Vigilance Awareness Week: going beyond idea

Vigilance Awareness Week (VAW) from October 29 to November 3 has ended. Now is the time to post audit to find out what we accomplished. We have often experienced how observation of such important events become ritual exercises and produce no discernible results.

Though the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) had sent a circular on September 24 requesting government institutions to observe VAW, the actual planning started only a week before. The CVC had requested the institutions to administer integrity pledges, hold workshops, debates, and competition on “Eradicate Corruption - Build a New India”.

On paper, all these outreach activities look admirable. However, because of poor planning and execution, they remain ritual exercises. Just about every-thing is done in the last minute to go through the motions. 

This year I was the resource person for two events to observe VAW — one by Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and the other by Bharath Petroleum Company Limited (BPCL). While IOC started to work one week in advance, it was just one day prior to the event in the case of BPCL. IOC selected Regional Institute of Education (RIE) in Mysuru while BPCL requested a private engineering college.

The event organised by IOC was some success in that students took active part in asking questions on the root cause of corruption, what role they and their parents could play in reducing corruption, why Indian citizens, despite all the civilisational values of contributing to societal well-being, were concerned in maximising their selfish goals by bribing government officials, why there were very few whistleblowers, etc. 

In the case of BPCL, the college had to coerce a few first-year students who were least interested to participate. Students were seen waiting for their after-event refreshments. They forced me to cut short the interaction to less than half an hour. There was no time or interest to even take pledges — a minimum result expected from a VAW event.

It may be useful to study what has been happening despite taking integrity pledges. Those taking pledges are expected to follow the rule of life in all walks of life, neither to take nor offer bribe, perform all tasks in an honest and transparent manner, to report incidents of corruption and act in public interest. Even if a small number of people were to take the pledge seriously we would see the dawn of a new India. But corruption from top to bottom is only worsening. 

How can we explain the corruption charges against the top officers of India’s premier investigative agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)? Are we concerned? 

Has even one employee of the almost bankrupt Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation become a whistleblower to prevent the shocking level of corruption there? There must be several who had taken a pledge to report incidents of corruption. The GSPC had invested Rs 20,000 crore in the Krishna-Godavari basin but produced very little gas. All over the world, the oil sector is ‘cursed’ with corruption and India is no exception.

Before the fall in oil prices, because of diversion of PDS kerosene and residential LPG, every year about Rs 50,000 crore of black money was generated. Only after the introduction of digital technology based on the Aadhaar scheme to distribute LPG subsidy directly to banks, corruption has been almost eliminated. The same may happen with PDS kerosene. However, despite scores of employees of oil companies taking integrity pledges, why has corruption been rampant in the oil sector and why is it still continuing?

Not that corruption is any less in other sectors of the economy or government agencies. Some government institutions with a dubious distinction of high-level corruption are RTOs, Registrar’s office, departments issuing building permits and completion certificates, etc. The Centre has taken several initiatives like Sakal, RTI, etc besides having the Anti-corruption Bureau, Lokayukta etc. Yet, even those who want to follow the rule of law cannot get their work done without paying a bribe. 

It is easy to conclude that it is impossible to eliminate corruption since it is prevalent in every part of the world. However, there are countries like Singapore, Rwanda, etc, besides the Nordic countries where corruption has been controlled. What we in India need to do is bring about revolutionary transformations in our education system to instill proper values in the future generation.

Unless citizens wake up and fight against the corrupt system, any number of laws (and we have plenty of them) and even tinkering with the system by adopting the latest digital technology will be of no use.

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Vigilance Awareness Week: going beyond idea

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