Posts Tagged ‘Modiji and corruption’

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

Modiji’s War on Corruption

By

Col (Retd) Bhaskar Sarkar VSM

Modiji has stated that he will not tolerate corruption. “Na Khaunga, na Khane Dunga” (I will not accept bribe nor permit corruption) he has repeatedly roared. He says that he went for demonetizations to stop corruption. He says is promoting cashless economy to stop corruption. But what is happening in the BJP led state of Rajasthan. The BJP government of Rajasthan quietly passed an ordinance on September 7, 2017, making it mandatory for all investigating agencies and courts to obtain the state government’s permission before taking any action against corrupt government officials or politician. The ordinance also provides of a two year jail sentence for any journalist or news media who publishes the name of any politician or official who is accused of corruption before government’s permission is issued. A Bill, named “Gag Order” by the opposition and the media, was introduced in Rajasthan Assembly on 23rd October to convert the ordinance into law. This provoked widespread protests from the opposition, intellectuals and the media. The Bill has strong support from the Central Minister of State for Law and many BJP leaders. Modiji has been silent on the issue. The protests forced the CM to refer the Bill to a select panel for re-examination. But the ordinance remains in place and so does the protection provided to the corrupt. As per RTI answer, the ACB in Rajasthan has received over 15,000 complaints. Prosecution has been allowed for only 51. Sanction is denied or delayed even when an official is caught red handed when taking a bribe.

What is Corruption?

The Little Oxford dictionary defines corruption as dishonest action in return for money or other reward. I would like to define it as “Giving or receiving gratification to ward off danger or threat or to gain something illegally or dishonestly or out of turn.”

Mankind is used to giving and receiving such gratification for millenniums. It started with humans trying to appease Gods to ensure good rains, good fortune, ward off evil, ensure victory in wars and so on. Humans and animals were sacrificed to appease the Gods. Gifts were showered on the gate keepers of the Gods, the priests and the witch doctors. Millenniums have passed. The intervention of Gods are still sought to protect and help us.

We have also added new human gods, the ministers, politicians, police officers, government servants, inspectors, and examiners etc who can delay examination results, trains and flights, slap public and government servants and get them to clean their shoes and make the lives of people hell or heaven. The new gods are more powerful than the real Gods. They also have gate keepers, the personal secretaries, clerks, peons and power brokers who zealously guard the access to the new gods. The new gods and their gate keepers need to be appeased to grant us our wishes and to protect us from evil. The best way to appease them is illegal gratification. This comes naturally to most of us. I wonder why Modiji and some of us make so much fuss about illegal gratification or corruption. Corruption helps us sleep better knowing we can mostly pay and get out of trouble.

Types of Corruption

There are many forms of corruption. Let us examine them one by one.

The first kind is “Speed Money”. We live in the world of shortages where demand for goods and services exceeds availability. There are shortages of jobs, berths on trains, seats in colleges, electric connections, water connections etc and most importantly “time”. So what do we do? We pay speed money to the service provider. Government has been able turn some of speed money into revenue by having “Tathkaal” services for booking berths on trains or getting passports.

The second category is catering to dishonest or illegal demands in return for illegal gratification. We want jobs or seats in colleges for our children though they cannot compete. We resist transfers or postings or want transfers to places and appointments of choice. We want to steal electricity. We want to pay less tax or no taxes. We want to pollute the environment or adulterate food and medicines and make more profits. Our desires are endless. So we are ready to appease the recruiters, college authorities, politicians, brokers and agents who can get us what we want. We are also ready to share the loot with tax inspectors, environmental protection agencies, safety inspectors and police and anyone who can help us to swindle public money, property and resources and avoid or reduce taxes.

The third category is paying for getting offender out of trouble. Sometimes we have accidents or commit crimes or illegal activities like street vending, illegal parking, profiteering, polluting, cheating, raping, molesting, drunk driving, speeding, thrashing Dalits and cow smugglers and even murder. So we are ready to appease the police, the inspectors, and the politicians who may be able to get us out of trouble.

The fourth category is extortion. The police are the masters at this game but some other departments like environment watchdogs and factory inspectors are not far behind. Money is extracted by threatening arrest on false cases and for permitting illegal activities like over loading of trucks, fleecing consumers, vending on trains etc.

Method of Collection

There are different methods of colleting the bribe money. These are discussed below.

