The Oxford Dictionary describes a corrupt person as dishonest, especially, the one using bribery. It has been rightly considered an immoral activity.
(2) If we are to elaborate further, corruption to this author means deviation or distortion from an established, expected or a desirable path. Basically, he would like to sound normative while making an attempt to analyse an inseparable dragon of this sort. Meaning thereby, what ought to be, becomes infructuous vis-à-vis what it is. This is why it becomes a difficult, if not impossible proposition to detect and pinpoint such an unfair means.
(3) It is said that corruption has become a non-issue. A thinking on these lines perhaps does not mean that one is in favour of corruption. It also refers to a kind of, or apparent helplessness about this all pervading, monstrous and cancerous malaise.
(4) Corruption, per se, may not only refer to a practice of giving and accepting money for a normal, day to day work. It also has a dangerous combination of cash as well as kind. In addition, there may be, or there are individuals, who neither take cash nor allow any perceptible flow of goods into their household but they may resort to a corrupt means of invisible kind. Still there are people who are different from the lot described. Such persons, by their ‘honest’ looking deeds may guarantee inputs in cash or kind to others, thus ensuring for themselves, a position or a rank not normally possible to get through the fair means. Besides, they also succeed to build a good, enduring and usable image.
(5) Another group of individuals may not be habitually corrupt but they definitely fall in the category of occasionally corrupt. By these parameters, I suppose, it would perhaps be impossible to locate an extremely fair and honest person. While one is ready to express concern against such an unworthy practice, it would be safe to state that both in developing and developed economies, corruption exists in some form or the other and that it would be difficult, if not impossible to uproot such a perpetual malady. One can, however, always hope to minimise its impact.
(6) If one digs into our glorious history, Kautilya’s Saptanga theory or the theory of seven elements of state threw sufficient light on the conduct of the Amatyas (encompassing the Ministers and the Officials). They were required to be Dharmopashuddha (morally and ethically pure), Arthopashuddha (honest in financial matters) and Charitropashuddha (of good and pure character). Some other virtues, according to Kautilya, necessary for a person to serve as a state official were- free from all vices, a person of infallible memory, friendly nature, wisdom, patience and endurance.
(7) On the other hand, Ziauddin Barani, a notable historian and political thinker of the Tughluq dynasty opined that the Sultan (king) must rely on the learned, experienced and well-wishing Wazirs (Ministers) and Counsellors. He has prescribed 24 Nasihats (advices) for an ideal Sultan. One of the Nasihats as given in his scholarly work, Fatwa-i-Jahandari, pertains to appointing just, honest, truthful, reliable and intelligent officers. He was of the considered view that the king should appoint officers who do not accept bribes or presents or accede to recommendations and that the revenue collectors will always refrain from misappropriation of revenue.
(8) Generally it is observed that corrupt people are by and large competent and the mere fact that they outnumber the honest, they are not only in a position to survive but they also thrive beyond imagination. When we make a premise of this nature, we do not mean to say that the honest persons are incompetent. But it is also a fact that those having an unusual mix of integrity and competence, by and large, are troubled and harassed in the most inconceivable ways.
(9) Apart from the mental and semi-physical torture, these ‘marginals’ are, many a time, denied access to the normal facilities, which may appear privileges or perks in the eyes of the ‘mainliners’. This is why, it is often said, good is bad in government or public domain and that rating such as very good and outstanding are more often than not managed by unfair means.
(10) It may not be out of place to mention the timely observations of the Supreme Court in Dev Dutt vs. Union of India & Others (2008,AIR,2513). The apex court ruled that “………………………………………higher posts which are in a pyramidical structure, where often the principle of elimination is followed in selection for promotion, and even a single entry can destroy the career of an officer which has otherwise being outstanding throughout. This often results in grave injustice and heart-burning, and may shatter the morale of many good officers who are superseded due to this arbitrariness, while officers of inferior merit may be promoted”.
