The most populous democracy on earth is characterized by the absence of a single democratic party! Though the Election Commission exists for more than 50 years, there is no evidence to prove that the Election Commission has thought about removing this 'most glaring' deficiency in the system. Apart from cancelling polling in a few booths and transferring few government officials from one post to another, there has been no sign of any innovative spirit pervading the activities of the Election Commission. The only exception was T N Seshan's 13 minutes' a day activity during his 'terrorizing' presence in Nirvachan Sadan. The fiats (read political fatwas) he used to issue during those few minutes, maddened our political gangs to such an extent that one of them writing in Hindustan Times, even a week before, described his behaviour as 'tyrannical'. They saw to it that the one-man commission was converted into a three-men commission, and in the process, the Election Commission was reduced to a body of glorified clerks.
If you follow the press in West Bengal and elsewhere, it is full of stories on rigging (scientific or muscle powered) of elections, which even includes the constituency of the most honourable parliamentarian, namely, that of the present speaker of Lok Sabha. During the last Lok Sabha election, the Election Commission showed the gut of cancelling the election of one parliamentary constituency in Bihar (not the cancellation of polling in a few booths as the case always has been, even when it was an open secret that in many constituencies rigging has taken place in majority of the booths). The whole political gang descended on the Nirvachan Sadan and practically threatened that such wholesale cancellation of election in a constituency will not be tolerated.
Parliamentarians showed similar unity of purpose when the Supreme Court tried to prevent participation of criminals who have committed heinous crime which was upheld by court. They saw to it that Supreme Court's directive was made ineffective by instituting a law which prevented participation only when heinous crime was upheld by more than one court of law. Political criminals are usually active in the area under the jurisdiction of one court. Therefore, practically there is no possibility that more than one court will ever uphold heinous crime committed by a politician.
Our bureaucracy is equally corrupt to the core and thrives on bribery. 23% of city dwellers in India (assuming Mumbai as typical) are victims of bribery, whereas only 0.2% of the citizens in USA have the same experience. Thus incidence of bribery in India is more than 100 times than that in a country like USA.
Nexus between our 'Netas' (politicians) and 'Naukars' (as the Netas mostly refer the bureaucrats as) has effectively seen to it that Vigilance Commission can bark but not bite (CBI cannot investigate against Joint Secretaries and above without the permission of the Government). 'Netas', i.e., the Government will hardly ever permit such indignities to happen to 'Naukars', i.e., the bureaucrats. In turn, 'Naukars' will always dutifully protect the interests of the 'Netas' and prepare the files to be sanctioned in a way that the elected representatives can amass wealth in a short span of less than 10 years (average span of a political career), which 'inefficient' bureaucrats may sometimes take 35 years (average span of a bureaucrat's career in the government) to earn. No wonder, India has now officially more than 70,000 crore-patis. How many more unofficial crore-patis we have, one can only guess when some economists point out that black money is being generated to the tune of Rs. 200,000 crore a year. A large number of these 'unofficial' crore-patis are obviously career bureaucrats and Netas.
Because of inordinate delays in trials in our courts, there are now 2.8 lac under-trial prisoners. Going by past records, more than 82% of these prisoners, i.e., more than 2.3 lac of them would have been set free if their trials were completed, as they are innocents. Many of them are languishing in jail for more years than the highest punishment prescribed for the offences they have committed if they are proven guilty. This means, we have about 50,000 guilty criminals in jails though many times more are roaming outside on bail or otherwise. This is because our judiciary is for all practical purposes dysfunctional.
Since Government spends about Rs. 55 per under-trial prisoner per day, around Rs. 400 crore can be saved if the innocent under-trial prisoners could be granted bail against personal security. Money thus released, could be used to set up 5000 courts (@ Rs. 8 lac per court per annum). Thus we have enough money to set up special tribunals to try the most 'honourable' ministers and high dignitaries of public service. We surely want to let our 'Netas' and 'Naukars' to enjoy their hard-earned perks, perquisites and privileges in peace, since we are sure, most of them will get benefit of doubt because of the 'high efficiency' of our investigative agencies. Let me explain diagrammatically the Systemic Failure, which was coined by our then Finance Minister, the present Prime Minister.
Businessmen form the third vertex of the triangle of corruption, and their role is to maintain a steady supply of black money into the system, as shown in the diagram. They bid for government contracts, and this bid is accepted or rejected based on the bureaucrat's preparation of 'files'. Businessmen therefore bribe the bureaucrats to fudge the files in their favour - therefore giving the politicians a legitimate basis to make a decision in their (the businessman's) favour. Sure enough, the businessmen with the best relationships (read highest bribe) with the bureaucrats get rewarded with a large number of contracts. Politicians demand their own pound of flesh from both the bureaucrat as well as from the businessmen.
The question which may obviously be asked - what is the remedy? Is there no way out of the present system? Let me again diagrammatically (self-explanatory) suggest an alternative which transforms Systemic Triangle of Corruption Process into Systemic Triangle of Transparent Non-corrupt Administration.
To make judiciary functional and remedy injustice through direct justice it is not enough to set up special tribunals to try politicians and bureaucrats expeditiously. It is necessary to increase the number of courts many times more to see to it that our courts function as efficiently as in other developed countries. Number of courts per million of population in America is about ten times more than in India. We may not need to increase the strength of courts to that extent yet, there is no doubt that if we want to overhaul the system, we have to find resources to increase the number of judges and courts many times more than what we have today.
To bring life into the 'moribund' Election Commission, it may be necessary to appoint Chief Election Commissioners not from the bureaucracy alone, but also from other areas where people have distinguished themselves through illustrious service. The revived election commission should see to it that political parties are compelled to function democratically. Besides, bold and practical steps are to be implemented to stop rigging of election totally.
Vigilance Commission should be allowed to suggest prosecution even of Joint Secretaries and above for which no sanction of the Government need be taken. If CBI is allowed to function independently and staffed with adequate number of people, corruption can be reduced to a great extent.
Experts should formulate norms, quality standards and costs, e.g., per kilometre cost of construction of national highways with four lanes. Contracts should be awarded through a transparent system of on-line selection and registration of contractors. All government contracts should also be announced transparently through one common internet site. Excellence in execution should be rewarded with national awards while shoddy execution will lead to firms being de-listed.
Suggestions to engage professional consultants and advisors who have shined themselves in other relevant spheres of activities are not new. It is enough if career bureaucrats are allowed to function maximum up to the level of Joint Director, given the current poor quality of IAS graduates that we are producing. Exceptions can always be made if the bureaucrat has a great track record.