The first category is institutionalized collection. Almost all government departments use this to extort money from contractors or suppliers. The contractor or supplier has to pay a fixed percentage to get payments released. The percentage varies from 3 to 10 percent. The money is collected and distributed up and down the chain. The acceptance of one’s share is not considered corruption. Demanding more than the laid down percentage is. The percentage is sometimes declared in pre-bid conferences before tendering and firms are advised to add the cost in working out their bids.

The second category is on the spot collection. Here, negotiations are held directly or through brokers or agents. An advance is paid by the beneficiary and the remainder is paid when the service is provided. This kind of corruption is common for services like granting party ticket to stand for elections, allotting licences, permits, agencies for gas or petroleum products, arranging postings, transfers, promotions, closing vigilance cases, granting contracts and so on.

The third category is payment in kind. This could include sale of properties at concessional rates, grant of citizenship in foreign countries or sexual favours. Some companies employ retired government servants and kin of politicians as employees or consultants. Some companies provide office space, secretarial support and pay credit card dues for retired officials and politicians.

Reducing Corruption

Why does Modiji or anyone else want to reduce or eliminate corruption when it benefits saffron and other politicians and their favoured government servants? It is true that corruption reduces government revenue and quality of construction and services. But that does not make any difference to political parties and politicians. Is it not true that there is a change in the incumbent of all important government posts after each election? Perhaps Modiji wants to protect his image. Let us examine what he has done other than state his anti corruption stance and refer to corruption and scams in the opposition political parties.

He has carried out “Demonetization”. Has it had any effect on corruption? 99 percent of black money has become white. All forms of corruptions are back to normal levels.

The second step he has carried out is “Digitization”. But is cashless payment really cashless? Does one not need to deposit cash in “Payment Wallets” or bank accounts for card based payments?

How does the government track who deposited the cash if the amount is below Rs 50,000?

If Modiji or any other political party is serious about reducing corruption, they have to take some concrete steps. Merely stating intent is not enough.

The first step is doing away with discretionary powers of officials and politicians. They must function as per the rules and regulations. No exceptions should be permitted. Are the political parties ready for such step and for fixed tenures for IAS, IPS and other government servants? Why should government sanction be necessary for corrupt officials caught red handed?

The second step is ensuring transparency in government’s decisions. The Congress is corrupt. But Mrs. Sonia Gandhi brought in the Right to Information (RTI) Act in 2005. The amount of discomfort it caused to the corrupt can be gauged by the number of RTI activists who have been murdered. Is BJP trying to dilute the RTI Act by the gag orders?

The third step in reducing corruption is protection of whistle blowers. Whistle blowers, whatever be the motive, have exposed large scale corruption. The Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2011 was also brought by the Congress. But governments refuse to provide them protection and often prosecute them for flimsy or fabricated offences or post them to unimportant departments.

The fourth step is making reporting corruption easy. Digital portals for reporting corruption need to be publicized. Anonymous complaints must be seriously investigated.

The fifth step is strengthening ACB.

The sixth step is encouraging investigative journalism. Free press is the only protection against government excesses and corruption. Journalists play a major role in exposing corruption. The effectiveness of journalists in exposing corruption is borne out by the number of journalists murdered for exposing corruption. Recently, the journalist who exposed the Panama Papers was assassinated.

The seventh step is doing away with need for government sanction for launching prosecution where a government servant is caught red handed by the ACB. This will act as deterant.

The eighth and most important step is to set up “Fast track” courts to try corruption cases. Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Fodder scam case has continued for over 25 years. It questions the government’s credibility on its fight against corruption. Fast track courts would be most effective.

Conclusion

“Na khayenge na khane denge” has remained a slogan. The Congress is called the fountain head of corruption and I accept the tag. Being the party in power at the time of independence, it is responsible for all that is good and bad in this country. But it enacted the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, RTI Act of 2005 and the Whistle Blowers Protection Act 2011. What has the Modi Government done? The reality is that gag orders have been enacted by BJP Governments of Maharashtra and Rajasthan and may be enacted soon in other BJP ruled states and the Centre. Selective approach to investigation by investigating agencies and indirect persecution of whistle blowers is the order of the day. Is this the way to check corruption?

Is Modiji really against corruption? Your guess is as good as mine. All I can say is that his actions do not match his words. He, like Mr. Manmohan Singh, seems to have adopted the policy of selective tolerance of corruption. Manomohan Singh had coalition compulsions. Modiji does not.