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Why Anti-Corruption Watchdogs Are Secondary?

15 August 2011 No Comment

Mumbai 15th August 2011 JVPD Activist Utsal Karani’s view on Anti-Corruption in Current Scenario.

WHY ANTI-CORRUPTION WATCHDOGS ARE SECONDARY?

The problem in India is greater centralisation of authority in Government functionaries and antiquated laws and systems.There exists mind boggling corruption opportunities within the governance system. Anti-Corruption machinery can not transform the decision-making processes within the government and make decision-makers more accountable. India needs systemic reforms, improvements, changes in administration and decision making processes which have in-built opportunity for indulging in corruption and also amending antiquated laws which have lost relevance. (Its altogether a different issue that existing Anti-Corruption Departments are colluding with the corrupt).

The following are few examples of systemic reforms under implementation or to be implemented-

1) New building norms introduced by Municipal Commissioner of Greater Mumbai– The proposed new building norms will at one stroke reduce misuse of  discretionary powers of Municipal Commissioner and thus significantly reduce FSI scams and massive corruption in Building Proposals department. More importantly, the new norms creates transparency in real estate transactions immensely benefiting flat purchasers. (It is well known that existing Vigilance Dept was colluding with the corrupt).

2) RTI, PDS and a teenager– The continuing crusade of a teenager in Gujarat forced the Government to pass an order under section 4(1)(b) of RTI Act, making it compulsory for all fair price shops in the State to disclose all the details about rations received and kept in the ration shop. At one single stroke, the teenager reduced corruption in the PDS and alleviated the suffering of the masses who depend on ration shops for food grains. Unfortunately, this achievement was ignored by the media.

3) Reforms in indirect taxation– Introduction of Goods and Service Tax (GST) will eliminate multiple taxes, significantly reduce tax evasion, corruption and black money, reduce consumer prices and increase State revenues! It is estimated that India’s GDP will increase by 2% by introduction of GST. For the first time in history, India will usher in a “Common Market”.

4) Reforming subsidies– Creating efficiencies in subsidy delivery system to targeted sections of society based on UID/AADHAAR- Nandan Nilekani would be creating a revolution. The sums involved in subsidies are mind boggling in multiples of 2G scam, and that too annually! This will not only reduce quantum of subsidies, but simultaneously reduce wastage, inefficiencies and corruption inherent in the system.

5) Delivery of Govt. services in time bound manner as per Citizens Charter or Govt Rules– This significantly reduces corruption opportunities.

6) Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees Act (APMC) – Antiquated APMC laws (a State subject) across the country needs amendments. Farmers in Nashik or Pune are prohibited to sell farm produce directly to retail markets in Mumbai. They are compelled to sell their farm produce to the middlemen at the APMC Market, Vashi, Navi Mumbai controlled by a powerful lobby of traders and politicians.  The farmer gets only about 30% of the final price paid by the consumer, rest is cornered by a chain of middlemen. There is an urgent need to at least exempt perishable farm produce like vegetables and fruits from the ambit of the Act which will reduce wastage (estimated at 25 to 40%), increase realisations for farmers and reduce prices for consumers.

7) Reforms in Police and Judiciary– It is well documented that both Police and Judiciary need reforms.

8) Eliminating discretionary powers with authorities in various fields – Its well known that discretion breeds corruption. For instance, eliminate discretionary powers in land allotments and introduce transparent procedures.

9) Transparency in Decision-making process– Putting important decisions of Govt/authorities in public domain/websites. Decision-making has to involve the participation of the maximum number of people and there has to be a move from bureaucratic processes to democratic ones. This significantly reduces corruption. For example, MCGM has started posting such information on its website.

10) Transparency in Administration as envisaged under section 4 of RTI Act has to be implemented–   A few examples would be – a) Posting information on details of expenditure from discretionary funds of MPs, MLAs, Councillors, and Mayor on websites. b) Posting information of Building Proposals sanctions on MCGM website. c) Putting entire list with relevant details of MCGM owned Open Spaces (RG/PG) on website. There will be thousands of such examples across the country. Let all citizens act as Watchdogs!

11) Strong and Independent Regulators –  Strong and independent Regulators in important economic areas like Oil & Gas, Mining/Natural Resources, Capital Markets, Telecom, Power, Insurance, etc. significantly  reduces political interference and discretionary powers that cause big ticket corruption.

A right prescription can only be made if we truly attempt to diagnose the disease. If at all we believe that our anti-corruption prescription is only about creating hundreds of Anti-Corruption Watchdogs as panacea for all ills and turn India in to a Police State, then we are living in fools paradise. The corrupt will continue to thrive and invent ingenious methods and that too in collusion with the Police State. A true crusade against corruption and for good governance must begin with radically improving and changing State structures, institutions and processes.

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