs 90 lakh from two of his associates to contest the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. Incidentally, two earlier vigilance cases against Koda and his associates were taken over by the CBI on 12 August 2010. By month end, the Jharkhand High Court had directed the agency to investigate the authenticity of a ‘sting’ CD that had been submitted to it. We have a copy of this CD, as also the CBI report that authenticated its contents.

The Sting Operation

The sting operation was conducted on advocate Ritu Kumar, lawyer of Durga Oraon — petitioner in the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that finally nailed Koda and others — and Rajendra Krishna, the then advocate of the Jharkhand government. It is still not clear why Oraon, a small-time real estate agent with no track record of activism against corruption, chose to file the Writ Petition (PIL) No 4700/2008 against 20 individuals, including seven politicians, demanding a CBI enquiry. The PIL alleged that the politicians had amassed wealth beyond their known sources of income while holding ministerial posts in the Jharkhand cabinet; those named were all ministers at that time—Enos Ekka, Chandra Prakash Chowdhary, Bhanu Pratap Sahi, Dulal Bhuiya, Bandhu Tirkey, Hari Narayan Rai and Kamlesh Singh.

The specific cases against them are currently in various stages. But it is critical to note that Koda’s name did not figure in the original PIL. The petitioner, Oraon, had filed an interlocutory application (IA No 2978 of 2009) for impleading Koda, Sanjay Choudhary and Binod Sinha as respondents in the PIL. It was only after Koda’s name was thus dragged into the case that the law started tightening its grip on him. His industrialist friend Binod Sinha was also taken into custody.

The role of Oraon was known to all concerned. But not his motive. Was it just ‘public interest’? It was Saubhik Chattopadhaya, general manager at one of Binod Sinha’s companies, Emmar Alloys Pvt Ltd, who hit upon the idea of carrying out a sting operation on Oraon’s lawyer Ritu Kumar. He would pose as an agent of a Sinha in need of her help (for a fee), to uncover her modus operandi and what he suspected was the real motive of Oraon’s petition against Koda. To do this, Chattopadhyaya sought an appointment with the then government advocate, Rajendra Krishna (working under a post-Koda regime), met him on 2 February 2010, and requested him to fix a meeting with Kumar. Money wouldn’t be a constraint, he assured Krishna.

The CBI submitted a report to the Court in November 2010. It was titled ‘A Report of CBI on Sting Operation in compliance with the direction of the Honorable High Court of Jharkhand at Ranchi arising out of WP (PIL) No. 4700/2008’. The CBI report threw up the following:

  • Advocate Kumar advised Chattopadhaya to contact a co-practitioner, advocate SP Rai, to draft an (interlocutory application) IA petition. She confirmed that she would ensure that the Vigilance and Income Tax departments were restrained from taking coercive action against Binod Sinha.
  • Kumar agreed to take Rs 20 lakh per hearing to ensure that Sinha is not harassed by investigating agencies. Krishna repeatedly emphasised that the case against Sinha could be diluted if “they trusted each other.” Kumar, a lawyer fighting a case against Sinha, said “that he is a very good person but lacks maturity in so far as legal matters are concerned.” Kumar and Krishna went on to accept an advance of Rs 5 lakh from Chattopadhaya.
  • Chattopadhaya, in order to have Kumar confirm her influence with the judiciary, said that the Court “largely banks on your submission”. The CBI report notes that Kumar did not contest or refute this perception.
  • In fact, Kumar discussed a legal strategy with Chattopadhaya to ensure that Sinha is not harassed. The latter said that if ‘they would get the assured relief, he would make the necessary arrangement of the fund and the payment would be made as per her sweet will’.
  • The CBI report states that, ‘Mrs Kumar lamented harassing so many persons. She assured Chattopadhaya that she would ensure that no injustice is meted out to them. She said that the truth would come to the fore…She said that what has been filed is a public interest litigation petition and not a personal interest litigation petition. Mrs Kumar said that she would right the wrong made by her while projecting the facts before the Court.’
  • The CBI report makes other startling observations. Kumar admits that she did not check documents handed over to her that formed the basis of the PIL filed in Oraon’s name. The report states that ‘she felt the need to seek the assistance of someone for scrutinising the documents.’ She admitted she had made mistakes during her submissions to the Court. For instance, she had submitted that Sinha is not a taxpayer, whereas Sinha has been paying income tax since 1985.
  • The CBI report states that Kumar said that the “target” was to ward off the possibility of the cases being entrusted to the CBI. She went on to say that “if sizeable number of persons were impleaded, it would be beneficial for them [Koda, Sinha and others].”
  • There is a bombshell in the CBI report, tucked away on page 19. ‘Mrs Ritu Kumar divulged that it was Rajendra Krishna who acted behind the scenes and who prevailed upon her to get dismissed the petition against Shibu Soren. Rajendra Krishna said that the embarrassing situation they were faced with could have been avoided had the petition against Binod Sinha been dismissed.

