“The duty of youth is to challenge corruption”
– Kurt Cobain
Corruption is a word that is much in trend these days. Current situation due to demonetization of higher denomination currency notes in the country has catalyzed and added spice to the discussion on this subject. Most of us believe corruption relates to only bribes paid to carry out a legitimate/illegitimate work through a public office/servant; we blame only politicians, bureaucrats, and big corporate individuals for the same and wish for them to be held responsible. However, fighting corruption is not restricted to high profile arrests and big investigations only. One needs to identify the reasons for corruption and institute measures to prevent it, rather than fight it.
What is corruption? Where does it exist, and why? If we can identify these aspects, we can find ways to reduce corruption. Corruption is any form of dishonest or unethical conduct by a person/ group of person entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire personal benefit. Corruption can be of various scales- petty corruption (bribery at police station), grand corruption (capital budget procurement by the Government) or systematic corruption (electoral and judicial processes). It exists in Government/Public sector, Police, Judiciary, Politics, Education, Religion, Media, NGOs, Private sector (obtaining corporate secrets by illegal means and poaching of professionals), and Literary circles (plagiarism).
Corruption thus appears to be all pervasive and well entrenched in our minds as well as day to day lives. Corruption cannot be reduced or eliminated until we firmly believe in the dictum that end justifies the means.
Bono says “Worst disease in the world is corruption and the cure is transparency”. Though transparency is one such vaccine, we need more vaccines, medicines, and surgeries to cure this filthy disease in India. So here are five ways to help reduce corruption in India across all forms, domains, and scales:
The only way to imbibe strength of character is through education. This doesn’t imply only bookish knowledge or award of degrees. Information about procedures/laws governing us, knowledge about how to do anything properly, and the power of discretion to select right from wrong comes from education. The best education is provided to us at home and by our teachers. Dr Abdul Kalam also mentioned once “If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are Father, Mother and the Teacher”.
Most of the fight against corruption is mere rhetoric. Reforms can bring about tangible change and reduce, if not eliminate, corruption or scope of corruption. Areas in immediate need of reforms are Elections, Police, Judiciary, Media, Public procurement system and Taxation laws. These reforms shall simplify procedures, reduce undue influence of unscrupulous people, bring more accountability, provide legal cover to honest persons against vendetta / harassment and reduce the need to create black money (undeclared money amassed by avoiding tax).
Opaqueness in transactions and procedures is the biggest reason or curtain behind which corruption thrives. The moment one makes dealings public, one denies the scope of corruption to anyone. E-governance in all the domains of public dealings will ensure the curtain is no more available to corrupt people to hide behind and force them to conduct themselves in line with the rules and ethics. Haven’t we seen people behaving differently the moment you tell them they are on camera? Measures like e-procurement through E-Bazaar, online train/LPG bookings and e-passport seva are some examples to be emulated.
They say rules are meant for honest people. Inspite of all the measures taken, if someone does something incorrect, there is a need to put in place methodology of swift and deterrent punitive action. A severe punishment which is exemplary in nature will prevent others to try and find loop holes in the system for personal gains. An example is to withdraw all benefits of Government (Government jobs, subsidies, loans by Government banks, social security and treatment at Government hospitals et al) from the entire family of a delinquent official. In addition to this, prison terms and fines and confiscation of all movable and immovable property amassed by corrupt practices will prove to be a great deterrent to corrupt practices. Another one could be for anyone found to have indulged in plagiarism could be banned from all publications, distribution system and public literary forums besides recognition of degrees / honours bestowed earlier.
Laws to protect whistle-blowers and felicitate honest persons must be made and enforced. Government and private agencies including corporate entities and NGOs could work in tandem towards this goal, which will motivate people to work in a cleaner environment and reap the benefits.
The concept of a ‘corruption free’ society is utopian and a clean- sweep is practically unlikely due to inherent characters of human beings. Nonetheless, measures listed above can result in a ‘corruption less’ life, for sure. C Stephan had modified the equation given by Klitgaard which summarises the solution:
Degree of corruption = Monopoly + Discretion – Transparency – Morality
To reduce corruption, reduce the first two factors and increase the last two factors on right side of the equation and we will have our desired end result.