(11) In bureaucracy, one also comes across a situation, such as, ‘you show me the person, I will show you the rule.’ As a result, rules and regulations are twisted and partially amended or some times changed altogether to suit a vested interest. When these things do not appear helpful, one indulges into a corrupt means by following the ‘safe’ path of interpretation or drawing inference. Also, oft-repeated modus-operandi is to suggest ‘to read between the lines’. Generally, I help you, you help me, kind of ‘brotherly’ phenomenon comes in the way of delivery of fair and impartial stands, decisions and judgements. AND the actually honest, fair, quiet and non-assertive types continue to suffer at the hands of the self proclaimed honest and competent superiors.
(12) Corruption is found in some form or the other in every sphere, in every country and social system. In a developing economy, it takes a manifest shape or face, in the economies of polar opposite scenario, it may be more prevalent but perhaps with a latent face. While the former may see the use of unfair means at every step, in case of the latter, a certain degree of sophistication may act as a cover, though the stakes may be much higher, involving risks of the bigger magnitude.
(13) No wonder, a country like Bangladesh which is at the lowest rung of development, figures right on top when it comes to the menace of corruption. This is despite the stupendous success of the micro-credit phenomenon triggered and guided by the Nobel Laureate, Md. Yunus. India, does not lag behind, either. The Transparency International in its latest release has considered the world’s largest and the most vibrant democracy as the 83rd most corrupt country in the world. This is unfortunately in the backdrop of the unprecedented positive impact of the Right to Information Act and more vigilant consumerism.
(14) While the country has a sizeable chunk of black money and soaring Hawala transactions, $ 1.5 trillion worth of deposit (seven times the size of the union budget) has been reported to be in the safe custody of the banks of Switzerland and other countries since the year 1947. A disclosure to this effect was made by Professor R.Vaidyanathan of IIM, Banglore while delivering the Nani Palkhiwala Memorial Lecture on “Tax Heavens and the Illegal Wealth of India” at Chennai on 29/8/09 (The Hindu, New Delhi, dated 30th August, 2009). Further,our populous country has allegedly lost more than $ 20 billion every year in this way during 2002-06 alone.
(15) Apart from the money that living tax evaders may have kept therein, a large amount cannot be retrieved because those who managed to open such ‘safe’ accounts (presumably by taking undue advantage of our lax tax collection machinery) have died without informing their family or heirs of all relevant details. Needless to say, with the passage of time, the bank in question freezes or swallows such deposit. There is also an apprehension that these tax havens are used as a source of funding for the spying, terrorist, insurgency and other undesirable activities.
(16) The prevailing practice of subsidized food grains, seeds, fertilizers, kerosene oil and other essential items not reaching the intended beneficiaries also causes overwhelming concern, apart from adversely impacting economic growth and giving a set back to the efforts to build a just, fair and equitable society. Also the pitiable and rampant habit of late submission of the progress and utilization certificates, diversion of funds for non-targeted spheres, plea for revised estimates subsequent to time overrun etc go on to consume a large chunk of our scarce resources which can be better utilised in many other priority sectors.
(17) Enough institutional mechanism is available in the country to prevent and check corruption, right from the Vigilance Cells and Anti-Corruption Bureaux at the state level to the Chief Vigilance Officers and the CBI at the Central level. Unfortunately, not all of them perform their tasks as per mandate and not every one is reported above board. In order to plug the loop hole, the central government has recently decided to set up 71 CBI Courts. Expected to function as model courts, these are to hold day to day proceedings and avoid unnecessary adjournments.
(18) After so much of hue and cry, the institution of the Lokayukta has seen the light of the day only in a handful of states and not all of them are in a position to show their teeth. Either they are helpless, or rendered useless by non-cooperative attitude of the government of the day. The preliminary requirement of giving permission to prosecute a public servant takes months and years. The institution of the Lokpal, supposed to cover the PM also has not become a reality despite the frequent confabulations about it right from the date of lifting of the Emergency. In such a dismal scenario, the honest and dedicated officials toil and suffer while the corrupt and the inefficient continue to have a field day. Resultantly, the habit of corruption continues to pose a bigger threat to the country than external aggression or internal disturbance of the kind of the Left Wing Extremism.
