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Sunday, July 7, 2019

Swacchh Bharat - cleaning up corruption

The tremendous stress that the new government is laying on nation building is bound to give results but it would take its time. Nation building demands the toil of generations and definitely does not come cheap. The future, perhaps for the first time indeed looks bright.

One of the fundamental issues that needs to be addressed is the deep-rooted corruption, corruption that has engulfed the entire grassroots to the extent that there is hardly any interaction of the common man with the tantra that is not laced with graft. The common man yes, for the powerful are beyond its grip and the wealthy find a way around it.

Yet not many complain as long as the work is done, for unfortunately corruption has started getting regarded as an inescapable part of the cutting-edge processes.

In my over four decades of working within the system, I never witnessed a serious and concerted drive by my superiors to eradicate this evil from the various organizations. Unfortunate still was the reluctance to even bring this issue on the table and the effort merely remained confined to a review of the working of the assorted vigilance setups without appreciating that it is more of a cultural issue.

The real ease of doing business would indeed come, even for the common man when he does his business with the government at various levels, only when the cutting-edge functions are not laced with graft. For us bureaucrats especially, remaining confined to our comfort zone is the most ideal scenario. Why accept the ills of the system and why try to set it right when our life passes on peacefully handling issues that sound more impressive.

The irony remains that those of us who can change the system remain unaffected by it, and therefore have no stake in the change.

The solution lies in first acceptance of the problem, placing it bang on the table and then going about process reforms with a zeal previously unheard of. Yes, the solution lies in simplification of the various processes that define governance, empowerment of the executive to enable fixing direct responsibility and accountability and having a system of swift redressal of the issues as well as that of exemplary punishment to the delinquent.

The complexity of the tantra is the issue. The plethora of thumb impressions that every decision necessitates ensure that no single bloke can ever be held directly responsible. Such a system only emboldens the inspectors, the keepers of the cutting-edge who demand compensation from the client for every act for which they are getting a salary from the government too.

It is the same for everyone, except the high and the mighty. Whether one is an individual or a corporate, every single interaction with the Sarkar, especially at the cutting-edge level is generally a deal where nothing happens without a consideration.

We have to pause and think. Is it not necessary to go in for reforms – cultural, procedural and structural so that working becomes simpler, graft reduces and delivery multiplies?

Whenever I interact with my friends who are from the corporate world or who are plain simple citizens of the nation, the harsh reality comes out tumbling fast. And my friends on this side of the fence who indulge in governance generally feign ignorance or express helplessness.

We cannot have the mission areas – ease of governance and make in India, compromised by officials embroiled in corruption at the cutting-edge level. Cleansing the muck of decades is definitely not an easy task, yet a task that has to be handled.

One hopes and prays that the massive expectations are not belied.