Friday, September 30, 2011

India Against Corruption

1. Introduce state-funding as part of election reforms:

The high cost of elections and candidates' dependence on money, often of questionable provenance, compromises them from the very outset. Once beholden to moneybags, they are under obligation to return the favour if they win. Of course, not all candidates can be funded by the state. So, we suggest that only candidates belonging to national parties receive election money from the state. In this too we can pare down eligibility by regions. For instance, the CPM might be a "national party" but its influence is largely limited to Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. Its candidates getting funding in any other state should depend on its performance in that state in the previous election. By the same token, state parties must get funding in their specific states, like the BSP in UP or the BJD in Orissa.

2. A reasonable and transparent tax structure, backed by clean and clear enforcement:

Our direct taxes (personal income and corporate) are no longer unreasonable, so there's little excuse for trying to evade them. But there is an unhealthy trend in piling on surcharges on various pretexts. Also, there are tons of other taxes that can add up to quite a bit. Finally, there's the larger question of how efficiently and honestly taxpayers' money is put to use - when you see the state of government hospitals and schools, and rotten roads, you wonder where the money you paid as tax has gone

3. Liberal and contemporary laws that citizens can understand and respect:

People find it difficult to accept ridiculous, outdated and moralistic laws - worse, they may not even be aware of some of these laws till some law enforcer somewhere decides to use them to harass and to extract money. Once you dismiss a law or rule as stupid and worthy of breaking (like not allowing drinking under 25 years of age), there's a human tendency to take other laws less seriously. Therefore, to the extent possible, there's a need to cut back on the multiplicity of unnecessary and complex laws, and zero in on just the ones that are needed to ensure a fair, equitable and just system. These should then be administered without fear or favour.

4. Reduce the role of the state in people's lives to the absolutely essential:

In some ways, this is related to our earlier point. The greater the scope for state interference - be it the police or the clerk in a government office or the customs inspector - the greater the scope for harassment and graft.

5. Genuine autonomy for the public/government sector:

Big PSUs - think Air India, for instance - place huge contracts. Even a fraction of that is huge money in absolute terms. There is always a temptation for political bosses to exert their influence and swing the contract for chosen ones and receive handsome kickbacks. So get them out of the day-to-day functioning of these PSUs.

6. Minimize discretionary powers of ministers and bureaucrats:

This would reduce scope for misuse of such powers to favour some -->

7. Pay government and PSU officers, judges and policemen market-indexed salaries commensurate with their responsibility:

This would minimize the 'need' for bribes. Their salaries could be benchmarked against corporate sector salaries. But higher salaries should be combined with exemplary punishment, including dismissal from service and a police case if an employee is caught indulging in corrupt practices. Mere transfer or suspension won't do.

8. Introduce sweeping police reforms and stronger judicial accountability:

This has been discussed for decades but there's been no action. The recommendations for reforms are already there. Set a time frame for implementation. This will make the police not just a professional force that's not at the beck and call of politicians, but also a trained one with in-built checks against developing vested interests. Today the situation often is that the investigator (police officer) is answerable to the person being investigated (politician). Also, separate the police into two wings: one for investigation and the other for maintaining law and order. The two functions are different and require different skill sets. Sadly, the image of the judiciary has taken a knock in recent years - for the common man, the courts are the last resort for seeking justice.

9. Blacklist corrupt businessmen:

Private businesses caught indulging in corrupt practices or bribing officials should be blacklisted for, say, 10 years and be barred from government projects. In the category of corrupt practices would fall use of shoddy material -- like road contractors who give one inch of tar when they are supposed to give four inches and the road crumbles after one monsoon. Bigger instances of private businesses cutting corners in public projects by colluding with corrupt officials should attract exemplary punishment.

10. Transparency and stricter scrutiny of government tenders/orders, including auction/sale of public-owned assets:

Hundreds of thousands of crores of orders are placed every year by government departments, PSUs, municipal corporations and the like. Its common knowledge that tenders are often awarded on considerations other than merit. This is one of the biggest sources of corruption in the country. And don't forget, this is taxpayers' money that is being diverted illegally.

Finally, and this is for every one of us, let's try and say no to bribes. This is the right moment to unleash a national campaign against giving bribes as the mood against corruption is high. Ultimately, we can't get rid of the bribe taker if we are willing to be bribe givers.

Corruption related complaints including audio, video clips can be lodged at VIGEYE portal on the CVC website
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