India - International Relations
How to really tackle corruption in India
Besides brigades to fight corruption, Lynus Misquitta also suggests that its consequences must be taught to children at school level so that they abhor corrupt practices. The government too must implement severe punishment. From Mumbai.
Corruption like prostitution is inherent in human kind. It is only the level of corruption that really hurts a Nation, especially, if it encompasses every aspect of life. And this is predominant in developing economies where the rich become richer at the cost of the poor.
In India corruption is spreading fast in the body politic though great efforts are made by the judiciary, parliament and media, to contain it. Newspapers in India are very fearless and analytical and they expose corruption cases, but the punishment as a deterrent is not stiff and so the corrupt get away lightly especially when they have mentors in the higher echelons of the power pyramid. Recently the NGOs too take great interest to help the people to control corruption.
The RTI, the Right to Information Act, enacted in 2005 by the Indian Parliament, gives Indian citizens access to Central government records. The citizens can request any information from a ‘public authority’ and the reply should come within 30 days. The Act explicitly overrides even the Official Secrets Act to the extent of any inconsistency. The application has to be directed by the citizens to the PIO, Public Information Officer.Thus, the citizens of India can get the satisfaction of knowing, when, where and how any funds of the government were spent or any other activity undertaken, or any other information vital for any cause.
Recently, the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, announced that the Government had done away with the requirement to disclose any name or address of the person who lodges a complaint against any corrupt official. All one has to do is to frame the complaint addressed to the Cabinet Secretary. So, the citizens can remain anonymous using pseudonyms while lodging complaints against any bureaucrats or senior officials. The Cabinet Secretary, in turn, will process the complaint, even delving into the income tax and property returns of the accused officers.
Corruption, basically, is a by-product of regulation. During Jawaharlal Nehru’s and Indira Gandhi’s time there was the ‘licence raj’ (licensing was controlled by government) and this gave rise to corruption. Economist Raja Chelliah appointed by Rajiv Gandhi to find out about corruption in public places, found out that the Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) were milking the economy. Only after 1990, with the dawn of liberalisation and implementation of positive reforms, that the Indian consumer breathed free and slowly got out from the clutches of a seller’s market. It took me almost ten years to get a motor cycle way back in the 70s and six years to get a phone as early as eighties. Today a motor cycle can be bought off the shelf and a land line phone is literally replaced by a mobile. And we are blessed with a buyer’s market in India, thanks to a deluge of reforms, a great crop of engineering and information technology graduates. And this scenario has controlled corruption to a great extent.
During Jawaharlal Nehru’s and Indira Gandhi’s time there was the ‘licence raj’, controlled by government, and this gave rise to corruption.
Indians talk of checking corruption, while on the other hand there is a great admiration for wealthy individuals. These are double standards. But again corruption is ingrained in the caste system which has to be fully revamped so that everyone is equal not only legally, but socially and economically. But as corruption impacts all segments of society especially in a developing country like India, the rich become richer and the poor poorer, thereby defeating the very tenets of the Constitution where the founding fathers had aimed at bringing equality of wealth and income at least to most of the people. This is the reason why slums exist by the side of skyscrapers.
Corruption in India had slowed down the development but the reforms of the 90s and the awakening among the middle and lower middle classes has fetched results as the children have love for learning, and they also have ambitions to compete and succeed. We have today thousands of graduates in engineering and information technology that spearhead the development and prosperity of India. These qualified men and women can form a brigade to fight corruption. Singlehandedly they could be victimised. Many a whistle blower has lost his life in recent times. But slowly but surely India will get into the groove of fighting corruption in high places by exposing the guilty.
In India, the corrupt go to the extent of openly and boldly asking for the illegal remuneration, with the blessings of their superiors in many cases. One’s well-being and capacity to make money is thought to be the panacea of all ills. Not that this does not happen in other countries. But affluent countries have other devices to mitigate the plight of the poor and the destitutes. The poor get doles from the government and even poor children are cared for. Some governments have unemployment benefits and good healthcare and the senior citizens have a lot of reliefs. These schemes are not there in developing countries including India.
In India, the corrupt go to the extent of openly and boldly asking for the illegal remuneration, with the blessings of their superiors in many cases.
Besides the formation of a brigade of dedicated men and women to fight corruption, the consequences of corruption must be taught to children at school level so that they abhor the corrupt practices. The government too must implement severe punishment for those found guilty. Basically the line and file of government officials should set an example from top to bottom and not vice versa as India is still feudal specially in rural areas and they follow the leader.
Abdul Kalam, former President of India, was all praise for the NGOs who rendered yeoman service to India. In his book India 2020 – A Vision for the New Millenium, Kalam writes ‘If we look at all of them, we can capture the spirit, the energy and the very texture of resurgent India. We see some individuals working in them radiating a calmness and a grace which borders on a spiritual message’. Kalam goes on to say that some of these people working for these non-governmental organisations sacrifice brilliant careers to carry on the struggle to make India a better place. And these kind of dedicated people are on the increase everywhere in India, and they are messengers of hope and a positive synergistic mechanism between the organised sectors and individual initiatives. Corruption, specially, faces a great roadblock with the ever increasing benevolent, selfless work of these NGOs that probe the present system and try to rectify and improve it. These men and women give us hope and are torchbearers of a better tomorrow and a better India.