Monday, 6 April 2020

Corruption In High Places

Updated: August 16, 2014 4:41 pm

The last decade can easily and justifiably be termed the decade of deceit and dishonesty. Corruption in the country has been in epidemic proportions, infecting people at the top power positions—babus, clerks, etc. The people are the worst sufferer

The 2G spectrum scam, which according to the CAG, amounted to about Rs 176,000 crore, was the biggest case of corruption until then. Politicians named as accused in the charge- sheets filed by the CBI included A Raja and MK Kanimozhi, MP and daughter of K Karunanidhi

Corruption: At Clerks level

An electric metre was declared defective by the inspector of the power supplying company. The customer, a senior citizen, had to fork out Rs 200, for the babu to sign a letter sanctioning the purchase of a new meter. Another Rs 200 was paid to the clerk who certified that the new metre was okay. Finally Rs 300 to the person who came to fit the new meter.

About Rs 1800 were paid for the new metre and another Rs 700 to various babus. The first case involved people at the top and the second were bribe-takers at the public service facility providers at the bottom of the governmental pyramid. Is there any remedy?

An exasperated Indira Gandhi once said corruption was a global phenomenon and she sounded right, in democracies like the UK and the US corruption does persist. (See Boxes). Her despair stemmed from the exposure of three senior Congress Chief Ministers, one after the other by Arun Shourie. People started to believe that corruption was endemic in her Party and that made her lose state elections in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

But she was politically perceptive. She succeeded in cleansing her party by induction in most states and at the centre leaders known for probity in public life like VP Singh and S.M. Krishna. India and the Congress seemed to re-instil the values of earlier era.

16-08-2014But ironically Indira’s defence of her party became the guiding principle for her legatees Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, it seems. They let their Party stalwarts and foot soldiers plunder the country with impunity and why not after all, the Granny had said that corruption was a global phenomenon. India was part of the globe and not an alien country.

The last decade can thus easily and justifiably be termed the decade of deceit and dishonesty. Corruption in the country has been in epidemic proportions, infecting people at the top power positions—babus, clerks, etc. The people are the worst sufferer.

Worse, India is the only country that has suffered from critical manifestations of corruption—a parallel economy due to billions of black money stashed in foreign banks, criminalisation of politicians, politicisation of criminals, stalled growth, ruined economy, runaway inflation and prices making living tortuous for the average Indian.

Not many realise that corruption produces bad decisions; concern over corruption produces indecision. Graft does not function, as some claim that it does elsewhere, as an unseemly but expedient market solution to inert bureaucracy, greasing the seized-up wheels of industry. It has put grit in those wheels.

Loans to industries with graft problems have infected the largely state-run banking system; at least a tenth of its loans are sour. Inept cronies have messed up vital road and power projects. Mines and other assets lie idle as courts dither over how crooked their owners are.”

India ranked a dismal 94 out of 176 countries in the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International. Corruption is one of the causes for structural poverty, instability and inequality in India. Transparency International’s 2013 Global Corruption Barometer stated that almost all key Indian institutions were under the sway of corruption.

Seventy-one per cent of respondents to a survey believed that corruption had increased from ‘a little’ to ‘a lot’. While 75 per cent of people expressed that the police force is corrupt, an astonishing 86 per cent of people believed that political parties and their leaders are corrupt.

India is one of those few countries where the Election Commission is yet to make financial disclosures mandatory for politicians and enforce penalty on defaulters. As much as 90 per cent of political party finances come from ‘unknown sources’. A contest for a Lok Sabha seat now costs over seven to 10 crore. It is here that corruption culture takes root. A minster or an influential politician who took a couple of crore to contest, would nilly willy do the bidding of the donor(s). And this is why income and assets of all elected and appointed representatives must be made public. The consequences: The pace with which India was moving towards a growing economic super power was not only stall but derailed. The side effects of corruption, the drying up of investment and production plunged the economy to near abyss. People, the honest and hard-working suffered, it made no difference to the corrupt or the powerful.

