According to the Report of National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS), a government-affiliated body, on the state of informal or unorganised employment in India, 394.9 million workers or 86 per cent of India'sworking population, toil in the unorganised sector. Nearly 80 per cent of these workers are among those who live on less than Rs 20 per day. Agriculture, the report says, is a fertile ground for poverty, especially for small and marginal farmers, 84 per cent of whom spent more than they earned and were often caught in debt traps. ?These are the discriminated, disadvantaged and downtrodden. People who live on Rs 20 or less per day are the real poor and vulnerable.? Technically, a large chunk of these 836 million Indians?77 per cent of the country'spopulation?are above the poverty line at Rs. 12 per day. The dismally poor, comprise largely of STs, SCs, OBCs and Muslims. The report says that 88 per cent of the Scheduled Tribes and the Scheduled Castes, 80 per cent of the Other Backward Classes and 85 per cent of Muslims belong to the category of ?poor and vulnerable,? who earn less than Rs. 20 a day.
For a part, of the period of the report the then government in power had claimed and used an election slogan that India was shining. However, lessons learnt are soon forgotten and even the present government is claiming India as incredible India to promote tourism. There is no doubt that a dire poverty exists in our country, amidst flashy life styles, skyscrapers, latest cars and five star cultures. It was the late Rajiv Gandhi who once remarked that out of every one rupee sent by Delhi, only 15 paisas or 15 per cent reached the recipient or the intended destination. This observation was made nearly 20 years ago in 1988. Since then things have gone from bad to worse, with all kinds of scams being unearthed.
A substantial number of every state and central ministers and local/central assembly members have acquired people'smoney in some form or the other as their personal wealth. Most of these so-called people'srepresentatives who live on people'smoney and people'salms, consider themselves to be the saviours of India. There is no dearth of money, but only of will to deal with the corrupt and to ensure that people'smoney is spent on the people.
Scams, which are the bane of the country, may differ from time to time and name to name. But the basic approach is to make as much money, as possible out of the public projects. Nevertheless, the scam cover-up techniques do not differ. In fact, every successor scam generates better cover-up methods. The only difference is that bandits loot individuals, and some leaders plunder the country unabashedly. According to one estimate, the total amount of wealth in foreign bank accounts of Indian politicians and others is placed $ 410 billion US dollars.
Corruption is the single major factor keeping India poor and backward despite having the best of natural and human resources. It is a major destabilising factor in politics as well as economics. Most of the schemes like the Employment Guarantee, a project of building a golden road triangle have a built-in scope for corruption. In fact no scheme ever stipulates the action that will follow, in case any malpractice is detected.
The delivery system i.e. the Indian bureaucracy, has let down the country, along with some corrupt politicians and rulers. Of course, there are honest politicians and honest officials, as otherwise, we would not have even a semblance of progress in the country. The fear that if you are corrupt, you lose the social recognition or status or position or your job does not hold good any more.
A report has shown that public servants received Rs. 21,068 crore as bribe, apart from the cut from several government schemes, last year.
Between 1996 and 2000, the CBI and the Central Vigilance Commission investigated 13,265 individuals for corruption. And, between 1998 and 2001, the CBI registered 2,256 cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Of these, 41 were from administrative departments, four from police and 23 were from the revenue department. This is a drop in the ocean when the total number of Government and public sector employees of State and Centre runs to 194 millions.
Corruption in Indian bureaucracy has now come to be accepted as part of the machinery that governs India. Millions are at the receiving end of this phenomenon in their every day lives, whenever they come in contact with any arm of the government at any level anywhere in India. Unless corruption is checked, the vast majority of Indians, who are not in a position to bribe, will remain immersed in terrible and inescapable poverty. Any amount of funding to ameliorate their lot whether through rural employment guarantee or other rural development schemes, will be throwing the good money after the bad money. Legal system is terribly overloaded as the following court pendency as on February 27, 2006 shows.
Supreme Court – 33,635
High Courts – 33,41,040
Subordinate Courts – 2,53,06,458
It is for this reason that the corrupt, embezzlers and other criminals have no fear of the law. By delaying the justice and by indulging in dilatory tactics, they can keep the punishment at bay. Quick justice and reform in the criminal justice system is not the priority of any government, though they all talk about zero tolerance. If we can tackle corruption, we can tackle poverty. William S. Halsey says, ?All the problems become smaller if you don'tdodge them, but confront them. Touch a thistle timidly and it pricks you; grasp it boldly, its spines crumble.? It is not the country, but the leadership, which is on trial.
(The writer is former director of CBI and can be contacted at [email protected])