(19) Corruption is something that captures the imagination of everyone but very little has been done to ‘catch the big fish’ in the opinion of our simple, learned and honest PM. Addressing the 17th Biennial Conference of the CBI, Anti-Corruption Bureaux and the Vigilance agencies recently, he called upon them to accord priority to the rapid, fair and accurate investigation of corruption in high places. They were expected to act firmly, swiftly and without fear or favour in view of the constitutional and legal protection available to them. He also called upon them to look at themselves critically and introspect deeply to fine tune the functioning of their organisations.
(20) The PM has also gone to the extent of admitting that the fear of harassment and damage to reputation makes the officials unduly timid and slow, thus rendering the whole government machinery ineffectual. Also expeditious conduct of trials was as important as was hastening the pace of the investigations. While on the one hand, one can see a glimmer of hope, on the other, clear sign of desperation is visible at a time when the Second Administrative Reforms Commission has submitted its wide ranging recommendations so that the poor are not disproportionately hurt because of corruption and carelessness.
(21) In addition, the Minister of State for Personnel, Administrative Reforms & PMO, while inaugurating a conference of secretaries of administrative reforms departments of states has also admitted that the Indian bureaucracy is inefficient and corrupt. He seems to have favoured a focused approach to implement the recommendations of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission within a realistic time frame and also an amendment in the RTI Act with a view to ensure more transparency in public administration. Is it not ironical that the same “inefficient and corrupt” lot is expected to examine the recommendations for improving the efficacy of the system, reduce corruption and ensure transparency?
(22) Similar conduct is expected from the judiciary, if we are to follow the candid and meaningful write up of Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer in the Hindu (Dt.31st Aug.2009) on the stalemate over the issue of declaration of assets. According to him, ‘The best judge has nothing to hide and everything to discover without fear or favour and do justice to everyone, be he high or humble, without affection or ill-will’. He goes on to add that the real cause of the pathological arrear syndrome is the absence of accountability and transparency and that creation of more courts would result into more arrears and more lazy judges. To him, ‘one capable judge with sound social philosophy is a better instrument of justice than a dozen mediocre, indolent ignoramuses who will merely add to the adipose of the system.’
(23) The mere fact that the reluctant judges at last gave in to the public pressure pertaining to declarations concerning disclosure of assets and the ruling of the Delhi High Court (The Hindustan Times, New Delhi dated 3rd September 2009) that the judicial power was accountable to the Constitution of India, proves the logic and necessity of transparency in public life. The judgment in question is unprecedented as this is the first time that a High Court has decided on a matter involving the Supreme Court Judges. Thus it has been maintained beyond doubt that the office of the Chief Justice of India did not fall outside the purview of the RTI Act.
(24) The enormous power available to the Judiciary, Revenue collectors, Police, Municipal bodies etc. has not succeeded in reducing the might of the lower level officials bent upon behaving like extortionists rather than protectors and the regulators. The people in general and the captains of the industry in particular too immensely contribute to the mess by showing their ever willingness to pay at every step, while resorting to short cuts and thus undermining the compliance of the rule of law.
(25) The Officers in general not only suck systematically and consistently the mammaries of our welfare state during their long and eventful service career, they also do not refrain from locating and finding a lucrative position in some commission or the ‘public service’ body, subsequent to their superannuation. In this way, the phenomena of dismal performance combined with non-accountability perpetuates at the cost of the paramount interest of the poor, ignorant and toiling masses.
(26) It goes without saying that barely five per cent bureaucrats are honest as on date and that together with another ten per cent of their corrupt, yet efficient brethren, they ensure functioning of the system. Is’nt the time ripe to downsize the bureaucracy and to recognise and motivate the non-descript looking honest, hard working and upright bureaucrats with a view to weed out corruption and complacency?.
(27) One cannot ensure purity in the doldrums of the public domain. But one can always make an attempt to reduce or to minimise the use of unfair means. Or shall we believe an experienced, qualified and non vocal urban housewife when she says ”Corruption will end only when the universe will come to an end. Only God is honest. Everyone else is corrupt”?.