“Some deeper rooted issues like the decline in investment can be traced to the massive corruption eating away at the fabric of the once-galloping economy.” Foreign investors and even law-abiding Indians get scared. Siddharth Chatterjee, the Chief Diplomat at the IFRC related his own experience. “The incident gave me an unexpected glimpse into what it feels like to live in a country where government officials openly ask for bribes. In July 2013, I was asked to pay an additional, unofficial ‘fee’ to register a will for the benefit of my son. When asked if it was usual to pay this ‘fee’, the man told me, with no hint of hesitation that ‘senior Government officials and even Army Generals pay the unofficial fee here’. My lawyer present there shrugged her shoulders and said this is how it works.

Suffocated with the ever rising corruption, the Indian people and now the NDA government (hopefully) are working hard to make India, and by extension the world, a more secure place by eradicating corruption that helps the terrorists most. If even a part of the money stashed in foreign banks is brought back, one speciality hospitals, according to an estimate, can be built in clusters of 10 villages—which will cover all villages in India.


Corruption In The UK


16-08-2014

The furore that has dominated Britain’s media over the case of Maria Miller MP, UK Culture Secretary and member of Prime Minister David Cameron’s government who is the latest in a long line of politicians to become embroiled in scandal over their expenses, is a reminder that rather than the exception, corruption is now the norm within the key institutions at the heart of the British establishment.

The Daily Telegraph had first exposed the Ministers, MPs and Peers who fiddled with their expense accounts to make some extra buck. The first woman Home Secretary charged a few pounds paid for two porno CDs for her husband. It cost her the position of Home Secretary.

Immediately after the exposure a committee was set up. It gave its reports within three months of its setting up. The government then following its recommendations tightened the rules. But it seems the ingenuity in making a few extra pounds and pence of Maria Miller MP, UK Culture Secretary and member of Prime Minister David Cameron’s government could not be overcome by the latest rules.

Scandals involving the city of London, the main driver of the UK economy, surrounding the greed and recklessness responsible for an economic crisis have led to the bankruptcy of thousands of people. Yet even in recession, the culture of bonus was adhered to religiously. But so far there have been no prosecutions.

The phone hacking scandal which initially emerged a few years ago, whereby the illegal practice of hacking people’s telephones was revealed to have been widespread among leading newspapers in the UK, exposed the fact that the press in Britain has for years been an out of control monster, exploited by editors and newspaper owners to further their own political agendas. ,

Media Barons like Rupert Murdoch, wield such influence over politicians and the government that they can make them violate democratic processes so that the newspaper boss can earn more. As a watchdog their power is absolute and that absolute power corrupts absolutely.                                (VD)


The new government has set up SIT under a judge to study all aspects of money kept in foreign banks. Luckily one list of account-holders has already been sent given to the government.

An astute person Modi knows that for a quick result and parivartan, bringing back money from foreign banks would be the most effective measure. People expect that the NDA would take the matter on priority.

Corruption has damaged the health of economy, made foreign businesses and investors shy away—bribe first, licences later syndrome—affected the industrial production badly, most Indian businessmen have preferred investing abroad, causing runaway prices and inflation. The worst is that it has endangered the country’s security and affected the capability of fighting terrorism. This risk to India’s security has been endorsed by Cleo Paskal, Associate Fellow, Royal Institute of International Affairs. In his essay “Why Indian Corruption Is a Global Security Concern”, he says the fight against corruption is critically important for Indian as well as global security, one because Rs 48,000 crore is a huge amount to let it circulate through hawala, which he claims is under the clutch of major, dangerous terror networks. “Corruption in India enables some of the world’s most dangerous terrorist networks.”


Hasan Ali Khan Case


 16-08-2014The biggest hawala case deals with the potential of finishing careers of senior politicians and it shows the nexus between politicians and businessmen, police and criminals—who operate hawala. Hasan Ali Khan is in jail in India awaiting trial on charges of running a massive, high value hawala network for an astoundingly varied cast of top-level players, from narcotics dealers to industrialists to politicians. Even Saudi arms broker Adnan Khashoggi’s name has come up.

