21.8.11

War against Corruption in India

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The Anna Hazare campaign continues with the support of Civil Society, and opportunistic political parties seeking to score points against the clumsy corrupt Congress Party.

The problem of corruption in ALL countries starts at the top, with the leadership of the country. In India’s case it involves the Gandhi clan around Sonia. That is where the corruption must be tackled first. The problem however is not merely the Gandhi clan, but their minions who take their queue from the Gandhi clan, because they feel this is Pro Forma normal when one becomes a minister or appointee of the Gandhi government, encompassing babu’s and people who do business with this corrupt cabal.

Other political parties such as the BJP copy this fundamentally Congress practice, when in power on the rare occasion. It goes without saying that since Congress has been in power for so many years, corruption, ineptitude, the arrogance of power and entitlement sets in.

As has been stated by many, another motivation for corruption by ALL leading parties is political funding. Money buys elections, and this seems to be the accepted fact by all parties. The Naxals rob banks and companies in order to fund their political organization. Congress and the BJP on the other hand milk money from massive arms sales, and other such government sales and licenses illegally. This has a distorting effect on the economy, and generates huge corruption as can be imagined. A reasonable transparent political funding system needs to be established which can easily be monitored and verified by the Election Commission.

The Lokpal is an interesting idea, and may tackle some forms of corruption. But as has already been pointed out India will have with the Lokpal, 6 different government bodies working presumably in cross purposes against the same objective..corruption.

Which is the lead SC body that will deal with corruption strategically?

How are the Lokpal members going to be chosen? By the government, or the man or woman who brings out the biggest mob on the streets?

Does the Lokpal have more power than the elected members of the Lok Saba, and if so how is that power exercised?

Who will monitor the Lokpal?

OK so everybody wants a Lokpal, but how it is constituted and what is its remit is not broadly agreed. The PM should come under the scanner of the Lokpal, he should have nothing to fear. I don’t see the need for seasoned government ministers used to wheeling and dealing and political shenanigans being included in the Lokpal, CHECKING, OBSTRUCTING, and MISDIRECTING its work as they would per their normal political instincts and mission.

The Lokpal should contain technocrats with strong educational/Civil Society backgrounds (Anna with his minimal education is an anomaly, but should not be the accepted norm, though granted that greater education and higher social status is no clear guarantee of lesser corruption). People drawn from well established effective anti-corruption Civil Society organizations should form the majority of the Lokpal membership (They have served at least 10 years in such anti-corruption organizations). People who are genuinely concerned about the problem of corruption, but don’t want the Lokpal to be used to peddle erstwhile hidden political agenda’s against a particular party they don’t like via anti-corruption witch hunts.

Maybe the Lokpal can have 15—20 members, with a balance of men and women. Though it must be noted that crime and corruption is significantly lower among women; Crime is a male phenomenon.

Obviously it should have seasoned retired senior police officers who have exemplary records; senior accountants very very important if the Lokpal wishes to understand the mechanics of corruption, and of course Lawyers/judges who are familiar with corruption cases.

The body should contain Indians from ALL corners from the country; ALL castes; ALL religions.

The Supreme Court can appoint its members, within fixed terms and not a job for life. The Supreme Court can also monitor the Lokpal, given that most of the work is similar to what the Supreme Court would deal with it.

It can do beautiful meaningful work for India, focusing strategically at the problem of corruption, as the lead organization.

Below are additional suggestions by public figures in India.


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How to curb corruption: Three steps to clean India

Times of India

Naresh Chandra | Former cabinet secretary

*Tackle the menace from the inside, since outside agencies can't do much.

*Unnecessary concentration on agencies such as the CVC and the CAG should go.

*Hold the supervisor responsible. Strengthen vertical controls in property registration offices or in DDA or at municipal corporations.

K Srinath Reddy | Chief PM's health panel

*Blue-collar corruption needs better pay scales and income security, strict monitoring and swift grievance redressal.

*White-collar corruption calls for robust regulatory system, vigilance & prompt prosecution.

*Go for transparent systems, limit discretionary patronage & enable effective action by Lokpal.

TSR Subramanian | Former cabinet secretary

*Different methods have to be used to tackle corruption at different levels but the Lokpal is not a one-point solution.

*Where the Lokpal can help is in asking politicians and senior bureaucrats to step down if it finds that primafacie there is evidence against them. This will put pressure on the judiciary to act fast.