The Thickened Plot

While the Supreme Court upheld the on-going CBI enquiry on the disproportionate assets case, the staggering implications of advocate Ritu Kumar’s assertion that she piloted the PIL as ‘per her will and that she had misdirected the High Court to add or delete the respondents against whom the investigations are operative’ need to be probed as well.

The sting suggests that Kumar agreed to take Rs 20 lakh per hearing to dilute the case against Sinha. She may also have been paid to file the PIL in Oraon’s name; if so, by whom? The details emerging from a plethora of legal documents, affidavits, chargesheets and official investigation reports only end up raising a question that can be ignored no longer. Is the former CM of India’s poorest state in jail because the big fish escaped the dragnet?

The Jharkhand State Bar Council found Kumar’s and Krishna’s misconduct so serious that it recommended ‘severe punishment’. Subsequent disciplinary proceedings held in March 2010 resulted in their names being struck off the roll of the Bar Council. They were debarred ‘from practising in any Court of Law for the rest of their life’.

With this, several holes have been punched in the PIL that supposedly exposed the ‘Rs 4,000 crore money laundering scam’. Moreover, investigation agencies are currently bogged down in a procedural labyrinth. Under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, the act of identifying and attaching the ‘proceeds of crime’ must be preceded by a clear establishment of the crime.

So far, no investigating agency has even remotely suggested that money from the state treasury was siphoned off and laundered. If Koda and his associates are guilty of accepting bribes in the form of money that was later laundered, this can only be established by submitting hard evidence of instances of bribery—together with how any of it influenced his policies in a manner amounting to abuse of authority.

But the voice of the man at the centre of this murky case hasn’t been heard ever since he was arrested. So, on 25 January this year, we travelled to Ranchi to meet Koda.

The Voice of Victimhood

Koda had just been admitted to the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences, Ranchi; he was suffering ill-health associated with high blood pressure and cervical spondylitis. Allowed to enter Koda’s room by the police guards posted at the hospital, VK Shashikumar spoke at length with him. What he had to say was stunning (see accompanying interview).

“I regret being an ‘independent’ politician,” he says, alleging that private mining companies, in connivance with political parties, have had him thrown into prison to cover up their own greedy designs on Jharkhand’s mineral resources. The former CM says his troubles originate in a 20 August 2007 order: he had ordered the re-tender (seen as a rejection) of a proposal by the Kolkata-based private company Usha Martin for a mining joint venture (JV) with Jharkhand State Mineral Development Corp (JSMDC). “Usha Martin wanted a larger share of the mining pie…” says Koda, “They wanted to take over all the JSMDC mines through this indirect route of forging a JV. They were desperately pushing the JV file, despite a Jharkhand High Court order [disallowing the JV]. I was firm that I would not take any decision that violated the law, and so I rejected the file proposing the JV. Since that day, Madhu Koda was designated as an enemy of Usha Martin because he had rejected the company’s JV proposal. This is the behind-the-scenes reason for my troubles and for the cases registered against me.”

Koda’s stint as Jharkhand’s CM, the fifth of this new state carved out of Bihar in 2000, had been brief. He assumed office on 18 September 2006 and held it till 23 August 2008. Born to a poor miner’s family in West Singhbhum, he was a labour activist who joined politics and became a BJP legislator from Jaganathpur in 2000. He was appointed mines minister in Arjun Munda’s cabinet. In 2005, however, he was denied a BJP ticket and had to contest the state’s Assembly polls as an independent candidate. He won his seat. Overall, it was a hung verdict, though, and in 2006 he assumed power as a balance-of-forces CM with support of the Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s Shibu Soren. The state has been afflicted with political instability ever since its formation, and so it was not too extraordinary for an independent to become CM (it had happened twice in India before).

Koda approach to governance was already clear by then. It was during his tenure as mining minister, a portfolio he retained as CM, that Koda claims to have first challenged the hold of companies like Tata Steel and Usha Martin over the state’s mining sector. “I had issued notices to these companies,” says Koda, “Industries are allotted captive mining leases on the basis of an agreement with the government that the ore mined from these mines would be consumed in plants or factories located within the state. But Tata and Usha Martin violated the agreement and were selling the ore to other industries and buyers outside the state and earning huge profits. That is why my government issued show cause notices to these companies.”

