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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Corruption Conference

My experiments on dealing with probity in public life finally seem to be bearing fruit. The third transparency conference held at Bhopal in March 2009 did not result in the kind of bad blood generated by the earlier ones. Yes, the first conference created ripples as it was the first ever attempt by a Government organization in the state to discuss corruption in a transparent and open forum. It is also true that some of my staff were disturbed, disturbed at having to face a mob of suppliers and contractors whose frank opinion was being sought on the issue of corruption in MPT by their own managing director. Even then the signal that emerged from the first conference was that the tourism corporation does not merit a mention in the front ranking corrupt organizations in Madhya Pradesh. The signal was satisfying, but for the message to be really forceful, it was necessary to institutionalize the conference, by having it at regular intervals. And hence the second conference in April 2008 followed by the third in March 2009. The closed door, one to one meetings that provide a genuine forum for the partners to vent their problems without being marked, have been the highlight of these conferences.

It is indeed rare for a public functionary to talk about bringing probity in public life and that too in an open forum. It is easy to remain honest, than to make others honest, even if by force. And therefore this attempt was hailed in the local media as another milestone/achievement for the tourism corporation. Hopefully this may also stir other sarkari organizations into some action on the integrity front, but I remain skeptical. So deeply ingrained has corruption become that only a major surgery can now cure Bharat Mata of this disease. Even Prime Ministers, one remembers the independence-day address of an ex prime minister, express helplessness over corruption. And if this is so, not even God can save this poor country.

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