*If you extend the Lokpal to the lower level then the system will collapse. So you need strong local-level systems. You can create a local level, may be divisional level system, which works under the supervision of the state Lokayukta and ensure quicker decisions.

*At the same time, it is important to have a system to eliminate political interference starting from the local level.

V M Katoch | Director General, ICMR

*E-governance is key to ridding corruption. Once everything becomes online, there will be little opportunity for corruption. A perfect example is that of railway tickets.

*All govt projects must be time-bound . Fixed time for all projects failing which a strict penalty for those involved.

*All those involved in technical evaluation of bids must have clear well-defined instructions , especially on rejection criteria. No committee should have the power to relax any rules midway.

Harish Salve | Senior counsel

*Electoral reforms to eliminate the corrupt and criminals.

*Transparency in leasing out national resources. Delink PSUs from ministries, run them by professionals and list them.

*Downsize govt and pay realistic salaries.

Ram Jethmalani | MP, Rajya Sabha

*The Prime Minister must be directly elected by people and be accountable for corruption in his council of ministers.

*The judiciary must be completely purified to eliminate advocates with political leanings becoming judges.

*It is critical to improve character and efficiency of investigating.

Prakash Singh | Former DG, UP police & BSF

*Depoliticize and rejuvenate state polices' anti-corruption and vigilance departments.

*Reinvent CBI, free it from governmental control.

*Audit government's funding and social funding in a very transparent manner.

Iqbal Chagla | Senior Counsel

*Civil society cannot impose a law on the nation. That is the job of the Parliament. We have stringent laws to deal with corruption. We must enforce them strictly. Action in punishing the guilty must not only be done, but seen to be done, so that it sends out a strong message.

*Prosecute both, the bribe-taker and bribe-giver.

*Most importantly, people must be self disciplined so that bribery stops. There are no readymade answers but there has to be collective consciousness of what is good and bad.

Ajit Doval | Former Director, IB

*Beyond the laws: We are discussing at the national level, I am more concerned about the need to improve the situation at the cutting-edge level of administration, offices with which our public have a lot of dealings.

*Agencies such as the CBI, ED etc that enforce the laws should be made independent, efficient and accountable.

*Senior leadership in every department must be held accountable for any corruption detected in their department. This is not covered under the present jurisprudence, but is very important to end corruption. So if a subordinate is caught for corruption then the supervisor must be administratively held accountable.

*In all public delivery offices touts must go, they should be brought under the ambit of law. If touts are operating in a department then it must be presumed that officers in that office are responsible for it. It is important to shut out intermediaries from our passport and driving licence offices.

*Loud & clear: A supporter of Anna Hazare during the jail bharo andolan at Azad Maidan in Mumbai, soon after the anticorruption crusader was arrested in New Delhi earlier this week.

Venu Srinivasan | Managing Director, TVS

*Every time there's a scam or an allegation, the first reaction is to increase deterrence. But I feel we need to reduce the opportunity for corruption in the first place. Deterrence comes later.

*My first suggestion is to ensure fair, open and transparent awarding of contracts with regard to infrastructure projects or mining or land acquisition for industry. I have noticed, except for a few exceptions, land acquired for industry has not faced too much of public anger or angst because it has meant jobs and more opportunities. Opaque or ambiguous awarding of contracts leads to public anger and offers a huge opportunity for corruption.

*We need to do a rethink on the way liberalisation seems to be heading back towards over-regulation . Every ministry is suddenly looking for a regulator with the first whiff of an allegation or scam. A regulator is necessary in a situation where an oligopoly can diddle the public out of their right. It is common globally to have a financial regulator and a food regulator makes sense to ensure standardisation. But regulation should be minimum otherwise we would be going right back to the days of licence-permit raj.

*Proper enforcement of laws is a must. India does not lack regulation. What we need is free and fair enforcement of those laws. And it can start with traffic laws on the streets. Corruption is not just about money. It is also about ethics in public life. Anything that violates it can trigger public anger.

Anu Aga | Former Chairperson, Thermax Group

*Political party funding should be legitimised. Payments should be made only through cheques.

*Companies should admit that there is corruption and admit there is dishonesty and sign a code of right conduct. Since they are pushed into it as companies cannot do without paying it, there should be a mechanism by which they can sit across the table with the government to address it.

*Get rid of the nexus between politicians and builders and mining companies. There should be zero tolerance for it.