The former CM claims he wanted to expand his support base among tribals by leveraging his experience and learnings as a mine worker. “It is a natural principle that all benefits accruing from the natural resources under the land on which tribals have lived for centuries must be shared with them for their progress and development.” So he framed a policy of giving mining leases for minor minerals to tribal cooperative societies. It proposed charging private sector miners a royalty for operating major mineral mines, money that would go into a tribal development fund. The third major aspect of the policy, in the interest of a competitive sector, intended to break what he saw as the stranglehold of a few companies over Jharkhand’s mineral resources. Finally, Koda says he wanted to stop the practice of private companies selling mineral ore from captive mines leased to them by the government.

“Certainly, Usha Martin and Tata Steel are involved,” says Koda, referring to the origin of his travails, “Their involvement is invisible, but one can understand and experience their reach. I am certain about this. Some political parties are also supporting this conspiracy because they want to finish the public life and political career of Madhu Koda. Despite being an independent MLA, I rose to become the Chief Minister. In my area, I had enormous mass support. All of this was obviously viewed adversely and as a threat by some political parties.”

(The interview was published in the OPEN magazine’s April 21, 2011 issue)

Madhu Koda’s tell all interview


Madhu Koda has been in jail for one year and four months on charges of money laundering when he was Chief Minister of Jharkhand between 2006 and 2008. The third ‘independent’ MLA to ever become CM, he is accused of siphoning off Rs 4,000 crore, owning mines in Thailand and Liberia, resorts in Goa and Daman, and real estate in Dubai. We managed to get past the police guards outside Koda’s hospital room in the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences, Ranchi, for the first on-record interview with Koda since his arrest. In the course of the interview in Hindi (click here to watch the entire interview), he says he was framed in false cases and fixed by corporations — Usha Martin and Tata Steel — because he tried to stop the misuse of the mining leases granted to them. Repeated attempts to obtain clarifications from the companies named have been unsuccessful.

In the interview, Koda’s takes us through the beginning of his political career to the highpoints and his subsequent fall. In his version of how and why he was ‘framed’, he says it was his failure to align with mainstream parties that is responsible for the fact that he continues to languish in jail while others accused in cases such as the 2G and Commonwealth scams have had it far easier. Pointing to the fact that the investigation against him has not been able to find even a fraction of the money he was supposed to have appropriated, he says there is just no evidence to back the charges against him:

Your political rise was meteoric…
I had never imagined that I would be in politics or even planned to join it. I was involved in a labour movement in mines. We were partly successful in our campaign. We were able to ensure miners got minimum wages and that they were paid OT (overtime) fees as well. A lot of miners benefitted from our movement. Over a period of time, my involvement as an activist fighting for the rights of miners led to the formation of a base of supporters and sympathisers in the organised and un-organised sectors.

At that time you weren’t associated with a political party.
Yes, I wasn’t a member of any political party. But as my activities as a ‘mazdoor andolan’ leader expanded in 1989, mine owners viewed my labour activism adversely. They began lodging false cases against me. I then realised the strategic necessity of continuing my activism under the banner of a political party. That’s when I joined the BJP [in 1994].

Were you also with the RSS?
Yes, I was in touch with them. I was with the BJP, and it is natural that I would be in contact with the RSS.

So, when did you decide to contest elections as an independent candidate, and why?
I was not given a ticket by the BJP [in 2005]. So I decided to contest the polls as an independent. But there was a conspiracy behind the denial of a party ticket to me. A report maligning me was submitted to the party, which became the basis for the denial. The report said that if I contested the elections, I would lose.

Why would anyone conspire against you to deny an election ticket?
There were people in the BJP who were against me, [and] in the local media. Prabhat Khabar published reports against me as well. But I contested the elections and won [from Jaganathpur]. Earlier, in 2000, I successfully contested [from the same constituency] on a BJP ticket. When I won the [2005] election, I realised that my tribal supporters had a lot of expectations. They lived in jungle areas in the mining belt. Also, after Jharkhand became a state, they’d hoped their economic conditions would improve. I had to reorient my political priorities in accordance with their wishes. I understood their aspirations because I was one of them.

You were appointed mines minister in Arjun Munda’s cabinet (from 2003 to 2005). What was your policy?
In Jharkhand, wherever there are mines and minerals, you find poor people. Nearly all of them are tribals. They should get their rights—because the land they live on, the forests they live in are rich in mineral resources. They should get adequate compensation and jobs so that their living standards can improve. But they haven’t been able to secure such rights. In my mind I was clear that tribals should get these mandatory economic rights because they have a claim over the mining areas that have been theirs for centuries. Most mining areas coincide with forest areas, and people who live there have direct or indirect traditional rights as original inhabitants and forest dwellers. It is a natural principle that all benefits accruing from the natural resources contained in the land on which tribals have lived for centuries must be shared with them for their progress and development. That is why I had framed a policy wherein cooperative societies of tribals would be formed to enable them to set up mining operations of minor minerals on a priority basis.

