The Fight Against Corruption

Some videos posted on Facebook by a jawan in India’s Border Security Force have again brought into focus the practice of corruption both in civil and defense/security services in India. The Jawan has alleged that jawans manning security posts at the border and performing arduous duties for prolonged hours every day are not given proper food, both quantity and nourishment wise, and are sometimes even forced to sleep on hungry stomachs. He has alleged that while adequate rations as per norms are made available by the government, local officers, instead of utilising them for for the intended purpose of feeding the jawans and keeping them well nourished, sell the rations in the market and pocket the proceeds to satisfy their own personal greed.

2. The NDA government under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi is dead serious about fighting corruption. So much so that not a single major corruption charge has surfaced against any top functionary of this government during the last nearly three years that it has been in office, against frequent reports of scams against ministers of the previous Congress government. However, while this may be true of the current government in so far as functionaries at the top are concerned, the same unfortunately cannot be said about functionaries at the lower level.

3. Curbing corruption was one of the principal purposes of the demonetisation scheme implemented from November 8, 2016. But it was perhaps unrealistic to assume that it would cut at the root of corruption in services or even make a major dent. All that it could be expected to achieve is to wipe out the benefits of corruption already indulged in by making illegal the wads of currency notes hoarded till then. In fact, even before the ink was dry on the orders of demonetisation, there were reports of some officers in ports being caught accepting huge bribes. What was all the more surprising is the bribes were in new Rs. 2000 currency notes. This was the time when, as per official orders, a member of the public could not access more than 2 such notes in a day. The fact that the bribe givers could manage thousands of 2000 rupee notes in the above cases showed that corruption was indulged in not only by the port contractors and officers but also by bank officials who made available 2000 rupee currency notes in bulk in defiance of government orders. It was multi-dimensional corruption. Further, a good deal of corruption took place in Banks in the course of the demonetisation process when several cases came to light of bank officials facilitating turning of black money into while by indulging in various kinds of malpractices to exchange outlawed currency into legal one. These incidents conclusively establish that elimination of corruption is wishful thinking.

4. In fact the system in India is such that it affords a kind of protection to corruption. Every thing is presumed to be hunky dory unless and until some body makes a formal complaint. Parties involved in corruption, whether the bribe giver or taker are both beneficiaries of the act and none of them will obviously complain except in cases where the giver finds the demand too high and seeks a secret raid.Other colleagues or subordinates of the official will not complain for fear of the consequences. Anonymous complaints are a strict no no as per the system.

5. There are high powered agencies like the Central Vigilance Commission and Vigilance organisations in each department of the Centre and States.There are also investigative agencies like the C.B.I or the Lok Ayukts. But rarely do they take up any case suo moto and take up cases only on the basis of formal complaints received.
This system virtually gives protection to the corrupt. Even in the case of formal complaints, there are protracted inquiries,(some provide scope for cover up), the investigations, prosecution, trial etc. Recently, a case involving a corruption of just Rs. 10 culminated in a court of law 31 years after its institution in the court(not counting time taken in inquiry, investigation etc). These rules and procedures appear to many to point to the futility of making complaints and getting involved in all the procedural wrangles apart from giving rise to
enmities etc.

6. With the system as it is one can forget about any significant dent being made in the incidence of corruption. A thorough reappraisal of the system is called for. One of the ways to make a dent is to allow anonymous complaints, entertain them on a selective basis and make suitable consequential changes in procedures. The very fear that somebody without risking his personal entanglement, may make a complaint will deter the corrupt. The fact of corrupt practices is always known to colleagues etc. who, however, prefer to keep quiet. Another way is to instruct the existing agencies like vigilance, anti-corruption etc. to take up cases suo moto on the basis of information gained in the course of their inspections/visits etc. Such a course of action is particularly suitable in corruption of the kind pointed out by the BSF Jawan mentioned in the opening para of this blog.

7. Hoping that the Government under PM Modi will give serious consideration to the suggestions made in the preceding para.

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