Fighting corruption: Internal vigilance is need of the hour

Fighting corruption: Internal vigilance is need of the hour


Citing the UNDP report on Human Development Index 1999 on south Asia, the CVC stated that, if corruption level in India goes down to that of the Scandinavian countries, the GDP will grow by 1.5 per cent and the foreign direct investment by 12 per cent.

Further, corruption is anti-poor because nearly 30 per cent of the foodgrain meant for public distribution disappear in the black market. Corruption can also be anti-national as the probe into the Mumbai blast in 1993 had shown how certain unscrupulous custom officials permitted the smuggling of RDX which resulted in the death of 300 people.

Today the general public in India is apathetic to corruption. Instead of reporting corruption they rather put up with it as long as they can cope with it. People generally fear the consequences and reprisal of those against whom they report.

Those who dare have often faced more harassment and ostracism as the corrupt have a tremendous ‘biradri’ or tribalism to protect each other. And these are more in number and enjoy the protection of powers that be.

Transparency International, a Berlin based NGO has in 2008 ranked India 85th in a group of 180 countries in the corruption perception index. Denmark is placed at No l with a score of 9.3 out of 10 (showing high confidence in the governance) as against India’s score of 3.4. Why do the Scandinavian countries and countries like Singapore (placed at rank 4) and Hongkong (placed at No 12) exude such high confidence in their governance?

It is primarily because these governments have a strong anti-corruption management programme. Hong Kong, where large scale corruption prevailed till early 1970s, today being placed at 12th position in the ranking of Transparency International is a case worth studying. With the establishment of an Independent Commission against Corruption in 1974 which carried out relentless operations against cases of corruption and emphasis on preventive measures by starting a corruption prevention department, went a long way in bringing systemic change in the practices and procedures of various public offices which provided the opportunity for unscrupulous elements to indulge in corruption.

It is not that preventive vigilance was not thought-of in India. The Santhanam Committee, which was set up in 1963 by the government of India to suggest measures to mitigate corruption had emphasised that corruption cannot be eliminated or even significantly reduced unless preventive measures are planned and implemented in a sustained and effective manner.

Only thought, no action

The committee further said that the main effort for checking corruption and discouraging temptation to stray from the path of integrity must come from within the ministry/department. As a result of the recommendation of the Santhanam Committee, vigilance cells were set up in all government of India institutions in the 1960s, much before preventive aspects were thought of in Hong Kong. However, here, over the years there has been a slackening in the internal preventive vigilance mechanism. And state governments never even thought of this concept in any of its offices and institutions.

Anti-corruption measures in this country have primarily been one of ‘fire fighting’ and punitive rather than preventive. Further the anti-corruption agencies that were entrusted to do this job were ineffective as they did not possess the required autonomy and have been manned by officials who often succumb to the political masters or may have been of questionable integrity.

Cumbersome procedures, lack of transparency and personal discretion vested in public officials together with scarcity of goods and services and cushions of legal safety are the main reasons that encourage corruption. What needs to be done therefore is to demystify and simplify the procedures. Accountability has also been the biggest missing factor in the Indian public life. Unless one sits up and holds accountable those at the helm of affairs, the corrupt will have a field day.

Experience of working in vigilance set-ups over a long period has shown that every organisation has certain ‘points’ or ‘places’ which enable corruption. Plugging of such points and procedures which enable deviance would go a long way in mitigating corruption. The internal vigilance set up can study the situations which give scope for corruption and introduce measures which would discourage/plug corruption in partnership with management.

The state governments should also consider observance of vigilance awareness week in their respective states. As of now most of the state governments do not have internal vigilance preventive mechanism. It’s time that attention is paid to this important task.

(The writer is additional director general of police, Karnataka Lokayukta)

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