It has been over two months since the Hindenburg Report was released, and fresh accusations are being leveled against the Gautam Adani Group. Recently, Wikipedia accused the Adani Group of manipulating their pages by using fake accounts and undeclared paid editors.
Before this, the issue was raised in Parliament when Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and TMC leader Mahua Moitra questioned Prime Minister Modi about his alleged relationship with Adani. A photo of Prime Minister Modi with Adani was presented in Parliament, causing a lot of uproars, and Rahul Gandhi’s remarks were later removed from Parliament records.
We will try to figure out what the accusations are and how true they are. Before we begin, it is essential to note that this is not the first time a corporate group has faced severe allegations. We have seen the Harshad Mehta Scam, Satyam Scam, Sahara Scam, and allegations on Vijay Mallya, Lalit Modi, Nirav Modi, and Mehul Choksi.
Similarly, previous governments have also been accused of scams such as the Bofors Scam, Augusta Westland Scam, 2G Spectrum Scam, and Commonwealth Scam. However, what is happening now has never happened in the history of the nation.
This is the first time that in an alleged scam, public money was lost, but a faction of the people has come forward, not to demand an investigation, but to defend the company and the government. A trend was created on Twitter, #IStandWithAdani. Many of these supporters are neither employees nor stockholders of Adani, yet they are at the forefront of defending Adani.
Imagine someone running a trend of IStandWithVijayMallya for Vijay Mallya’s case, or someone defending the Commonwealth Games saying that there should be no investigation into it because no wrong was done.
The biggest scam here is being done with the people’s minds. Basic logic, common sense, and the basic understanding of democracy have been trampled upon. They say that Adani should not be questioned because he is an Indian businessman, and his companies provide many jobs, contributing to the development of India.
But when we examine Adani’s contribution to India, we find that he only employs around 23,000 people, according to his official website. In comparison, the Tata Group of companies provides over 900,000 jobs, Infosys provides over 300,000 jobs, and Reliance Industries and Wipro provide over 200,000 jobs.
The Adani Group does not even appear in the list of Top 25 private companies that provide jobs in India. Coal India, a government-owned company, has over 270,000 employees, while Indian Railways has over 1.25 million employees.
Adani Group does not make a significant contribution to providing jobs in India, and it does not pay the most taxes either. It is imperative to investigate the accusations levelled against the Adani Group, irrespective of their contribution to India.
In this story, a major point was missed. According to government officials interviewed by the Indian Express, while domestic coal in India costs around ₹1,700-₹2,000 per tonne, the coal imported by Adani costs around ₹17,000-₹20,000 per tonne. This shows that public-sector companies directed to use imported coal have to pay ten times the cost.
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Moving on to the next topic, let’s take a look at the chronology related to Sri Lanka. In May 2019, the governments of India, Japan, and Sri Lanka signed a Memorandum of Cooperation for the development of the East Container Terminal at the Columbo Port. In February 2021, Sri Lanka canceled this ECT agreement from 2019, which left India and Japan unhappy.
The next month, in March 2021, Sri Lanka changed the terminal to the West Container Terminal, which became a joint public-private partnership project between the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and Adani Ports and SEZ. The Sri Lankan government’s cabinet-appointed negotiation committee requested the Indian High Commission and the Japanese Embassy to nominate investors, but only Adani Ports and SEZ received approval from the Indian high commission.
Adani has also been awarded numerous contracts related to ports, defense, and electricity in countries such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Israel. TMC leader Mahua Moitra claimed that Adani travels with Prime Minister Modi on his foreign tours, meets other heads of state, and has created an impression that he is the remote control managing PM Modi.
Another accusation against Adani is tax evasion. Several show cause notices were issued to the Adani Group by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence in May 2014, alleging that the group evades paying taxes and owes approximately ₹10 billion. There were also allegations of using a shell company to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars among companies and to tax havens to avoid paying taxes.
In August 2017, the adjudicating authority of DRI, KVS Singh, dropped all charges raised by the agency against Adani Power Maharashtra Limited and Adani Power Rajasthan Limited.
The next allegation was loan-related. In September 2022, when Adani’s wealth reached an all-time high, the loans owed by the Adani Group also reached all-time highs at ₹2.2 trillion. According to the Adani Group’s CFO in an interview with CNBC TV18, the total debt of the Adani Group is at $30 billion, which is approximately ₹2.48 trillion. Of this, around ₹740 billion is owed to Indian banks, with the SBI being owed ₹400 billion and PNB being owed ₹70 billion. Bank of Baroda declined to openly disclose the amount owed, but it is estimated to be around ₹53.8 billion.
One of the allegations related to the loans is loan write-off. According to an RTI filed by the Indian Express, the RBI revealed that in the last five years, the Adani Group has had loans worth ₹7,406 crores ($1 billion) written off.