The Fodder Scam Explained With Ice Cream

Humour

The Fodder Scam Explained With Ice Cream

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

I
f there is one scam that transcends generations, just like Undertaker in the WWE, it is the fodder scam. Your parents grew up talking about it, you grew up overhearing that conversation, and there’s a good chance your children will also be reading about it in scam-istry class. The ₹950-crore scam is termed as large-scale embezzlement of government treasury funds given to non-existent companies for purchase and supply of cattle fodder.

The terminology of the scam might be complex, but the idea and execution was simple as can be. It’s the winter, and it’s time for an ice-cream metaphor.

Let’s say there is a child named Lalu. Like most children his age, Lalu loves ice cream. But with the meagre pocket money of a seven-year old, there’s only those many sitaphal cones you can buy at Natural’s, especially in this economy. Mom is out, so he approaches his elder brother, who has access to the family piggy bank, for more money. But elder siblings can be assholes and there’s no reason for his brother to help him. Lalu needs to think harder.

The Bihari brat then devises an ingenious plan: He goes to his mom and tells her that he wants some money to donate to a school charity. Not suspecting any foul play, Mom hands him the money from the piggy bank. Of course, there’s no charity at school: It’s all made up, just like Lalu’s morality.

Meanwhile, suddenly flush with funds, Lalu binges not only sitaphal cones, but also freakshakes and cheesecakes. He keeps on giving his mum various other seemingly important reasons to extract more money out of her, once he gets the hang of the trick. Even with these small amounts, over a large period of time, Lalu has a big window of opportunity. After a bit, he buys a PlayStation and even a bicycle: The piggy bank was a gift that kept on giving.

When his elder brother suspects something fishy, Lalu gets him a PlayStation too. He even tells his friends in the neighbourhood about his tricks. They all coordinate and help each other loot piggy banks in their respective homes. If mom ever asked him for bills, he would get a friend to make fake bills for him that he would present as “proof”.

In the course of a decade, over ₹950 crore was siphoned off from various government piggy banks by officials, claiming to buy fodder and medicines for livestock that didn’t exist.

But all it takes to bring the empire down, is a scrutiny of the piggy bank by daddy. That, and asking Lalu to take him to the “school charity”.

Of course, the ice cream was just a metaphor.

In the course of a decade, over ₹950 crore was siphoned off from various government piggy banks by officials, claiming to buy fodder and medicines for livestock that didn’t exist. Suppliers, government officials, senior bureaucrats, and the political leadership were all in on the scam. In all, over 600 were accused in 54 cases, and over 500 of them have been convicted. This includes dear Lalu.

The former Bihar chief minister probably got really unlucky. All 18 accused in the 2G scam that allegedly caused a loss of ₹1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer were acquitted. Former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan also received good news recently in the Adarsh society case as the Bombay High Court rejected the governor’s sanction to prosecute him. But things could be very tricky for Lalu. Because if there’s one thing you don’t do in the India of 2018, is mess around with cows.

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