Who is responsible for Corruption in India?

This evening (28th Sep 2012), I attended a Panel Discussion at IIT Madras on this subject.  Am sharing some of the views expressed by the Panelists and my own perspective as well.

This was organized by Dialogue Foundation, a creation of 2 ladies Priya and Sunaina.  The members of the Panel were

Subramanian Swamy, 

MR Venkatesh (Chartered Accountant), 

Vittal (Former CVC), 

Krishnamurthy (Former CEC), 

Americai Narayanan (Entrepreneur and politician)  and

Varun of MAD (Make A Difference).  

The program was moderated by a former IAS Officer Belliapa 

Krishnamoorthy

He talked for the Need for Electoral Reforms such as  Abolish the ceiling on election spending because it is more flouted than complied

Varun

His NGO MAD was asked by a Government official for a bribe to grant FCRA Status and that was his personal experience of corruption. He said “Corruption is a state of mind” and exhorted each person in the audience to resist giving or taking bribe.

Vittal

He talked of 5 players Neta (Politician), Babu (Bureaucrat), Lala (Businessman), Jhola (didnt really get by what he meant by this term) and dada (criminal) who are responsible for corruption.  He also felt that anyone who has charges framed against him/her should not be allowed to contest the elections until they are cleared.

Subramanian Swamy

He talked about the absence of values in the system as the main reason for Corruption & also opined that corruption will be minimal if the middle class were active

Americai Narayanan

He made a passionate speech asking people to stop being in an urgent mode that gives the space for corruption. he quoted a tamil film song and asserted that corruption can be minimized only when the change happens within ourselves.

MR Venkatesh

He said that the biggest impediment to a corruption-free India was the absence of Fundamental Duties as enshrined in the Constitution.  What was also missing was strict enforcement of the existing laws.

The Moderator shared his own thoughts and threw the floor for the audience.  Here were some of the questions and the responses

Q 1: What can I as an individual and part of the middle class do to prevent corruption?

SS: You can do a lot by creating a vocal community in your own locality.  Encourage educated people to take to politics, vote in the election and cast your vote to the person whom you think is the best rather than the person you think is most likely to win and hold your elected representative accountable for his/her performance and fulfilling the poll promises

Q2: What financial reforms do you think will keep corruption in check?

SS: Abolish Income Tax (and that threw the entire audience into a tizzy and for the first time there was some life in the session)

MRV: Tighten the money laundering act

My own thoughts:

a.  For a very current and sensitive topic like this, one hour is hardly enough.  Having spent so much time, money and efforts, the organizers would have done well to have a 2-3 hour session.

b.  Having 6 speakers (as a corollary to a) although most were very eminent personalities, was a cruel joke.  It would have been better if there were just 3 speakers with one politician, bureaucrat and economist.  That would have also given some room for a rebuttal.

c.  More time for questions and answers.  There was absolutely no merit in giving 15 minutes for Q & A.  Let us remember that questions get the best (and sometimes the worst too) out of the panelists and that is the enlivening part of the proceedings.

I hope that the organizers of Dialogue foundation will treat this feedback as useful for their subsequent events!!

 

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TeamS Anna?

The euphoria has evaporated & the happy days of posturing are over! Reality has struck.

The combination of Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal, Santosh Hegde and the Bhushans that gave hope to millions and nightmares to the establishment besides regular feed for the media, has come apart.

Clearly shows how unprepared people cannot handle the long haul!!

Besides the one-off statements that seem to contradict the previous ones, there doesn’t seem to be a cohesive thought process in the group and there is no one person who is authorized to talk on behalf of the Team.

Even when the nation was going gung-ho about Team Anna, we had some questions to Anna and his team members and voiced our apprehensions about the viability of this outfit especially in the electoral process

A real sad end to a meteor!!

India in international arena???

We are yet to score a Gold medal in the 2012 Olympics and at 3 overall medal tally, India is at the bottom.  I was wondering if this pathetic performance is a recent phenomenon and did some basic research.

Since 1900, India has participated in Olympics and has won a total of 23 medals so far.

For a period of time, India’s men’s field hockey team was dominant in Olympic competition, winning eleven medals in twelve Olympics between 1928 and 1980, including six successive gold medals from 1928–1956.

So, if we take out the team event of hockey, then India’s medal tally over  all modern Olympics comes to a mere 11!!  No wonder, we are gaga over bronze and silver medals that are won on individual events and are on cloud nine when Bindra won the Gold in Beijing.

It is not only in Sports that we are lagging behind but also in Nobel Prizes for Sciences, Oscar Awards to name a few.

For example, Amartya Sen is the only Indian Citizen of Post-Independance era to have won a Nobel Prize in 60 years for accomplishment in Sciences and contrast this with 3 Nobel prize winners of Indian origin settled elsewhere viz Hargobind Khurana, Chandrasekhar and Ramakrishnan.

In the entertainment field, we have only 5 Oscar Awardees so far!!

On the economic front, our record in 2012 is much better where 8 Indian companies are in the global list of Fortune 500.  Even there, 5 companies are in Petroleum and only 3 private sector companies viz Reliance (99), Tata Motors (314) and Tata Steel (401) have made the list.  Again, compare this with USA (132 companies), China (73) and Japan (68)!!!

