Archive for April, 2011

The anti-corruption movement can’t stand on a one legged platform!


Over two and a half decades ago, when I first got involved with civic movements out of frustration I have been almost “obsessed” with thinking about how India could break the back of the endemic corruption – the vicious circle that has defeated even the most committed and well meaning politician that India has had. In these 63 years, the list of people who have tried and failed is long. Some have even succumbed to join the circle!

The most notable and well publicized phase of the anti-corruption movement was the movement against the Bofors scam that brought down the Congress government and installed a short lived Janata Government. This was a classic case of the corruption system consuming the victor. Believe it or not, it was also the beginning of the nationwide rot because the corruption system became all powerful and could convert anyone who tried to break it.

In 2011, we have a government that is completely corrupt from the very top to the very bottom. But even sadder, the opposition is no different and must protect its own skeletons and so cannot attack the system as ferociously as is needed without running the risk of marginalizing itself. That’s the sad status of Indian politics today.

In a democracy the intervention of the people can only be large enough when the problem is all-pervasive. Corruption is now. Therefore it is no surprise that Anna Hazare’s fast to get a Lokpal Bill with teeth was viewed by the commoner as a fight against corruption. Those who know, including Anna himself, know that the Lokpal Bill is only a first step. IF and WHEN such an act is on the statute, there still remains the huge effort of people filing complaints and the Lokpal investigating and then bringing the crooks to book. If you stop to think now, you will realise that that means millions of people will file millions of complaints over the next millennia before the effect of the Lokpal Bill is felt ON THE GROUND, since corruption is all pervasive today and only getting worse. With luck, it will be a 100 years before corruption is marginalized.

Make no mistake; I am absolutely convinced that we need an effective Lokpal Bill ASAP. It is the 1st leg of the platform being built to fight corruption.

On the other hand, if the main tool that allows politician to raise the massive amounts of black money is broken, then two things can happen. One: otherwise honest officers would not be as compelled to bend and perform corrupt acts to raise money for the politician he is answerable to. It will also prevent corrupt officers from corrupting his higher ups by buying them with money when they can’t really protect him. Two, the politician will be devoid of the one tool that allows him to “buy” bureaucrats with “protection”. When bureaucrats won’t get protection, they will be less inclined to commit criminal acts, thanks to an effective Lokpal Bill. Thus, the Lokpal is only one leg of a three legged stool.

By giving the Lokpal powers to investigate without having to seek permissions from his higher ups, only one leg of the anti-corruption drive is engaged. The 2nd leg, one that also gives the politician the power to use government machinery for large scale corruption must be repaired. That remedy lies in amending Article 311. A simple amendment would be sufficient: Instead of the permission of an officer’s higher up (who could well be the very source of the corruption, as we’ve seen in recent times) that power should rest with the courts and the Lokpal who must provide an decision in 30 days and be based only on one criteria: is there a prima facie case?

For those who want to see how politics is at the root of the endemic corruption in India: click here. That was a part of my blog on 2nd Nov 2010 here.

My other blog on Dec 19th 2009 on why Article 311 must be amended is here.

And if you want to know what is Article 311 all about, click here.

The 3rd leg that needs to be created as none exists, is the financial independence of the Judiciary while also incorporating judicial accountability to the public. That’s the third leg of the anti-corruption platform that needs to be created. This is perhaps the easiest to design but will be the most contentious as politicians will want power over this even as they support the move!

In summary:

1.    Get an effective Lokpal Act in place

2.    Amend Article 311

3.    Institute financial independence of the judiciary with direct public accountability.

The real long term solution is an overhaul of our system of governance. Click here.

Twitter: @jsvsan

FB: Jayaraman Srinivasan

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. – Marcel Proust


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