Sub: Tackling Corruption in Uttarakhand
One of the biggest impediments to development of our State is corruption. It would be delusionary to deny corruption in virtually any department of the Government. Licenses, tenders, contracts, appointments and postings are all green pastures for corruption. Lack of transparency and Discretion are the two most potent enhancers of corruption. Lack of transparency exists both in policy making decisions and in developmental expenditure while politicians in power and bureaucrats are rarely held accountable for their discretionary actions. The Right to Information Act is a revolutionary act which attempts to increase transparency in Government action and political accountability. However is not an anti-corruption act per se. Corruption in Government cannot be tackled by catching petty bribe taking babus, but by installing a system to monitor the Government itself.
To assess the magnitude of corruption, a diagnostic survey could be carried out by a National Level consultancy service like the Tata Consultancy or Andersons. All applicants for licenses, tenders and contracts should be anonymously asked one simple question: “When you do business with the Government, how much of the contract value must you give in unofficial payments to public officials?” Similarly for appointment to Government posts and for postings of choice in Government services, the “going rate” should be assessed.
Once the extent of corruption is established, the State Government could bring in a specific Anti Corruption Act . Under the Act all persons or firms looking for business with the Government should sign an Anti Corruption Declaration, under which the proprietors of the firms would agree to be debarred from further Government business for 10yrs if they were found giving gifts / money directly or indirectly to Government officers dealing with them or if the services provided by them were found to be inferior to that specified in the contract. The fear of being debarred personally for 10yrs is a better deterrent to corrupt practices than a case which lingers in courts for 10yrs. A corporate form of this Declaration called Integrity Pact is promoted worldwide by Transparency International, an Anti corruption organization. This agreement is used by ONGC, Coal India and Power Grid Corporation of India. Why can’t Uttarakhand adopt the practice?
One of the best ways to prevent corruption is to involve the civil society in monitoring the actions of the Government. The Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatan (MKSS) movement of the 1990’s in Rajasthan and the Parivartan Movement in New Delhi are examples of how public audit or Jansunwais can force public officials to explain their actions. In the Jansunwais of Parivartan, people in a block were called and each contract of their area was read out in detail and people were asked to testify about the status of execution of the contract. Numerous corrupt practices were identified leaving the officials red faced and twice bribes were returned with apology. Fear of public exposure produced a significant reduction in corruption levels and contractors were reluctant to work in the areas of Parivartan. Usually the local MLA’s were against such Jansunwais and tried their best to disrupt them with muscle power.
To formalize such a practice, a voluntary Uttarakhand Jan Nigrani Samiti could be formed by the State Government. Headed by a senior ex-serviceman, appointed by the State Ex-servicemen board, the Samiti could have 10 members; 3 ex-servicemen, 3 ladies and 3 other prominent citizens like retired Judges, Professors and other renowned personalities. The most important criterion for appointment should be that one should never have belonged to any political party. Once appointed this Samiti should appoint similar District Jan Nigrani Samiti for all the districts, which in turn could appoint Block Jan Nigrani Samitis, permeating down to Village Jan Nigrani Samitis and City Jan Nigrani Samitis. Membership in all should be voluntary and involve once in lifetime 5yr tenure. The State Level Samiti should have direct access to the Chief Minister.
These Jan Nigrani Samitis should be provided copies of all proposed and current projects of their areas. The grass root level Samitis in villages / cities should hold Jansunwais with such information and visit the actual project site to satisfy themselves of the quality of work. They should be provided a copy of all bills submitted by the Contractors before payment is made.
Similarly, copies of all proposed and current projects should be pasted at a prominent place in all villages and cities and put up on the Internet.
All of us pay taxes; even a beggar on street pays tax. When he buys anything like a soap or a packet of biscuits he pays taxes in the form of sales tax, excise duty etc. This hard earned money of the public is siphoned off in unimaginable amounts by corruption within the Government. It is time we all stood up. Until we give up our “let go” attitude, nothing can change.
7yr old Uttarakhand is still in its formative stages, what we do now will mould the future of generations to come. Our neighboring state Himachal Pradesh owes its prosperity today to its first Chief Minister Dr Yashwant Singh Parmar. His actions in 1952 transformed the poorest part of Punjab to the well developed and prosperous state Himachal today is. We, the citizens of Uttarakhand, look upon you Mr. Chief Minister to lead the State boldly and deliver us from the cesspit of Corruption we find ourselves drowned in today. If you deliver us, History will remember you with gratitude and honor, if you don’t Uttarakhand may go the Bihar way.
Hoping for a personal reply from you,
A worried Uttarakhand Citizen,
Dr Nitin Pandey
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