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The best of Bhavan's Journal: 1954 - 2003
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Civil Society and Corruption
N. Vittal
(Published in 2000 Annual Number)
Why should the civil society be interested in fighting corruption? There are three main reasons why we should fight corruption.
The first reason is that corruption is anti-economic development. According to the 1999 Human Development Report of the UNDP published from the Mehbub UI Haq Centre, Islamabad, India’s GDP will go up by 1.5 percent, if we can bring down the corruption levels in India to that of Scandinavian countries. The Transparency International, which is a NGO in Berlin, ranks every year the countries according to the Corruption Perception Index, ranked India 73 out of 99 countries in 1999. So if we are able to bring down the level of corruption in India which is at 73 to that of the Scandinavian countries, which are in the ranks of three or four, the GDP will go up by 1.5 per cent. As the GDP and the economy grow, it is ultimately the people who are benefited.
Corruption has an anti-consumer bias. For example, the price of electricity in India today is high because up to forty per cent of the tariff we pay, can be attributed to corruption, according to Shri Raghuraman who is an expert in the subject of power and who is connected with CII. The time overrun and cost overrun in many projects result in the increased cost of the services or goods to the consumer. Many times cost overruns can be traced to corruption. We can see how increasing corruption increases the cost to the consumer.
Nearly 400 million people of the country with one billion are below the poverty line.
The public distribution system(PDS) is meant for the poor. Do you know that 36 per cent of foodgrains and 31 per cent of the sugar meant for PDS disappear in the black market because of the corruption? Corruption literally snatches away food from the mouths of the poor people.
Corruption is anti-national. The famous Hawala scam showed that ultimately there was a nexus between the source of funds for Kashmir militants as well as the other parties like the bureaucrats and other public servants.
The 1993 Bombay blasts resulted in 300 innocent people losing their lives and that was made possible because RDX was smuggled by bribing certain Customs officials for 20 lakhs of rupees. Corruption therefore is anti-national.
The Prime Minister, in his address to the nation on 16th October 1999, called for zero tolerance to corruption. As the Central Vigilance Commissioner, it is my responsibility to ensure that this mission of the PM is translated into reality. I prepared a paper called Towards Zero Tolerance to Corruption where I have analysed the state of corruption in India today and indicated steps by which corruption can be fought.
The approach to corruption-free service is to draw a lesson from Gandhiji’s Salt Satyagraha. Gandhiji identified that salt was a common man’s requirement and it should not be taxed. He led the fight against the British with that focus on salt in 1930.
So far the approach to corruption including even the Prevention of Corruption Act, has been that corruption is misuse of public office for private profit. But in the context of consumer protection movement and deriving our inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi, why not we say that corruption is in a way violation of the fundamental rights of every Indian citizen who has a right to get corruption-free service from every Government organisation, department, ministry, public sector undertaking or public sector bank?
Most important element in fighting corruption is effective corruption punishment. Our judicial system is such that the punishment is only six per cent and therefore when we pursue the case in the court, though we are continuously chasing with the concerned court, we will have to think an alternative method by which the effective punishment can be achieved.
My dream is that India must become an economic super power and this century must become the Indian century. We cannot achieve it unless we are able to overcome the AIDS of the body politic, which is corruption.
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