Saturday, April 05, 2014

Eliminating Corruption

I think I have written about this before, but this is election time, and a thought on this in order. It is general election time here and every party worth its salt is promising to erase corruption. Let us look at the three big claimants to this.

First up, Congress. Congress has been accused and has ministers convicted of corruption in their cabinet. It has also passed the Lok Pal bill and was recently trying to put a figurehead (read, pro Congress person) there. Congress promises to fight corruption - but at the same time, people accused of corruption are sheltered (like Sheila Dikshit who has been given gubernatorial immunity) or given a ticket (Ashok Chavan of Adarsh). So, the Congress track record of fighting corruption has been abysmal. This is not counting the many other scams that they have created and propagated. Will they fight corruption? And if so how? Other than putting a figurehead Manmohan who looks the other way when his team scams, they have very little to show.

Second, AAP. These people started off on the premise of eradicating corruption - the India Against Corruption movement - but in the chance they got in Delhi they did precious little. Amateur attempts like running stings against officials will not reduce corruption - at best it will create an atmosphere of fear. Neither will things like letting defaulters get away without paying bills.

Third BJP. In almost every state that BJP has been part of systemic corruption has gone down. Think of the last scam you heard from Chattisgarh, MP, Gujarat and even Karnataka (the one against Yeddyurappa has been quashed by the courts). So what gives? Technology is a good way to eliminate corruption. If land records are digitised and made available online, one does not need pay a bribe to get ones own land records. Like the passport system today. How about moving the RTO to an online system? These are not difficult - but system needs to change. That systemic change effort needs to come from the government.

Let us take a fourth case. Recently IBM sacked a few employees who were part of its contract with Airtel. What happened? The employees violated a policy and were sacked. Now will many other employees attempt something like this again? Unlikely - because the policy is clear - as is the retribution.

But what happens in the government? Usually some official has discretionary power - as opposed to a clear policy - there is discretionary power - which is liable to be misused - because there is shortage of supply and higher demand. First there is a lack of clear policy guidelines. Second, there is discretionary power - say in a ministry or with an official - and they misuse it - because the lure of the lucre is too tempting. Third and most important - anyone indulging in a fraud can get away with it - like in the case of government. So, the chance that a corruption will repeat is higher in places where there is no clear policy, transparency- and a lack of punishment.

Now see which parties have done more towards eliminating this sort of corruption.
Congress - clear no. Evey day newer scams have come to light. Think of Congress chief ministers who are not accused of scams. I cannot think of any - can you?
AAP - in the 49 days in Delhi, they did little to create any such policy. Kejriwal may claim to be honest, but he did little against Shelia or Somnath Bharti when he had the authority to do so.
BJP - watch their track record in states ruled by them - notably - Chattisgarh, MP and Gujarat. Think of Raman Singh, Shivraj and Modi. Corruption? No.

Now think about it. As we talk of motherhood statements of eliminating corruption, bribery and suchlike - who is likely to be more effective? Those who have a track record of creating corruption, ignoring corruption or fighting corruption?

(Note: You can drag this down to personal integrity and all that sort of thing - and that is important for the leader at the top to be integrity personified - who will take action against anyone found guilty - including herself. For other local corruption also, systemic change can reduce and eliminate corruption - like the IRCTC has done in rail tickets, e-seva has done for passports and so on so forth. Solutions are possible.)

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