Unless the people do not come together to oppose corrupt practices across government, public and private sector organisations, the present situation will get perpetuated. This is not an ill that can be cured by another institution like Lokpal or by debates in parliament
“….will transform India’s 1.2 billion people into 1.2 billion opportunities”—Sam Pitroda, 25th September
The current decade is an opportunity for India to come to terms with her real problems and bring about a change in direction, not allowing back-seat driving by external influences, making a path motorable for coming generations and showing the world that the country’s inherent strengths and vision are intact. To make this possible, the fourth pillar of democracy, the people, should play their role effectively. The greed of the rich and the powerful is preventing this from happening.
The culprit is corruption. Let us find out whether this issue can be handled, if ‘people’ come together.
“The most common refrain is that Team Anna is a single issue movement which lacks the capability to manage the complexities of Indian politics. Such advice is indicative of the extent to which the intelligentsia is cut off from the public, groaning under the heavy burden of institutionalized corruption. Since unchecked graft in government cuts across every sector and segment of Indian society, by definition it is a multi-sector issue. The rotting grain mountains of the Food Corporation of India are the fallout of widespread theft and defalcations within the organisation, which has prevented construction of adequate storage facilities; the country’s ubiquitous urban and rural slums are the outcome of pernicious corruption in the real estate sector; mass illiteracy and unemployability of millions of youth is the result of chronic corruption in education, and poor health and nutrition of the general populace is also the natural consequence of rampant corruption in the public healthcare system.”
This is an excerpt from an editorial in September 2012 issue of Education World, the human development magazine. Quoted here to share my comfort that awareness about the cancerous corruption is growing and if the message gets conveyed in an effective manner in the education world in India, still there is hope of salvaging what is left of India, that is Bharat.
Our country’s faith in resurrection from all catastrophes is well-founded in the following stanza from Bhagavadgita:
yadaa-yadaa hi dharmasya
glaanir bhavati bhaarata
tadaa’tmaanam srijamyaham (Bhagavadgita, IV.7)
(Whenever there is a decline of righteousness and rise of unrighteousness, O Bharata (Arjuna), then I send forth (create incarnate) Myself.)
We have seen tens of thousands of such incarnations at Jantar-Mantar around Anna Hazare sometime back and seen and experienced the support of millions of others through the media during those days. By selective targeting, the rich and the powerful have delayed the fight against corruption which will erupt in one form or other and engulf the corrupt wherever they hide, sooner than later.
Let us consider a shortcut to bring the corrupt from their hideouts. There could be other methods which may work faster and better. But to initiate the debate let me introduce the idea of a domestic ‘Corruption Index’.
The intellectual leadership of India should take up a project to assess the extent of corruption in India. This could be done by scientifically evolving appropriate methodologies for having a ‘Corruption Index’.
There have been efforts to measure corruption with reference to various practices in different nations and rank countries according to their status in comparison with others in the group. But, one, it is no use knowing our position with reference to others and two, as we observed, corruption has more dimensions than illegal practices or bribes. As our government encourages ‘self-regulation’ these days in different areas, why not attempt a regulatory mechanism outside the statute book for assessing and quantifying corruption?
It is here the idea of a “Corruption Index” gets significance.
Imagine, one “Corruption Indexing Organization” (CIO) gives you a rating of the person, department, organization (including a political party)/institution on a scale of, say, hundred, how deeply sunk they are in corruption, based on parameters explained to you? There can be several such CIOs specializing in different walks of life. Of course, the functioning will be fee-based and independent of government except for overall regulation, may be through a registration arrangement.
Let us consider a couple of areas where this can be tried on a pilot basis.
• Candidates contesting election
Candidates themselves may furnish relevant information to the CIO and get their index commuted. The parameters could be, accumulation of wealth during the previous five years and source thereof, attendance in legislative houses where the candidate was a member during that period, participation in developmental efforts in the constituency and pending cases/charges of corruption if any(list is indicative). Once stabilized, index could be worked out annually.
• Government departments
Initially, the exercise could be confined to departments vulnerable to corruption. E.g. Excise, Motor Vehicles (Registration, etc) The parameters could be, number of complaints during the previous five years, pending charge-sheets/cases involving staff members, punctuality in disposal of cases and assessment based on internal reporting(again, the list is indicative). Periodicity for revising index could be annual.
It may also be necessary to develop skill through introducing corruption as a subject in Management Institutes and other professional schools so that CIOs are able to recruit experts for the purpose of functioning with professionalism.
Two years back, a national newspaper had, side by side, printed views for and views against corruption. One view was that corruption is the oil that lubricates the wheels of progress. Many seem to agree with this view. Very recently, I read in a magazine an observation attributed to Kaushik Basu, which said: “The rationale for corruption is economic; the best way to handle it is to legalize it”. Perhaps, this advice from the one-time economic advisor to the prime minister has been taken literally seriously by powers that be. Sometime back, the Supreme Court, while hearing a corruption-related case, though sarcastically, had suggested legalizing corruption and fixing specific amounts for every case. Perhaps, our private sector has implemented this suggestion long back. Service charges levied by the banks are one example that comes to mind. Now there are banks which charge separately for opening of accounts, issue of cheque books, certifying that an account holder is maintaining an account with the bank, for not maintaining minimum balances in deposit accounts and so on. The government is following suit and introducing levies/charges for every transaction in government offices.
It was Zail Singh (when he was president) who said that if an individual’s assets multiplies manifold in a short span of time, keep an eye to see how the growth happens. Obviously, he had corrupt means used by people to become rich and it was inconvenient for the rich and the powerful to take notice of the observation. If Zail Singh had been taken seriously, even the doubling of value of assets reported by Dr Manmohan Singh this year would have attracted scrutiny!
Last week, in one of my online comments, I had referred to the four pillars of democracy. A friend asked me whether I had the fourth estate (media) in mind, while including a fourth pillar in addition to legislature, executive and the judiciary. I answered that I had “WE THE PEOPLE” mentioned in the preamble of the constitution in mind when I commented (frankly, the idea of accepting ‘twitter’ as the fourth pillar of democracy was yet to get currency!). Let us go back to the preamble of the Constitution, which reads:
“WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
And to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation;
IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLEY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION”.
The Constitution is given to the people of India and it is the solemn responsibility of every Indian to protect it. Of course, the agent of the people carrying out this task is the government. This has been made abundantly clear in the Constitution through a bunch of directive principles of state policy forming part of the Constitution and explicitly stated to be not enforceable by any court, but with a clear direction to government to apply them in making laws.
I am convinced that unless the people, who do not directly participate in the affairs of legislatures, executive and the judiciary, those in the media and those who are part of these three wings, but are silent spectators to the goings on, due to various compulsions, do not come together to oppose corrupt practices across government and public and private sector organisations, the present situation will get perpetuated. This is not an ill that can be cured by another institution like Lokpal or by debates in parliament.
(MG Warrier is a freelancer based in Mumbai. He can be contacted at email@example.com.)
Government’s contention that “FDI in Retail Trade” is the most pressing reform needed by the country is a laughable proposition. It shows how the political executive is far removed from the ground reality of the country
The plush Hiranandani Garden and other landmarks in Powai are allegedly built on land reserved for mass housing in a real estate scam worth Rs45,000 crore today. Some 344 acres of land which would have given decent housing for the common man was turned into living for the well-offs by the reputed builder Hiranandani