Citizens' Issues
Eradicating corruption: Power to the people

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
abhyutthanam adharmasya
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 mgwarrier@rediffmail.com.)
 

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COMMENTS

MG Warrier

2 years ago

Please read the last paragraph asunder:
"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, 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."
No prize for guessing the correction!

M G WARRIER

5 years ago

Express your views. After 360 views, no one made a comment on this article speaks volumes about the pedestrian silence to issues on which we talk a lot in private and in reality affect all of us in one way or the other. If you are just concurring with all the views in the article, silence is acceptable. But if you have a different view, a suggestion or an alternative approach, do let us know. Moneylife may be sharing my views with reference to other articles also.

Is FDI in retail India’s most pressing issue today? Raise Your Voice -Part 3

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

 
While the “coalition dharma” forced the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to go along with the perpetuators of 2G spectrum scam, the same coalition dharma was found to be far too much of a hurdle in the way of UPA rushing into opening the flood gates to foreigners to enter retail trade in the country. Such is the distortion of the priorities set by a government which seemed to be in total disconnect with the ground realities of the country. Could not UPA think of any other reform that has more far reaching implications for the majority of the people?
 
To tell the country that foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail trade alone is going to improve the lot of the farmers is patently laughable, in the absence of any attempt on the part of the government to understand the agrarian situation in the country and address the basic problems that constrain any fundamental change for the better in the lives of the farmers and a quantum jump in agricultural production. This is explained below.
 
According to the Census of 2011, 69% of India’s population lives in rural areas. Their main occupation is agriculture. Around 347 million acres of land is under agriculture. Anyone with a genuine sense of concern for India’s economic development should focus attention on the security of ownership of the farmers, the choices available to them to develop their own capabilities and involving them centrally in the decision making processes of the government.
 
The land records systems in the states are in a virtual mess. As a result, the small landholders and the tenants are often bypassed when the government ostensibly compensated the displaced farmers in forcible land acquisition. It is the absentee landlords or fraudsters who received the payments.
 
Ironically, this is the sector that continues to get battered with every ‘reform’ initiative of the government. Since Independence, as a result of ‘development’, more than 65 million people have been displaced from the rural areas and deprived of their agriculture-based occupations. Unfortunately, the rate of displacement has been on the increase.
 
Out of the 157 million acres of government land (including the ceiling surplus land taken over), only 20 million acres alone have been assigned to the landless farmers, often those already in occupation, and many more millions of such landless families, though they are cultivators of the government lands, have no secure ownership rights. Many land assignees have already lost their lands to the richer, more influential absentee landlords, despite the stringent deterrent laws in existence. In one state, a chief minister himself was found to be in illegal occupation of hundreds of acres of land given earlier to the poor!
 
Millions of acres of Bhoodan lands meant to be given to the landless are in the hands of the rich and mighty.
 
There are 12.4 million tenants without firm ownership rights, cultivating 15.6 million acres of land. The successive governments who are in the stranglehold of absentee landlords of an anachronistic feudal agrarian system have no time or inclination to address reforms needed in this vital sector that touches the majority of the country's population.
 
To think that a foreign multi-national company (MNC) will come with a magic wand to correct the situation betrays the ignorance of the leaders we have and the disconnect they enjoy with the masses. In an electoral system that is driven by money, muscle power and mafias, they are confident that they can come back to power anytime!
 
On the tribal front, despite the constitutional safeguards in force, millions of tribals have lost their lands to non-tribals and companies trying to illegally plunder the country’s limited but precious mineral resources. The mineral scams that have surfaced of late are enough evidence of this.
 
Should not the government first consider a comprehensive land reform programme that revamps and digitises the land records on a war footing, confers ownership rights on the tenants and the landless cultivators and enables them to come on the mainstream of the credit giving agencies? Even the newly introduced law on land acquisition and rehabilitation, thoroughly diluted by the vested interests, will prove counter-productive if these reforms are not grounded well before it is enacted.
 
Should not the government have announced a scheme to restore the lands to the tribals so that they may regain their confidence in the law of the land?
 
Instead of foisting industrial corridors that displace people and make no sense in the rural areas, should not the government consider more benign schemes that facilitate the setting up of ventures in which the farmers, the fisherfolk, the milk producers and others become partners in setting up modern agro-processing activity and air-conditioned retail outlets to sell their perishable ware in a way that enhances their dignity and self respect? They do not need Walmarts and Carrefours which benefit the politicians and the civil servants more than the common people.
 