While a few can dismiss this poor track record citing conspiracies of western nations or  by blaming the corruption in sports bodies and in educational institutions for the dismal show. Neither is valid because China, Japan, Korea etc are in East and it is not that the entire 20th century of India was infested with corruption!!

Perhaps, we as a nation do not have a passion for excellence and a willingness to reach out for higher levels of performance.  Worse, I suspect that we have succumbed to a vicious thought process that we are not capable of being world champions (except perhaps in cricket but lets remember that all of that started only in 1983 and our record has not been consistent either).

And that probably is the reason why we are yet to spawn the next IBM, Apple, Google or Microsoft!!

Wake up, fellow Indians to our own potential & lets start scaling new heights!!

 

To make Jan Lokpal really effective

It is really wonderful to see so many people take to peaceful protests against corruption across the country and it shows that they really care.

What is the root cause of the government-created corruption? The quality of people whom we elect to represent us largely determines the extent of corruption.

So each one of us who is backing Anna and even those who are sceptical of his methods but are concerned about the rising corruption need to really ask these questions to ourselves

a. Did I cast my vote during the last election? If I did not, I have really made it possible for the wrong guys to enter the portals of power. I need to remember that my vote counts just like the vote of any other person

b. And if yes, what were the factors that determined the choice of my candidate?
If I had voted to a person because he/she belongs to my caste or because his/her party offered me bribes or freebies, then I have created my own misery.

Lets reflect on this and declare that we will vote in the coming elections and that we will vote for the person who is honest and who has clear plans to take the country forward.

Only then we will have people at the helm of affairs who are capable of enforcing such bills as Jan Lokpal with the interests of the country in their mind.

Do we want to understand the ground reality?

Every day I get a few mails on corruption and black money stashed abroad and what would it mean if that money is brought back.  For the sake of argument, let us for a moment imagine that this money is brought back into the country.  Who is going to distribute this money for the various welfare measures like each village getting 100 crores etc (by the way, what would a village do with 100 crores?  nobody seems to think about that anyway!!)?  It is going to be the same politicians and officials whom we are criticising as being corrupt!!

So even if the money is brought back (which is extremely unlikely in the first case), it would only mean that it would change hands and in some cases remain with the same people in a different form.  Is this what we want?

This kind of euphoria of Rs.1456 lakh crores is good for the media and for propaganda but nothing will come out of it because it is just empty rhetoric!!

Let us not get carried away by big numbers but instead look at them objectively!!

 

 

Some Questions to Team Anna

1. You say that PM Should be under Lokpal but his/her decisions relating to certain areas like Defence and National security may be kept outside the purview of Lokpal (or should we call it Jan Lokpal?). Which means that if this bill was passed prior to 1984, Rajiv Gandhi would have avoided coming under its scrutiny for the Bofors scam (a pathetic amount of Rs.64 crores). Or if the current or future PMs engage in corruption in purchasing combat aircraft, they can very well claim immunity on account of the fact that it was Defence. Why is Defence a sacred cow?

2. Let’s say that the Jan Lokpal was passed an year earlier. What would have been the scenario for the likes of Raja, Kalmadi, Sheila Dixit and Dayanidhi Maran? What would have happened?

Instead of dreaming about eradicating corruption with the proposed bill, please talk straight and answer these questions.

Thanks

The other side of corruption

Thanks to the unprecedented levels of corruption, the media spotlight and the Anna Hazare phenomenon supported by the groundswell of support from many Indians, Lokpal seems a real possibility.

But what about the other side of it, the human angle?  There are 2 facets to corruption, one that is demanded and the other that is more voluntary.  I want to touch on the latter in this post.

What would you call going through an agent in RTO or passport office as? Convenience, perhaps but there is an underlying tacit corruption there which is hidden in the form of service charges. I had earlier talked about paying road tax where I spent an hour or so but it would have been avoided had I paid Rs.100 more to an agent.  When I asked why this huge “service charges”, the agent replied that the moment the RTO officials see my face, they would ask for money and hence even though it is a routine affair involving no transgression, one has to shell out an extra amount.

The Government can legalize this by a Tatkal scheme (like they have done in train reservations and in Passports) where for a higher fee, the citizen will get his work done quicker.

Corruption stems from our attitude that we want to trade off discipline with a payment of money as is evident from the thousands of instances where we pay Rs.50 or Rs.100 to a traffic cop when caught for not wearing a helmet or not carrying the correct documents.  I have seen many riders tagging their helmets to their seats or asking their pillion to carry it rather than wearing it and when asked why  they have replied “Who will wear this nuisance?  If caught, I will pay Rs.50 or 100 and go my way”.  We are ourselves creating an opportunity for the traffic cop to demand money and are willing to pay?

Why cry about corruption when we are the source of it?

I am not saying that there is no corruption and that there are no demands for it even when we are in the right. That is the right place for the proposed Lokpal to step in and take action.

But if we look at the numerous incidents where we are creating avenues for corruption for our convenience, no Lokpal can do anything about it!!

Given the huge levels of awareness amongst the general public and the resistance to the Government-sponsored corruption, it is high time that we start looking inwards to the menace that is slowly but surely eroding our own lives by our actions abetting corruption.

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