Was this policy ever implemented?
They (the government) did not allow the policy to be implemented. No government, whether of the BJP or otherwise, wanted to implement this policy. They thought Madhu Koda will become a popular tribal politician, if implemented.

There was another issue about royalty on major minerals that should be made available for tribal development. As CM, I made a policy on major minerals. The thought behind it was that mine owners should pay a royalty on the major minerals they mine, for tribal development. But this policy was also thwarted.

I also wanted to implement a resettlement and rehabilitation policy. But even this was disallowed. We (the government and mining industry) buy tribal land for peanuts, displace tribals from their original habitat, and then forget about them. There is no one to understand their sad plight. At a time when, through mining and industrial development, tribals should actually be progressing and raising their standard of living, we find them being displaced and becoming poorer.

If we had implemented these three policies, Jharkhand would have witnessed more investments. Tell me, aren’t power projects and investments bypassing Jharkhand in recent years? Some industrial houses did not like my policies.

As mines minister (2003-2005) you had issued notices to Tata Steel and Usha Martin that they were selling iron ore from captive mines leased to them…
Yes, I had issued notices to these companies. Industries are allotted captive mining leases on the basis of an agreement with the government that the ore mined from these mines would be consumed in plants or factories located within the state. But Tata and Usha Martin violated the agreement and were selling the ore to other industries and buyers outside the state, earning huge profits. That is why my government issued ‘show cause’ notices to these companies. So, Tata and Usha Martin were upset with me and my policy directives. Tata was supplying iron ore to Usha Martin. That is why I think they have played a major role in what has happened to me over the last two years. I believe that these companies were behind the cases against me and the campaign to defame me.

What triggered this? What was the starting point?
There are some industrial houses that want the mines and minerals of Jharkhand to become their exclusive property. They want all mineral resources to be under their control. This forceful assertion is not good for the state and country. This desire to have monopoly control over natural resources, which are actually national resources, is not good for economic and industrial development. This should be open to competition, to enable other companies to set up mining operations and industries in Jharkhand too.

But Usha Martin wanted a larger share of the mining pie and had proposed a joint venture (JV) with Jharkhand State Mineral Development Corporation (JSMDC). They wanted to take over all the JSMDC mines through this indirect route of forging a JV. They were desperately pushing the JV file, despite a Jharkhand High Court order (disallowing the JV). I was firm that I would not take any decision that violated the law, and so I rejected the file proposing the JV. Since that day, Madhu Koda was designated as an enemy of Usha Martin because he had rejected the company’s JV proposal. This is the behind-the-scenes reason for my troubles and for the cases registered against me.

When did this happen?
In 2008, when the company [Usha Martin] approached me for permission for the JV [with JSMDC], I turned down their request because I felt it was not in the interest of the state and country. The company indirectly wanted to control all the mines, whether coal or iron ore, owned by JSMDC.

So you are saying this triggered your ‘impleadment’ in the PIL on the disproportionate assets case filed against five other politicians in 2008?
No evidence of disproportionate assets was submitted to back the PIL. A newspaper cutting from Prabhat Khabar was all that was submitted. Unverified newspaper reports were submitted as evidence without any official enquiry or investigation. Cases were registered against me and have been going on for the last two years without any evidence being presented in court. There are four agencies investigating me—Income Tax, Enforcement Directorate, CBI and the State Vigilance. What is the accusation against me? That Madhu Koda has looted and laundered Rs 4,000 crore…The intention behind such an allegation was to completely destroy my public image.

This was a pre-planned action against me to ensure that the government, court, investigating agencies and public become biased against me. There are four agencies probing the Rs 4,000 crore… Where is that money? Why haven’t they found it? Why haven’t they been able to prove these allegations? I believe they haven’t been able to trace even 10 per cent of the sum that I have allegedly laundered. How is this possible?

I have been framed in a conspiracy hatched against me by people who were upset with my decisions [as CM]. I would like to say this: if I have looted Rs 4,000 crore, then this money should surely be somewhere… I am told that I bought mines in other countries.