 Read the previous articles in the "Raise Your Voice" series here:
 
(Dr EAS Sarma, IAS, is a post-graduate in Nuclear Physics (Andhra University) and in Public Administration (Harvard University) and a PhD from IIT, Delhi. As a Union Secretary he has held the portfolios of power, economic affairs and expenditure. He quit the government in 2000 over differences regarding policy issues with the National Democratic Alliance government. He is the convener of Forum for Better Visakha (FBV), a civil society group set up in 2004. Dr Sarma was also a member of Godbole Committee appointed by the then Maharashtra government.)
 

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COMMENTS

Bakul Gandhi

5 years ago

FDI in Retail will lead to competition between unequals for i) Interest Rate for foreigner is next to NIL compare to 14-15% to locals, ii) Available Fund to foreigner Multinational is 1000 to 1 for Local.
If National Big companies could not bring change, the solution lies in providing incentive for Cold Storage and Food Processing Industry. The Local Traders may be able to stand upto competition if they join hands and Forming Cooperative like Amul. For them this is a warning that you cannot continue to cheat consumers on quality (mixing-adulteration) and quantity ( weighing measures manipulation)

Ramesh Poapt

5 years ago

007-Licence to kill...was punchline of James Bond-but now exclusive owner is with..........................





you r tight,boss!

MOHAN

5 years ago

Can the Congress "core" group explain:

1. How many of their coalition partners support FDI in retail? (Are their coalition partners from Kerala, Indian Union Muslim League and Kerala Congress support FDI in retail? What about DMK? Do they support FDI in retail? What about NCP? How many of NCP MPs support FDI in retail? )

2. How many of their supporting parties (SP, BSP) support FDI in retail?

3. How many Chief Ministers support FDI in retail? Does the Congress Chief Minister of Kerala support FDI in retail?

4. How many of the opposition parties support FDI in retail?

5. How many Congress MPs support FDI in retail? (Plz name the Congress MPs from Kerala who support FDI in retail?)


6. Does the Catholic Church support FDI in retail?

7. Please name the NGOs that support FDI in retail?

8. Do the trade unions support FDI in retail ( Does INTUC support FDI in retail? )





HC clears investigation into alleged Rs45,000 crore Hiranandani scam

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 

 
The Bombay High Court has lifted its earlier stay on the probe into the alleged Rs45,000-crore Powai real estate scam, making way for the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) to restart investigating Hiranandani Developers, senior state bureaucrat Thomas Benjamin and other unknown persons. The order has given boost to the efforts by social activist Santosh Daundkar and IPS officer-turned-lawyer YP Singh. The mammoth fraud stood exposed due to the diligent efforts made by the then the Commissioner of Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) A Ratnakar Gaikwad.
 
According to YP Singh, “Now that the HC has lifted the stay on the investigation, it is likely that further probe may open up a can of worms and several ministers, politicians and IAS officers who helped Hiranandani may be apprehended. Further, since the stay on investigation has been lifted, Thomas Benjamin should be placed under immediate suspension by the Government of Maharashtra under the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1968. It would indeed not be in public interest if such an officer remains as the head of the state public health department.”
 
In July 2012, based on the complaint by social activist Santosh Daundkar, a special court had asked the anti-corruption bureau (ACB)  to file an FIR in the matter against Niranjan Hiranandani, TC Benjamin and other unknown persons for the Rs30,000 crore land scam (Rs45,000 crore in current valuation). 
 
Mr Benjamin, who was earlier additional chief secretary of urban development department and now additional chief secretary of the public health department of the Government of Maharashtra, then moved the HC to challenge the probe. A single judge on 10 July 2012 granted an interim stay on the investigation, pending hearing of the case.
 
The relief has been short-lived as the Bombay HC bench comprising justice Sadhana S Jadhav and justice AS Oka made following observation in the order dated 25 September 2012—“By granting ad interim relief, the writ court cannot interfere with the process of investigation. Hence, we decline to continue the ad interim relief granted earlier.” 
 
In his complaint, Mr Daundkar alleged that the state had given 344 acres in Powai on an 80-year lease to Hiranandani builders in 1986 to build small houses for mass housing. The complainant accused the developer of violating terms and conditions of the tripartite agreement it had signed with the state government and infrastructure body MMRDA in 1986.
 
According to the agreement, 50% of the houses were supposed to be 430 sq feet and remaining 50% of 860 sq ft size, but barring the tenements compulsorily required to be surrendered to the government, there was not a single tenement in the entire complex of 430 sq feet. Only luxury apartments were constructed for the rich that get premium valuations. 
 