The case pretty much sums up what has happened to India. As dirty money flows between politics, extremist groups, narco-traffickers, business, media houses, and police, it mixes together forming a torrent of intermingled corruption that is drowning the security of the nation, and pouring over the border, carrying terror and crime with it.

Names of Hasan’s clients that have surfaced include three chief ministers, a member of the top political family.

In the case of Hasan Ali Khan and his associates, the sums were too large to be moved around invisibly. As a result vast amounts, sometimes up to $8 billion, periodically popped up in tax haven bank accounts, creating a brazen paper and e-trail.

When millions were transferred to a Khan-linked bank account for the purchase of a hotel in Switzerland, it came with an unusual note attached.

The Indian government’s Letter of Rogatory to the Singapore Government for the criminal case no. ECIR/MZO/02/2006-07 (the case involving Khan) notes:

Deal for purchase of property that is Chateu Gutsch [sic] in Lucerne was finalised and during payment, USB [bank] informed that USD 300,000,000 (the fund) have arrived tagged with comment “Funds from Weapon Sales.

The note shows just how sure Khan and others involved were that they were protected from prosecution. And, until the UPA regime people like Khan had good reason to feel safe.         (VD)

 


The reason is, illegal money needs illegal methods to move it around. And the amount of corruption-generated money flowing through India is vast. According to Interpol: “In South Asia, the ‘black’ or parallel economy is 30 percent-50 percent of the ‘white’ or documented economy.”

In terms of Indian political corruption, he quotes the 2011 2G-spectrum scandal which is estimated to have lost Indian taxpayers close to $40 billion. And, as soon as the money needs to cross borders, say to get to a Swiss bank account where it can be washed clean, an Indian politician on the take goes from being a national security concern to a global security concern.

30-08-2014

In a coordinated attack, in Mumbai on July 11, 2006, terrorist bombings on trains killed over 200 people. $10,000 that was used to carry out the attacks came from Saudi Arabia to India via hawala networks. The material recovered from Abbottabad shows Osama Bin Laden spent much of his time going through the “corporate” account books, tracking money generation (often through decidedly unspiritual means such as drug dealing) and cash flows.


At A Glance: The Biggest Scams And Corruption Cases Since Independence


30-08-2014

1)            1948 jeep scandal: It was first major corruption case in independent India. VK Krishna Menon, the then Indian high commissioner to Britain, ignored protocols and signed a Rs 80 lakh contract for the purchase of army jeeps with a foreign firm. While most of the money was paid upfront, just 155 jeeps landed, the then Prime Minister Nehru forced the government to accept them. Govind Ballabh Pant the then Home Minister and the then Government of Indian National Congress announced on September 30, 1955 that the Jeep scandal case was closed for judicial inquiry ignoring suggestion by the Inquiry Committee led by Ananthsayanam Ayyangar.

2)            1981 Antulay Trust: AR Antulay, the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra, allegedly garnered Rs 30 crore from businesses dependent on state resources.

3)            1987 HDW commissions: The German submarine maker was blacklisted after allegations that commissions worth Rs 420 crore had been paid in the 1987 deal in India.

4)            1989 St. Kitts forgery: Documents were forged to allege that former Prime Minister VP Singh was a beneficiary of his son Ajeya Singh’s account in the First Trust Corp at St Kitts, with a deposit of $21 million.

5)            1980-90s Bofors scandal: It was a major corruption scandal in India in the 1980s and 1990s, initiated by Congress politicians and implicating the prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi and several others who were accused of receiving kickbacks from Bofors AB for winning a bid to supply India’s 155 mm field howitzer. The scale of the corruption was far worse than any that India had seen before and directly led to the defeat of Gandhi’s ruling Indian National Congress party in the November 1989 general elections. The Swedish company paid INR 640 million (US$12 million) in kickbacks to top Indian politicians and key defence officials. The case came into light during Vishwanath Pratap Singh’s tenure as defence minister.