Ramakant Panda | Senior cardiac surgeon

*Corruption is the biggest stumbling block to the country's progress. The fight to eradicate corruption must be multi-pronged & broadbased . Opinion of a wider section of society must be taken into account while not subverting the democratic and parliamentary process.

*We need strong Lokpal & Lokayukta laws with teeth but at the same time strong deterrence against misuse (as is happening with RTI where people are using it more for personal gain than fight corruption).

*Better inspection of criminal records of political aspirants.

*Introducing ethics and moral education at school and college level.

Rahul Bajaj | Chairman, Bajaj Auto, MP, Rajya Sabha

*Enactment of a strong Lokpal Bill. This should be stronger than the bill introduced by the government in Parliament, but not as strong as that demanded by the civil society through the Jan Lokpal bill.

*State funding of elections: This should be part of the electoral reform process and must be undertaken urgently . There should be a mechanism to recognise political parties. The state funding should be for only those political parties whose accounts are transparent, clean and audited, and have been submitted to the Election Commission for scrutiny.

*Electoral reforms: This should include holding elections to Lok Sabha & state Assemblies simultaneously every five years with no mid-term polls.

Harsh Mariwala | CMD, Marico, President, FICCI

*Bring in goods & services tax which will remove tax evasion. Corruption takes place when there are multiple levels of taxes.

*Bring in electoral reforms and transparency in the funding process of political parties.

*Have a proper mechanism for use of discretionary powers; such as the one under which mines are allotted.

JM Lyngdoh | Former Chief Election Commissioner

*The first thing is to change the electoral system. The first-past-the-post system needs to go. If I get one vote more than you I get to represent the entire constituency. This system promotes the use of money. A person who spends more money will wield more power, that's the assumption everybody makes. The firstpast-the-post system is at root of the requirement for much money. That's why in the present system they start looting the budget once they are elected and that money becomes black money. Some of it is invested in the country in real estate and some of it is sent to the tax havens abroad and returns when there is another round of elections. The first-past-thepost system is concerned with re-election and has no concern for good governance.

*We should go for proportional representation where it will be a contest between parties. When it is a contest between parties things will tend to get less personalised and use of money is going to be much less.

*In developed democracies today, people have realised politicians do not have the time or inclination to handle the more complex aspects of governance. So these complex matters of governance are hived off from the government to autonomous unelected bodies of experts. Issues such as 2G and 3G are complex and should be handed over to an autonomous unelected body of experts and ministers should not interfere with these institutions just as they can't with the Supreme Court and the Election Commission. You need more institutions such as the Election Commission and the Supreme Court in more areas of governance.

Bimal Jalan | Former RBI Governor

*We need to reduce the "economic incentives" for politics. Those who join the government cannot defect without having to seek re-election . The pre-2003 procedure for elections to Rajya Sabha should be restored.

*Another political priority is to provide highest priority for hearing of cases of elected leaders with criminal antecedents. Their cases should be mandatorily decided within six months after their election . Such a procedure would effectively "reverse" the incentive for criminals to choose politics in order to delay investigation of their cases and possible conviction.

*If UPSC can appoint civil servants through a competitive and open system for life-time employment , there is no reason why a similar autonomous agency, like Public Sector Enterprises Board (PSEB) cannot be given full powers of supervision over the management of public enterprise with accountability to ministries concerned.

Kishore Biyani | Founder, Future Group

*Our value system of the past has to be revived . Honesty, putting the nation first - all these values were an important part of our culture. Corporates should also inculcate values in their employees.

*Our learning needs to start from home.

*Work on improving salaries and rewards for professionals across the private and public sector.

Abhishek Manu Singhvi | Spokesperson, Congress

*Methodical deletion of discretionary powers at all levels.

*Market value of land be fixed and dealings below it be scrutinised.

*Punitive and deterrent action against corrupt in a time-bound manner.

*Measures like Lokpal, strengthening of prosecution, CVC and CBI.

Harsh Neotia | Chairman, Ambuja Realty

*There should be a greater transparency in allocation of resources. Complete transparency in the licensing process of oil blocks, iron ore blocks, spectrum allocation, would reduce chances of corruption at macro level.

*Government should try to eliminate shortages. As long as there is a shortage, there will be corruption.

*Ten years ago, one had to bribe officials for a telephone line because it was not easily available. Now nobody pays a bribe.