The complaint alleges that instead of taking due action against the guilty public servants and private persons, accused principal secretary, urban development department, Thomas Benjamin, and other suspect officers in the Government of Maharashtra started doing a fraud, whereby they started indulging in cunning acts so as to help accused No. 1 (Mr Hiranandani) come out of this fraud. 
 
According to YP Singh, “Niranjan Hiranandani is the president of the Indian Merchants Chamber and recently was felicitated by no less a person than Raj Thackeray. Ironically, Raj Thackeray, who talks so much about the Marathi people, felicitated that person who has eaten up that land, which otherwise would have taken out lakhs of Maharashtrians from slums and chawls, and given them in decent habitats to stay. Raj Thackeray who himself is a builder and is involved in several dubious deals on land perhaps may have had no option but to felicitate a fellow builder.”
 
The complaint states that Mr Benjamin took numerous dubious decisions as follows: 
 
Land not to be taken back even though it was meant for mass housing.
To permit 100% extra FSI to be used on account of TDR without putting in the stipulation of mass housing even though the agreement condition stipulated that every form of FSI shall be used for mass housing.
To not to insist on 15% of tenements to be surrendered to Government of Maharashtra on account of construction done by using TDR FSI. As per the agreement every form of FSI, including the TDR FSI had to be reckoned and 15% of GROSS FSI (i.e. of both normal FSI and TDR FSI) had to be given to Government of Maharashtra at stipulated concessional rates in the form of small tenements.
To condone the infringement of making massive luxurious houses instead of making small houses for mass housing.
Permitting the retention of illegally merged tenements so as to give them a shape of large luxurious houses.
To use the liberal rules of 2007 even though the agreement for mass housing was signed in the year 1986 and that rules of 2007 could never have been applied for a land given for mass housing in the year 1986.
To exclude lift, lobby and many other constructions from FSI computation by using the Development Control Regulations of 1991 whereas in the applicable rule during the year 1986 was Development Control Rules, 1967, which was not so much liberal.
To permit construction of commercial areas in the complex whereas the agreement of 1986 did not make any such provision and was strictly meant for mass housing. It was for this illegal relaxation to the sacrosanct provisions of the agreement that commercial buildings of enormous sizes have come up in the place which was to be for mass housing.
Creation of a legal fiction whereby the matter could be settled by imposing fine. Initially a fine of about Rs2,000 crore was proposed. Now it is learnt that the same has been brought down to about Rs200 crore or even lesser. 
To let off Accused No. 1 without facing prosecution for criminal breach of trust, and violation of the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1976 and also the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
To not to take any action against the public servants who allowed this fraud to take place right before their eyes for almost 20 years.
To permit Accused No. 1 to not to dismantle the construction which was under way and half done and to convert the same into small tenements. 
 

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COMMENTS

Nem Chandra Singhal

5 years ago

One more scam in scam-tainted India. Oh My God.
Nem Chandra Singhal

P M Ravindran

5 years ago

shivkumar said it right!

Nothing will change; this drama will play out in due course; yes some more pockets will be lined up.

Chnadrasekar

5 years ago

Thank god Niranjan Hiranandani is not a Bihari

Vaibhav Dhoka

5 years ago

Illegal structures should be mercilessly demolished,detterent action be taken onbuilder/beauracrates and their property be confiscated and used for charity organisation.It should be once fore all EYEOPENER for future scamsters.

shivkumar

5 years ago

Nothing will change; this drama will play out in due course; yes some more pockets will be lined up.

Vinay Isloorkar

5 years ago

Ahan!Dish ish huz!Parden my axent nd speling. My mind is bogled. Das dish explen NCP walkot?

SANJAY SINVHAL

5 years ago

1. HC has asked Hiranandani (NH) to build 430 SFt & 860 SFT tenements now. However court has not said anything about pricing of such tenements. NH has gone on record to make fun of this loophole in Outlook Business (Cover Story) that he will build such tenements but as HC has not mandated any price, he is free to sell them at current Mkt Rates. So HC must immediately spell out the rates for such tenements so NH can't profit more from the millions he already has made
2. Govt should invoke the provisions of the new Act wherein the properties of such corrupt people is attached (Case of Bihar where such properties were converetd to Govt schools etc). NH's properties should be attached & comemrcial space be converted to Govt buildings. May be the New Mantralaya can shift to this complex in these commercial buidlings.

Babubhai Vaghela

5 years ago

Demolish illegal structure.

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