6)            1990 Airbus scandal: Indian Airline’s signing of the Rs.2,000-crore deal with Airbus instead of Boeing caused a furore following the crash of an A-320 airliner.

7)            1992 Securities scam: Harshad Mehta manipulated banks and the stock market, pushing shares like ACC from Rs.500 to Rs 10,000. The stacked-up claims of the brokers were a staggering Rs 10,000 crore.

8)            1996 Urea scam: The scam came into light after a shortage of fertiliser in 1996 was reported, a clutch of businessmen in connivance with top officials of the National Fertiliser Limited, fleeced the government of Rs.133 crore for the import of urea, which was never delivered.

9)            1996 Telecom fraud: Former Minister of State for Communication Sukh Ram was accused of causing a loss of Rs.1.6 crore by favouring a Hyderabad-based firm in the purchase of telecom equipment.

10)          1996 Fodder scam: This scam broke out in 1996 in the town of Chaibasa, Bihar when the animal husbandry department embezzled funds of around Rs 950 crore meant to purchase cattle fodder, medicines and animal husbandry equipment in Bihar. Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav was forced to resign along with former Chief Minister Jagannath Mishra.

11)          2002-2003 Taj Heritage Corridor case: It is an alleged scam wherein 2002-2003, the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Mayawati and a Minister in her Government, Nasimuddin Siddiqui, were charged with corruption. The Taj Corridor project was intended to upgrade tourist facilities near the Taj Mahal and was to be implemented during her tenure as Chief Minister.

12)          2009 Satyam Computer Services scandal: It was a corporate scandal that occurred in 2009 where Chairman Ramalinga Raju confessed that the company’s accounts had been falsified. The Global corporate community was shocked and scandalised when the Chairman of Satyam, Raju resigned on January 7, 2009 and confessed that he had manipulated the accounts by $1.47 Billion.

13)          2002-2010 UP Foodgrain scam: Uttar Pradesh food grain scam also dubbed as Mother of all scams took place between years 2002 and 2010. The grain worth Rs 35000 crore, meant to be distributed via PDS to the poor under several schemes like Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY), Jawahar Rozgar Yojana and Midday Meal Scheme for Below Poverty Line (BPL) card holders, was diverted to the open market. Some of it was traced to the Nepal and Bangladesh borders, as in 2010 security forces seized Rs 1.17 crore worth of foodgrains like paddy and pulses being smuggled to Nepal, another Rs 60.62 lakh worth of grains were confiscated on the Indo-Bangladesh border. The scam first was exposed in 2003, in Gonda district during the distribution of foodgrain meant for the Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana. After initially ordering an inquiry into the scam Mulayam Singh withdrew it. The Special Investigation Team ( SIT) set up by the Mulayam Singh Government in 2006, lodged over 5,000 FIRs. The latest of the scam series in India, initially referred as the ‘UP rice scam’ could be the biggest of them all, even outdistancing the 2G Spectrum scam. The scam involves goofing up of rice worth Rs 20, 0000 crore. It was a scam that stretched to almost 7 years and 300 FIRs.

14)          2001 Stock market scam: Stock market king, Ketan Parekh used UTI, Calcutta Stock Exchange and his own index K-10 to swindle investors. When the scam was unearthed, it was reported that he had wiped off over Rs.1 lakh crore of investor’s market capital.

15)          2008 cash-for-votes scandal: It is a scandal, in which the UPA, the majority-holding Parliamentary-party alliance led by Sonia Gandhi, allegedly bribed MPs in order to survive a confidence vote on July 22, 2008. The vote in the Lok Sabha arose after the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front withdrew support from the Government, who wanted to pursue an Indo-US nuclear deal.

