The unearthing of moveable/immovable property worth over Rs 14.28 crore and Rs 88 lakh in cash from public servants during nationwide searches by the CBI on September 30 at 198 places in 54 cities/towns depicts the extent of corruption pervading high offices in the country. Similar special raids this February and June yielded moveable/immovable property worth Rs 20.56 crore plus Rs 1.71 crore cash. Against 82 and 84 cases of disproportionate assets registered against public servants in 2003 and 2004 respectively, the figure ending this September is pegged at 143.
An IT Commissioner in Mumbai who topped the list of corrupt public officials was found having property worth over Rs 2.78 crore. moveable/immovable properties valued at Rs. 1.8 crore and cash of Rs. 3.06 lakh were seized from a director with the National Council for Promotion of Urdu. The assets of a Central Excise (anti-evasion) superintendent totaled Rs 1.2 crore including Rs 10 lakh cash. Apart from disproportionate assets worth Rs. 40 lakh, a Delhi Police SHO was in possession of moveable/immovable properties worth Rs. 75 lakhs and Rs. 1.07 lakh cash. A municipal corporation assistant sanitary inspector had assets worth Rs 64.1 lakh and Rs 2.9 lakh cash.
Corruption is a global problem. Various studies indicate that its causes are complex, contextual and rooted in bureaucratic traditions. The UN convention against corruption adopted by the General Assembly two years ago is yet to be ratified by 11 countries after which it would come into force.
An IT Commissioner in Mumbai who topped the list of corrupt public officials was found having property worth over Rs 2.78 crore.
Petty corruption has significant impact on developing countries like India and affects people'sdaily lives in such basic ways ranging from paying fees for admissions to better schools or getting electricity meters installed. Berlin-based Transparency International has estimated that on an average, annually about Rs 27000 crore (almost 50 per cent of our Defence budget) gets paid in bribes. Corruption in the system, according to the recently released ?India Corruption Study-2005?, mainly exists due to a host of factors including poor economic policies, lack of transparency/accountability, ineffective corruption reporting mechanisms, acceptance of bribe as a way of life and inadequate training/orientation of government officials.
Possession of property disproportionate to one'sknown sources of income is punishable with an imprisonment extending up to seven years plus fine under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. Any ?public servant? (drawing pay/remuneration from the government by fees/commission for performance of any public duty) is prohibited from taking illegal gratification other than legal remuneration. Major penalties under various rules governing Central government servants provide for compulsory retirement and where the charge of acceptance of illegal gratification has been established, such removal/dismissal from service can be imposed in every case. Despite registration of cases it takes years to complete investigations and file chargesheets against the accused.
Corruption, a slow poison capable of infecting the entire society in a democratic set up, beyond distorting public services can shatter public confidence in the long run. Eradicating the cancer of corruption is an onerous task. But as evidence worldwide has shown, it can be effectively checked through good governance and preventive vigilance steps. The recently enacted Right to Information Act, envisaged at providing the general public the right of access to information, is a small step that merits implementation in right earnest.
(The writer can be contacted at A-84, Sector 17, Noida.)