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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Political Will Alone Can Contain Graft


Monday, 16 June 2014 | Ashwani Lohani | in Oped
Prime Minister Modi’s June 11 address in Parliament was sincere and simple, which is why it impressed millions and re-affirmed their faith in his leadership
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address in Parliament on June 11 was magnificent. Never before in the history of the republic have we witnessed a Prime Minister touching the chords in the hearts of the people of his nation to the extent witnessed that day. His words aroused emotions and his simple strategies made people identify with them.
Amongst other issues, he focussed on rampant corruption that has earned the tag of a scam-ridden nation for the country. Mr Modi promised pro-active action against corruption, transparent policies that reduced the scope for discretion and extensive use of information technology for curbing this menace. Mr Modi has hit the nail on the head. Corruption is indeed the biggest malaise facing the nation. It is so deep-rooted that almost every interaction of the commoner with the Government machinery is invariably laced with graft and, therefore, he suffers every time he gets his property registered, gets an electric connection, applies for a driving licence, and so on. The plight of those running businesses is worse. For example, with over a 100 clearances needed for running a hotel, an entrepreneur is forced to satisfy the desires of the Government babus before starting his venture and continue to do so in perpetuity for the sake of his survival. It is this petty corruption that is indeed killing the denizens of this nation many times more than the scams that have been hitting the nation.
Reducing discretion would indeed reduce the scope for corruption, but the corrupt thrives not out of wavering from the set path for illegal gratification, but for doing the right thing. It is his price for not lolling in inaction, for not delaying files or partaking of a cheque for genuine work done. Masters in the art of corruption would vouch that they also made money not by doing the wrong things but by forcing their subordinates to do so for fear of retribution in the form of transfers, bad confidential reports and other harassment. It is this corruption that would indeed be the most difficult to tackle for there would be no direct evidence against the masters anywhere on the files.
Deterrent punishment would indeed be the answer. Unless fear is instilled in the hearts of the corrupt that detection of any wrongdoing on their part or on the part of their subordinates on their instance would lead to very heavy punishment, those in the services of the Government would never give up acts that gives them a luxurious lifestyle that mere salaries would never ensure. Simplification is the answer. In the generally prevalent scheme of things, the plethora of thumb impressions that adorn every single act of commission or omission successfully camouflage the corrupt as well as the incompetent. It is indeed time that archaic rules and processes — many of which have been further tweaked to the extent of appearing ridiculous — be shown the door.
Time-bound decisions and acts is the call of the day. Delays are generally spurred by inefficiency, corruption and at times merely sloth, yet laying the finger on the exact cause is more often than not extremely difficult. Laying down stringent timelines may help, yet would need to be followed up with extensive monitoring and severe punishments in cases of violations. It however needs appreciation that in the already complex maze of official systems and procedures one more process and monitoring machinery thereof would only give temporary results unless of course a massive simplification exercise reduces the burden and in the process improves efficiency.
The address by Mr Modi is a milestone, for it is perhaps for the first time in the history of independent India that its chief executive has on the floor of Parliament displayed his resolve to eradicate corruption from the everyday lives of the common man. A major cause for celebration indeed!

1 comment:

  1. The Silence of Indian Bureaucrats (Including Railwaymen) on corruption in Indian bureaucracy is dangerous. Only one man (PM) cannot eradicate corruption.