16)          2010 CWG scam: The Commonwealth Games is perhaps one of India’s most well known scam. Suresh Kalmadi who was the chairman of the Organising Committee of the Commonwealth Games was the main accused. It consisted of a number of corrupt deals involving overstated contracts. Kalmadi also handed out a Rs 141 crore contract to Swiss Timing for its timing equipment; the deal was inflated by Rs 95 crores. Less than 10 days before the games, athletes were told to move into apartments that were shabby and dilapidated. Kalmadi is currently out on bail.

17)          2010 2G spectrum scam: The illegal undercharging by government officials to various telecom companies during the allocation of 2G licenses for cellphone subscriptions gave rise to the 2G spectrum scam. According to the CAG, the scam amounts to about Rs 176,000 crore, whereas the CBI estimates it at Rs 30,984 crore. Politicians named as accused in the chargesheet filed by the CBI include A Raja and MK Kanimozhi. The trial is being conducted in Special CBI Court. It also involves Nira Radia, a political lobbyist.

18)          2011 Antrix Devas deal: In 2011, G Madhavan Nair former ISRO chairman and three other scientists were involved in a controversial deal between the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) commercial arm Antrix Corporation and Devas Multimedia. The deal involved ISRO leasing the S-band transponders on two satellites (GSAT6 and GSAT6A) to Devas for broadcasting purposes. A CAG report found that the department of space hid facts from the Cabinet.

19)          2012 Uttar Pradesh NRHM scam: Under Mayawati’s regime, this scam caused a loss of Rs 10,000 crore to the state. Politicians and senior bureaucrats are alleged to have siphoned off a massive booty from the National Rural Health Mission (NHRM), a central government programme meant to improve health care services in rural areas. At least five people have been murdered in an attempt to cover up large-scale irregularities. Several former ministers of belonging to Bahujan Samaj Party are being investigated by the CBI. The NRHM scam came into the light after two Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) were murdered in a broad daylight in Lucknow. Dr Vinod Arya was killed in Oct 2010 and another CMO, Dr BP Singh was killed in April 2011. They both were shot dead by motorcycle-riding killers, using the same weapon. Deputy-CMO YS Sachan, who is thought to have had a role in the murders, was arrested, but died mysteriously in jail. Subsequently, three other functionaries who were under investigation have also been murdered or died under suspicious circumstances. In Feb 2012, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself accused the Mayawati Government of misusing NRHM funds.

20)          2012 Tatra scam: Bharat Earth Movers Ltd in collaboration with Tatra Vectra Motors had produced over 7000 trucks to the Army. When General VK Singh took over as the Army Chief, he refused to authorise the purchase of trucks after he was offered a bribe. The scam was estimated at Rs 750 crore.

21)          2012 Coal mining controversy: Also called Coalgate is one of the well known scams. The scam, where the UPA Government reported a loss of Rs 185,591 crore. The CAG has accused the Centre of giving undue benefits to companies by distributing 155 coal acres in an arbitrary manner instead of auctioning to the highest bidder during 2004-2009.

22)          2013 Railway promotion scam: Infamously known as Railgate, it involves former Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and his nephew, Vijay Singla for allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs 90 lakh from a Railway Board member. The central investigative agency, CBI on June 4, questioned the former Railway Minister over his involvement. Kumar, however, has denied his involvement saying Singla acted on his own.

23)          2013 Saradha Group chit fund scam: Earthed recently, the Saradha Group chit fund scam caused a loss of Rs 20,000 crore to the exchequer. The scam was exposed a few months ago, and involves running ponzi schemes. The scam has also led to many suicides across the State.

24)          2013 Vodafone tax scandal: The scandal involves Rs 11, 000 crore tax dispute. The dispute also names Union Minister Kapil Sibal because of the Law Ministry’s U-turn to agree to conciliation in Vodafone tax case.

25)          2013 Agusta Westland chopper deal scam: This is one of the most recent of the cases in India, which has shamed the country. The deal amounts to Rs 74.5 crore. According to various reports, the investigation into the Italian firm Finmeccanica, which started more than a year ago, is one of a series of corruption scandals in defence deal-making in India. 2014.

