War on corruption
By Manju Gupta
Corruption in India: The DNA and the RNA, Bibek Debroy & Laveesh Bhandari, Konark Publishers, Pp 193.
Corruption is rampant in India. Studies conducted by academic, policy institutions and news reports present a sorry picture of corruption, bribery, embezzlement, especially where those holding public office have been utilising the power of the State for personal benefit.
This study reveals: a) corruption has become endemic an all-pervasive in just about every sector of the Indian State, across different departments and ministries, public sector and union, state and local governments; b) it has achieved a high level of sophistication where public officials share its benefits in an ongoing manner and where implicit contracts driven by repeated interactions and backed by a system of punishment through transfers and other mechanisms are able to sustain it through changes in governments; and c) the political system, the bureaucracy and the technocracy have been integrated and thereby eliminated the cross-checks and balances built by India’s constitution-makers.
Consequently we find that the battle against corruption will be long drawn and at different levels driven by the specifics of the situation that need to be corrected. The authors say that in all this, only political will and technology are the two unchangeables, in that politics will need to drive the fight against corruption and technology will need to be used in designing, monitoring and enforcement of efforts against corruption.
Undoubtedly corruption has taken over India. It rules over the country with its stranglehold in every aspect of the State and consequently in all aspects of life of citizens of the State. What is happening is that the lower level shares some of the rewards with its superiors to allow them to continue; the superiors share with the politicians who in turn share with small time leaders, media and even the electorate. The State withers away and in many parts of India, what is left of the Sate appears to be held together due to corruption and a sophisticated system of sharing the spoils.
Needless to say, there are a few who do not directly indulge in such activities, but survival instincts make them look the other way. Those who do not, are either eased into nondescript positions or hounded and pursued by a system that depends upon their acquiescence.
If India wants to become a developed economy and an inclusive society, it has to develop a comprehensive anti-corruption programme by appreciating the core elements that lead to corrupt behaviour by public officials and understand the mechanics of corruption. These elements range from poor policy formulation, low use of technology, inappropriate assignment of discretion and lack of transparency and accountability.
The authors argue that India does a bad job of monitoring, rewarding and punishing. Corruption is rarely reported and if reported, it is rarely investigated and if investigated, the investigation is mostly not completed in time.
The war can be won through political action driven by pressure from citizens to demand both greater efficiency and honesty from the government.
The book looks at every aspect of legislature, bureaucratic management science in terms of job definition and accountability, transparency and how to enable wiping out of corruption.
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