Monday, July 24, 2006

Tackling Corruption in India

Corruption is a very hackneyed topic but then this is always very contemporary and concerns and affects everyone. In one of my groups I was asked to give my views on this, so I thought I should probably get this across through my blog.

I have tried to be as incorruptible as possible till now but then it's easy to do so when you are not in any position to take money. But last month, when I had to get a passport, I had to shell out 200 bucks to the cop. I still feel bad about that but I was told that this is the only way to get it done or I may have to be stuck up with permanent cop problems in life for passport issues. I could have taken this difficult route but I decided to compromise and this is what many of us do - a sad state of affairs I guess.

The best way to reduce corruption (elimination is not possible - one of the seven deadly sins) is probably greater transparency in functioning and elimination of redundant laws/procedures which we have been stuck up with since time immemorial. A simple example - Passport application forms can be now downloaded directly from the website and submitted at any of the e-seva counters in Hyderabad. This has reduced the scope of shady middlemen trying to cut corners in front of the passport office; a classic, simple technology driven initiative in tackling corruption and reducing lead time for the customer. The Right to Information Act is an important right given to us (though many of us are probably unaware of this) to seek clarifications on various matters of public information. Every time you visit a public office, you get caught in a mire of disgusting lethargy and corruption (all in the name of rules and public welfare) aimed to wear you out till you finally part with some money. The Govt. is to be blamed for still following anachronistic rules created in the British era (Eg.Indian Telegraph Act of 1885) and not looking at simpler rules.

Sometimes, we get carried away with the issues involved and look at radical measure like doing away with politicians but hey,the world needs every one and we must look at feasible solutions that can actually help. After all most naxalite movements probably started with all noble aims but now, most of them have become reduced to proxy terrorist organisations funded by unscrupulous elements. They no longer have any nobility attached to them and are guided solely by power and greed.

I would like to give 10 suggestions on how things can improve w.r.t corruption in India.

1. Greater transparency in Govt. rules
2. Decentralization of processes and funds (Reduction of dependency on bureaucrats for everything)
3. Replacement of archaic laws with more contemporary thinking
4. Reduced role of government in market (Privatization and disinvestment)
5. Faster judiciary resolution
6. Greater Technology usage (Reduction of dependency on humans)
7. A performance based appraisal in the bureaucracy (to focus on accountability)
8. Retirement age in politics
9. State Funding of elections with proper accounting norms (Can try to attack business-politicians nexus)
10. Technocrats replacing bureaucrats (Eg. How does an IAS officer judge if a scientific project requires funds?)

We cannot at the same time absolve ourselves of any responsibility. After all, the entire giver is also responsible if not as much as the taker in all corruption cases. Mindsets have become so cynical that we have come to believe that it is not possible to get things to happen without paying. Are we ready to tackle this issue head on and not be party to something that has slowly become a part of our culture? Every time a chowkidar or postman gives that smile asking for a noble donation,we succumb to it.Can we handle this issue even at such a low level before we look at some radical top-down approach? Let's try to reform ourseleves and every example we set may convince someone else that it's possible to live in this manner.

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