26)          2014 Alleged National Herald deal; take-over of thousands of crore worth Associated Journal for Rs 50 crore. So far its only an allegation but could have a lasting impact on politics—and would change the political map of the country.                                                                                               (VD)


The fact that Anna Hzare’s anti-corruption movement and the popular uprising failed to ‘persuade’ the corrupt in the UPA2 to act to curb corruption or get the corrupt who were identified convicted is because the corrupt politicians and associated ‘legitimate’ groups such as (compromised) police, bureaucrats, media, etc., provide the system ‘software’ by keeping cases out of court, losing files, ensuring no coverage of embarrassing incidents, etc. The Supreme Court of India in a path-breaking order issued on July 4, 2011, explained why vast flows of illegal money are a national security concern:

“The issue of unaccounted monies held by nationals, and other legal entities, in foreign banks, is of primordial importance to the welfare of the citizens. The quantum of such monies may be rough indicators of the weakness of the State, in terms of both crime prevention, and also of tax collection…

“If the State is soft to a large extent, especially in terms of the unholy nexus between the law makers, the law keepers, and the law breakers, the moral authority, and also the moral incentives, to exercise suitable control over the economy and the society would vanish. Large unaccounted monies are generally an indication of that.”

The court instructed: “Follow the money.” It ordered that the Khan case be taken out of the hands of existing (failing) investigative units, and be given to a special investigate team composed of top officials comprising, among others, two former Supreme Court Justices and the Director of the Research and Analysis Wing.

Corruption in India, and in this country is at two levels, at higher echelons of the powerful, which can be controlled easily if the head of the Government is honest, has the guts to strike at anyone however close or eminent and does not become partisan or hide his face like an ostrich in the sand hoping that with time people would forget an episode. This was the method Dr Manmohan Singh employed while keeping himself from getting embroiled in any corruption issue. But ultimately people lose patience and get angry and blame the head of sitting pretty enjoying perks of his high office, while they suffer the ill-effects of corruption. Dr Singh ‘retired’ unsung. People were glad to see his back. The mother and son fared worse. They lost their teflon touch and the mother many suspect and allege benefited from scams. This is widely rumoured.


Corruption In The US


30-08-2014

One does not have to bribe a clerk to get power connection in America nor a babu in water board to get the new connection or a darogaji to condescend to register FIR but in many key ways America’s political and financial practices make it in absolute terms far more corrupt than the usual global South suspects.

This was imperative. The US economy is worth over $16 trillion a year, so in corruption a lot more money changes hands.

Instead of having short, publicly-funded political campaigns with limited and/or free advertising the US has long political campaigns in which candidates have to pay big bucks for advertising. They are thus forced to spend much of their time fundraising, which is to say, seeking bribes.

All American politicians are allegedly on the take, though many are honourable people. They are forced into it by the system. House Majority leader John Boehner handed out cash on the floor of the House from the tobacco industry to other representatives.

When French President Nicolas Sarkozy was defeated in 2012, soon thereafter French police actually went into his private residence searching for an alleged $50,000 in illicit campaign contributions from the L’Oreale heiress—peanuts compared to donations in the US. Presidential campaigns cost a billion dollars each!

His critics allege that George W. Bush took millions from arms manufacturers and then allegedly ‘created’ a war for them. The police did not go anywhere near his house. The saying is American politicians don’t represent “the people.” With a few honourable exceptions, they represent the one per cent.

Some allege American democracy is being corrupted out of existence—that politicians can be bribed to reduce regulation of industries like banking (what is called “regulatory capture”) means that they will be so bribed. Billions were spent and 3,000 lobbyists employed by bankers to remove cumbersome rules in the zeroes.

Thus, political corruption enabled financial corruption (in some cases legalising it!) Without regulations and government auditing, the finance sector went wild and engaged in corrupt practices that caused the 2008 crash. Too bad the poor Afghans can’t just legislate their corruption out of existence by regularising it, the way Wall Street did.

