Need for citizen's campaign against corruption

Need for citizen's campaign against corruption


The BJP has accused the Congress for being responsible for the large-scale corruption in mining since they were as much a party to it while in power. The fact, however, is there has been competing corruption in our political class. No political party can take a position of ‘holier than thou’.

The political class has become increasingly corrupt. Globally, we have been dubbed as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. In June 2005, Transparency International released its India Corruption Study with a sample of 14,405 respondents spread across 20 states. More than 525 respondents were interviewed in each state. The study covered 151 cities and 306 villages. According to the study, the police ranked highest in the corruption index. The judiciary (lower courts) and land administration were rated next. Despite reforms, electricity services also figured high on the corruption index.

Three-fourths among all citizens believed that the level of corruption in public services had increased. There were no significant differences between the states in perception about the extent of corruption. Where does it all begin? Once elected, the elected representatives believe in furthering theirs interests and place the people of their choice to do their biddings that leads to massive corruption.

And corruption thrives because people think they are helpless. There is complete lack of public outcry against politicians and the absence of a strong public forum to oppose corruption. It peaks during elections and Karnataka is noted for high levels of corruption during polls as noted by some surveys. Industrialists turn politicians. If they do not contest elections, they fund politicians and seek personal favours. Bribery to politicians buys influence and bribery by politicians buys votes. Once in power, the entire administrative machinery is tuned to meet the interest of the ruling class.

Is it possible to contain corruption if the people take initiatives? The Lokayukta may highlight corruption. That office, as long as it is an office of the state, may create awareness but cannot put an end to corruption. But the people can if they come together. Brazilians met with great success last month and we can learn from it. There, politicians can be tried by the supreme court but many cases lapse before they are heard. When the court recently convicted two politicians for corruption, it was the first successful prosecution since democracy was restored in 1985. Since legislators, who are liable to be impeached, lose their right to run for office, many in serious trouble simply resign. They contest in the next election and get straight back to business as in India.

But a new law approved in June disqualifies from political office for eight years all those convicted of serious crimes, as well as those whose resignations were motivated by a desire to avoid impeachment, as determined by the electoral tribunals. The law applies not just to those convicted in the future but also to those who already have a criminal record and those who resigned under a cloud.

People’s demand

How did the law happen? It is the result of a petition to congress signed by some 1.5 million citizens, and was passed in record time. There was massive online campaign too. The law bans any politician convicted of crimes like corruption and money laundering from running for office. The online campaign fought corrupt congressmen daily as they tried every trick in the book to kill, delay, amend, and weaken the bill. Already over 330 candidates for office face disqualification. The strategy in Brazil was simple: make a solution so popular and visible that it can’t be opposed, and be so vigilant that the people can’t be ignored. The victory shows what people can do. Legislative proposals can be initiated to clean up corruption in governments provided such proposals are backed with massive citizen support with a determination to fight legislators who try to block them. If Brazilian citizens can do, why not we in India? Technology played its part in the success of that legislation. It enabled a small team of concerned citizens to help millions of people work together and lobby for the cause.

Across the world corruption is destroying democracies. Karnataka is rated as the fourth corrupt state in India by one survey. Instead of supporting or denouncing political parties and believing in their gimmicks, we can all come together as citizens and put an end to the political class that thrives on corruption. The Bellary mines are not the only sites of corruption. We have had land scams, money scams and various other scams and scandals. Citizens face corrupt babus everyday. If the ruling class is restrained, the bureaucracy can be cleansed. Without the active participation of the people a campaign against corruption is unlikely to succeed. With the number of media channels, websites and e-mails if a campaign against corruption is initiated by concerned citizens, a struggle against it is likely to succeed. The Right to Information Act was the result of initiatives taken by citizens. A law that disqualifies corrupt individuals to contest elections and punishes those in power for corruption will go a long way in weeding corruption from the country.

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