In Thailand and Liberia…
Yes, that I allegedly have mines in Thailand and Liberia. That I own a resort in Goa and Daman. That I have made huge investments in Dubai’s real estate. Isn’t the CBI investigating all of these allegations? Why haven’t they been able to find anything in two years? For the last one year and two months [the interview was on 25 January], I am jail, and I have been cooperating with the investigation teams. For the past year, there is a case against me in court. Isn’t three-four months, a year, enough for investigating agencies to probe and submit their reports? Will I continue to remain in jail for the rest of my life without anything proven against me? How long will I be in jail and how much more time will the agencies take to provide evidence of any wrongdoing on my part? Isn’t there a limit? Shouldn’t the investigation of all agencies be time-bound? Some industrial houses have conspired to frame me in baseless and unproven allegations.

Why don’t you name them?
Certainly, Usha Martin is involved. Tata Steel is indirectly involved. Their involvement is invisible, but one can understand and experience their reach. I am certain about this. Some political parties are also supporting this conspiracy because they want to finish the public life and political career of Madhu Koda. Despite being an independent MLA, I rose to become the CM. In my area, I had enormous mass support. All of this was obviously viewed adversely and as a threat by some political parties.

Do you regret being an ‘independent’ politician? Would you have been protected if you belonged to a political party?
Yes, I do regret the fact that I am an ‘independent’ politician. Look at the big scams of 2010. Has any politician been arrested? Has anything happened to Raja in the 2G scam? What happened to the Commonwealth Games scam? Politicians are walking around freely. You see for yourself. What about the Adarsh building scam? On the other hand, I was not even given a chance to defend myself, to stand up for myself and give my version. I was arrested, stuffed into jail, and then had cases registered against me.

How were you arrested?
I was campaigning for the 2009 (Assembly) polls. During that phase, I received a notice to appear before the ED on 4 December [since, on 10 October 2009, he had been charged with laundering Rs 4,000 crore]. But I was tricked and arrested four days earlier, on 30 November.

Didn’t you have an offer to join the Congress?
Yes, there was certainly an offer to join the Congress. But this offer could not materialise because there were vested interests lined up against me. The party’s local politicians were unsettled with all the talk of my intention to join them. They felt that if Madhu Koda joined, their political fortunes would be short-lived.

So, are you basically saying that you wanted tribals to benefit from mining operations in Jharkhand, but some companies operating in the state were against this? That’s why, you say, you were fixed?
Yes, absolutely. I am a tribal, and I did want tribals to take advantage of the abundant mineral resources available in their habitat. Coal, iron ore, bauxite and other mineral wealth is buried in forests and mountains. Who lives there? Primitive tribals. So if there are mining operations, these tribals get displaced. Where should these tribals go when they lose their land? The land that contains the country’s mineral wealth is also home to India’s tribals. That is their source of sustenance. If their land goes, how will they survive? That is why I tried to frame policies to give tribals more and more rights to exploit the mineral wealth through tribal cooperative societies. But my approach was disliked by industries, companies and industrialists. That is why a conspiracy was hatched to defame me and finish my political career. It was a well-planned character assassination campaign. They wanted to immobilise Madhu Koda so that he dares not return to politics ever again.

Agencies investigating you state that you would take money in lieu of granting mining leases and then funnel the money through front companies.
No, this isn’t true. Any recommendation for mining leases is ultimately approved by the Central Government. If I have indulged in any wrongdoing, then it should be evident in the files. Has anybody said that I signed off mining leases without following the due process as laid down by law? All the allegations against me are hearsay. There is no evidence against me except for newspaper reports. I do not have any front company, whether through direct or indirect ownership. I am not a director or shareholder or managing director of any company. I am not involved in anything like this. There are allegations that I have benami investment. If that is true, then the agencies should identify the benami investments and seize them. I have submitted all my proof of investments to the Income Tax probe team.

So, are all the official probes against you part of a frame-up?
The group that is against me first created hype that I had looted the exchequer of Rs 4,000 crore during my tenure as minister. They were successful in turning the investigating agencies against me by creating a bias through accusations of money laundering and corruption. About 150 raids were conducted across the country in my name. Even the IT department issued a statement claiming that several hundred crore were recovered during raids conducted in my name and on establishments owned by me. If that is true, why doesn’t the IT department make the evidence public? Is there any proof of my investment in any company or transaction with any company? There is no proof against me, and yet I am in jail.

The idea was to sustain the hype against me by using the media to keep the focus on my alleged swindling of Rs 4,000 crore without anybody asking any questions or demanding proof and corroboration of the claims being made by the IT department and ED. There is no shred of evidence against me and nothing has been proven yet. Also, isn’t it strange that there were five other politicians against whom the PIL was originally filed? My name was added in the PIL later on. But why am I in jail while all other politicians named in the original PIL roam free?

(The interview was published in the OPEN magazine’s April 21, 2011 issue)