That the chief villains of the 2008 meltdown (from which 90 per cent of Americans have not recovered) have not been prosecuted is itself a form of corruption. The US military budget is bloated and enormous, bigger than the military budgets of the next twelve major states. What isn’t usually realised is that perhaps half of it is spent on outsourced services, not on the military.

The US has a vast gulag of 2.2 million prisoners in jail and penitentiary. There is an increasing tendency for prisons to be privatised, and this tendency is corrupting the system.

The rich are well placed to bribe our politicians to reduce taxes on the rich. This and other government policies have produced a situation where 400 American billionaires are worth $2 trillion, as much as the bottom 150 million Americans.

The National Security Agency’s domestic spying is a form of corruption in itself, and lends itself to corruption. With some 4 million government employees and private contractors engaged in this surveillance, it is highly unlikely that various forms of insider trading and other corrupt practices are not being committed.

As for insider trading, it turns out the Congress undid much of the law it hastily passed forbidding members, rather belatedly, to engage in insider trading (buying and selling stock based on their privileged knowledge of future government policy.)

Asset forfeiture in the ‘drug war’ is corrupting police departments and the judiciary.       (VD)


But the worry is in words of Noam Chomsky: “For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.” Whether the powerful and wealthy could ever be caught is most uncertain.

Is there any remedy to kill the bug of corruption?

If the head of the Government is honest, has the guts to strike at anyone however close or eminent and does not become partisan or hide his face like an ostrich in the sand hoping that with time people would forget an episode, it is possible to contain corruption at higher levels .

This was the method Dr Manmohan Singh employed while distancing himself from corruption cases. This did not work out.

30-08-2014But a bachelor Narendra Modi has all the credentials to adopt zero tolerance policy against corruption and the corrupt. He himself said that he did not have any family and did not need money to secure their future. One can hope that corruption at higher places, like in defence deals, would be contained and curbed. Signs are optimistic.

The problem is more serious at lower levels. The everyday facility providers, the public service units seem inundated with most callous and corrupt men and women who believe that the facilities they are expected to provide can only be given to those who pay ‘fee’ for their ‘services’. This sort of corruption is only in India and nowhere else. A telephone, power and water connections in the west just need a phone call or an email. The facility providers, all being private companies go out of way to please their customers, for its business for them. Here everything is government-owned, be it the water supply boards, power supplying undertakings, municipal corporations, lower staff in lower courts, police, telephone networks, hospitals and such like. Dealing with any of them is nerve-breaking.

Blood-suckers sit at these facilities, they act only when their “fee” is paid. It does not matter to them if the applicant is a senior citizen, handicapped or women. They treat everyone as fee-givers, nothing else. Once they sit in their offices, they cease to be human beings. Unfortunately, a common man has to interact with these clerks and their supervisors many times.

An ordinary man has nothing to do with scams at high places, they only disgust him but do not affect him directly. But corruption at lower levels eats into their already depleted financial resources. This had made people angry. High prices along with it did the rest. It is worth considering what this lower level corruption at the very foundation of the country’s economy is costing India.

Modi’s government has to look into this problem, if it is serious to curb corruption and keep the people’s goodwill for it. It has only to give these services to private companies and put some online. The benefit of such a move can be seen in telephone sector. With private players entering the business, all old problems including paying linesmen Rs200 often is gone. Similarly income tax refunds are now sent into ones bank account by internet transfer. So no inspector comes and demands 10 per cent “delivery” charges.

Only thing needed is for the government to focus on this serious problem. As for the biggie scamsters, fast-track courts are needed for expeditious disposal of corruption cases. And it should see that no hera-pheri is done to save them. These big players according to a Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Ernst & Young study ‘Bribery and Corruption: Ground Reality’ in 2013 revealed that between October 2011 and September 2012, cost through corruption Rs. 36,400 crores (USD 5.92 billion). To put that in perspective, India’s healthcare budget for the year 2012-2013 was 24,890 crores (USD 4.05 billion) or 68 per cent of the amount lost to corruption.

The corrupt must be conv-icted. They are betrayers of national interests and a threat to its security.

By Vijay Dutt

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