The Menace of Corruption

Article for Blog Post Writing Competition 2011 | by Ambika Khanna


April 17th, 20111:23 pm

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Smita has been standing in the queue to deposit the school admission form since morning. It has been three hours now and suddenly the counter closes. On enquiring, she learns that it is ‘Chai time’, the work resumes after sometime and it is her turn finally. She eagerly hands over the form to the clerk who imperiously goes through the form and flings it towards her saying, ‘Madamji yeh nahi hoga’. When she wants to know why, he points to a man slinking in the corner. Very timidly, she approaches the man in the corner who smilingly tells her that her work can be done i if she is willing to spare some money for “Chai-paani”-Now these are the kind of situations that the common man encounters everyday in India dealing with touts and the corrupt.

Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “Corruption and hypocrisy ought not to be inevitable products of democracy, as they undoubtedly are today”. Corruption is the greatest single bane of our society today. It starts from the roots of any organization and then spreads like cancer. Here, when I talk about corruption I’m not limiting its ambit to just the government but to private enterprises and institutions as well.

Anna Hazare, is not the first to raise his voice against corruption. A voice inside all of us, who have faced the wrath of this evil at some point or other wishes the same too. The difference being, Hazare’s crusade was strong enough to catch the attention of the people. Corruption stares at the ‘aam aadmi’ at every point, it could be getting a railway ticket, wanting a valid medical certificate, college admission or a job in the government. Hazare had to threaten ‘fast unto death’ till his demand was met. Now the committee that shall draft the Jan Lokpal Bill will constitute government nominees and members of the civil society in equal number. For the sake of greater transparency, members of the civil society sitting in the committee shall declare their assets. Hazare’s campaign struck a chord and he had thousands of supporters not just at Jantar Mantar which was his base, but all over India and even across the boundaries of India. The Jan Lokpal Bill aims at destroying corruption in public offices. The Parliament has avoided tackling this issue of corruption. The Lokpal Bill has been in the government’s closet for the past 42 years. Hazare was the man behind the RTI revolution also. He strongly advocated the same and after its implementation, he travelled all over India spreading the message. Today, RTI has resulted in accountability and transparency in the activities of government offices and is a powerful tool in the hands of the citizens of this country.

In recent times, there has been an overload of cases of corruption. In the public offices, the most prominent would be the CWG scam and the 2G Telecom spectrum scam. Indian politicians seem to thrive on corruption. If numbers are to be seen, more than 50 Lok Sabha members are accused in various criminal cases. Is it those in power who eventually become corrupt because of the system or is it that power simply attracts the corrupt? It truly is a shame, that even with all the glory and pride of hosting the most important games of the world, it will always remain tainted with the malaise of corruption. The 2G scandal exposed certain loopholes in the current laws and consequently, the government is considering amending several laws including the Companies Act, to establish ownership of assets to tackle black money.

In the long run, the rising level of corruption and bribery cases, threatens the country’s credibility. A recent survey by KPMG, reveals that India can achieve more than the projected 9% GDP growth if corruption is controlled.

Just last month, the finance minister, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee had stated that tax evasion of upto Rs. 1 lakh crores has been found. There are so many cases related to the illegal parking funds/black money in Swiss bank accounts and places like Mauritius and Cayman islands which make the evasion of tax easier, but as most of the time influential people are the prime accused in such cases, they are let off way too easy.

Hasan Ali ‘s stashed unaccounted wealth is waiting to be uncovered by the  sleuths of the IT Dept (who now have asked for protection because they face threat to their life!). The Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements provide for certain carve outs in the process of information exchange. For instance, exchange of information is permitted in case of tax evasion but not money laundering.

A superficial study of the real estate sector reveals the open acceptance of black money. Close to 50% of property transactions are mostly black money, formatted in a way to evade tax. It is done so openly and it is as good as mandatory in almost every transaction, even then no mechanism is implemented to check this. This goes on to show that even the top officials are aware of this and their turning a blind eye to it, does nothing more than portray them in bad light.

In the defence sector too, an inquiry by the Central Vigilance Commission has revealed a number of irregularities in the Border Roads Organization’s Project Deepak. Some of these include using of substandard material in construction and maintenance of the most crucial roads of the country. The report estimates financial irregularities of more than Rs. 100 crores, and who can forget the racket involving purchase of substandard bullet proof jackets resulting in the loss of chivalrous men like Karkare in 26/11 Mumbai attack.

They say elections are free and fair in our democracy. Is it? What are all the stories that we hear about voters being wooed with gifts of gold, coloured T.V. sets, cash and alcohol. Atleast this is what the media is saying about the recent Tamil Nadu elections and then we again have rogues as rulers who start the vicious agenda of recovering their election bribe money through corrupt methods and who is the victim? Ofcourse, the common man who voted for these villains of democracy.

The concept of ‘jugaad’ works well in our country.  Even getting a job or a degree becomes child’s play if you have the right contact. The value of merit is decreasing rapidly and is almost namesake. What may seem trivial like nursery admission is not so trivial considering the ways one can get it- just buy a bus for the school! It is one of the ways!

This can of worms has not opened fully. A lot of revelations are expected and this would hopefully lead to a major overhaul in the governing system and the laws of the country. Even today, it’s not like we don’t have laws prevalent to check corruption. It is the inclusion of inadequate and outdated provisions in the relevant Acts as well as the poor implementation of rules that has always been the central issue.  Under the current anti corruption legislations, there is not a single anti corruption agency that is independent of governmental interference.  For the sake of efficiency, independence has to be given along with power, to agencies like the CBI and CVC. The Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 provides for conviction of a person, but there lies no provision to recover the losses suffered by the government or the profits the he made from his nefarious activities. Such loopholes need to be filled in and the laws should be made foolproof.

Corruption has its own motivations, and one has to thoroughly study that phenomenon and eliminate the foundations that allow corruption to exist. So we have to go to the root of corruption and not just superficially attempt to remove it. If one law has been amended, adding more stringent provisions in order to check this malice, subsequently other laws which will be affected should also be amended to remove any ambiguity. This has to be done in full and not just half heartedly. The judiciary’s participation is of immense importance here and it should be the guiding force. The decision of SC and HC judges to declare their assets was an inspiring move and this should have the trickledown effect in the government and non governmental institutions.

Let the campaign started by Anna Hazare be just the beginning. We should all, at our own individual levels, do all that is required in order to remove any form of corruption. Because each time we bribe our way into something, even if it is just getting a driving license, we are contributing to the rapidly growing tentacles of corruption. So let us follow Swami Vivekanand’s call ‘Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached’, and our goal is total eradication of corruption.

 

Article by;

Ambika Khanna

4th yearstudent ,B. A. LL.B. (Hons.)

Amity Law School, IP University, Delhi.

“[Submitted as an entry for the MightyLaws.in Blog Post Writing Competition, 2011]”

 

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