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Give them pocket-less trousers!
Corruption remains our Achilles Heel. Indian vigilance departments should now start employing innovative ground-level Anti-Corruption Tactics to reduce the incidence of this malaise

January, 2010: Supreme Court of India upholds that “dismissal is the only form of punishment for those involved in corruption and misappropriation of public money, even if the embezzled amount is meagre.” With more than 3.8 million employees working under the Central Government, the tracking of corrupt activities and points of corruption is becoming virtually impossible. But there’s a bigger worrying trend; one that is not noticeable to the non-critical eye, but one that warns of an apparent move away from legally nailing the accused.

The government recently revealed that there had been merely 2,439 cases of corruption in the last three years (year ending March 2010). While that figure clearly is unbelievably low (and speaks volumes about the lack of intent in catching corrupt officials), even in that scenario, only 732 cases ended up in conviction. This boils down to a 30% conviction rate for public servants accused of corruption. Although overall, the figure of 30% might seem a great start, the worrying trend is that this percentage has been continuously falling. Where 2007 saw 688 registered cases of corruption against public servants and 238 convictions – a conviction rate of 34.59% – this figure dropped to 29.03% in 2008 (with 216 out of 744 getting convicted) and further to 28.93% in 2009. If one were to see the percentage of convictions post the January 2010 Supreme Court guideline, then the figure is more shocking – 22.64%.

In Delhi itself, more than 305 employees of Delhi Development Authority are facing corruption charges currently. According to MCD’s Vigilance department, around 4,299 cases have been pending against 3,350 officials since two decades! No wonder that India ranks a dismal 84th in a list of 180 countries in the Transparency International’s 2009 Corruption Perception Index. The whole idea of Zero Tolerance Policy introduced by the government apparently is falling flat. Initiatives like Whistle Blowers Bill, Right to Information Act, Action Plan on Vigilance, transparency in tendering and contracting, e-Governance and similar other policies are being dodged easily.

Even the most tested and tried concept of ombudsmen (sometimes called Chief Vigilance Officers) has not been enacted till now. The Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) set up in January 1966 under Morarji Desai recommended a two-tier machinery – a Lokpal at the Centre and one Lokayukta each at the State level for redressal of people’s grievances. That remains a recommendation even after 44 years. As per late Prof. C. K. Prahalad, the cost of corruption to India till now has been Rs.2.5 trillion.

India now needs radical ground level tactics to curb corruption. Interestingly, in Philippines, where corruption among customs officials is quite high, the government has innovatively made them work on drawer-less tables under closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras to fight the so-called “open drawer” racket. Similarly, in Nepal, airport officials are given trousers with no pockets. In US, Obama – when he was senator – innovated the compulsory usage of cameras in police cars in Illinois.

Should India employ similar tactics? Of course, and more. The vigilance commission should not simply track corruption but should attempt to entrap government officials by clandestinely offering bribes. Those who fall for such traps; arrest them. Over time, even corrupt government officials would stop accepting bribes believing an offer could well be a vigilance investigation in progress.

By:- Sray Agarwal

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