Context: The CBI and Delhi Police’s Economic Offences Wing (EOW) are investigating allegations that the Delhi excise department that allowed a waiver of Rs 144.36 crore to the liquor cartel on the tendered licence fee, and that funds were ‘diverted to public servants’.
- The CBI has named 15 individuals in its FIR filed in connection with the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy.
- then Delhi Excise Commissioner and two other senior excise department officials were instrumental in recommending and taking decisions pertaining to excise policy for the year 2021-22 without approval of competent authority with an intention to extend undue favours to the licencees post tender.
Corruption in India
“Just as it is impossible not to taste the honey that finds itself in the tip of the tongue, so it is impossible for a government assistant not to eat up, at least a bit of King’s revenue.” – Kautilya
Corruption is dishonest behavior by those in positions of power. It starts with the tendency of using public office for some personal benefit. Moreover, it is unfortunate that corruption has, for many, become a matter of habit. It is so deeply entrenched that corruption is now considered a social norm. Hence, corruption implies the failure of ethics.
Status of corruption in India
- India ranks 85th rank in corruption perception index of 2021.
- Country’s score has remained stagnant over the past decade, some of the mechanisms that could help reign in corruption are weakening.
- CPI highlighted that unfair and opaque political financing, undue influence in decision-making and lobbying by powerful corporate interest groups, has resulted in stagnation or decline in the control of corruption.
Causes of corruption
- Rampant poverty and empty coffers of the government at the dawn of independence leading to chronic low salaries of the government officials
- Pre liberalization license permit raj catered by Monopolies and restrictive trade practices facilitated the corruption.
- The lack of economic freedom led to abuse of the system.
- Necessities of development overshadowed vigilance procedures.
- Use of black money in elections to win at any cost creates the need for the recovery of that cost through malpractices.
- Election funding is not transparent making it prone to the usage of black money and funding based on quid pro quo.
- It leads to crony capitalism, an unholy nexus between politicians and corporates.
- Criminalization of politics- when the rule-breakers become rule makers, the casualty is the rule of law.
- Low levels of formalization (merely 10%) of the economy breed black money.
- Stringent compliance rules for entry and exit for businesses result in bribery.
- Unequal distribution of wealth – Transparency International data suggests that corruption is directly proportionate to the economic gap in a nation.
- Archaic laws like IPC 1860 don’t capture the complexities of administration and lead to the escape of wrongdoers.
- Lacunae in the Lokpal act and delays in the appointments both at the state and central levels
- Dilution of the RTI act and political misuse of CBI and other agencies.
- Loopholes give discretionary powers to the officials making working prone to corruption.
- Lack of resources, funding, infrastructure and manpower in the vigilance institutions.
- Lack of incorporation of standard practices by organizations like Banks, sports organizations which results in multi-billion-rupee scams.
- g. Punjab National Bank scam, commonwealth scam.
- Lack of protection to good Samaritans
- Targeting of upright and non-corrupt officials and rewards to corrupt officials
- Near non-existent whistleblowers protection
- The mindset of the citizenry that doesn’t look at the problems seriously and even accepts it as a necessary part of the system.
- Increasing consumerism in the new middle class that is ready to bribe to get things done.
- Failure of social morality, education system to inculcate the values
Impacts of corruption
Hindrances to developmental process
- Loss of wealth due to corruption and siphoning away of taxpayers’ money leave little to spend in the social sector.
- Corruption in the social sectors like PDS, health and education schemes lead to demographic disadvantage.
- Undermines ease of doing business.
- Corruption in the public services sector carries high risks for conducting good businesses.
- Companies are likely to unwanted red tapes, petty corruption, bribes for finalizing any procedures or deals.
- Wrong allocation policies result in undervaluation of resources like Coal blocks, Hydrocarbon projects, Spectrum allocation. Eg. 2G scam, Coalgate.
- This mismanagement of resources leads to environmental degradation and exploitation.
- Corruption of financial sector officials like Banks, the stock market erodes the strength of the economy. E.g. PNB scam, PMC scam, Harshad Mehta scandal
Social sector losses
- Corruption in government projects targeting poor and vulnerable section of the society increases the economic gap between the rich and the poor
- The corrupt system denies the poor a chance to improve their status rendering them eternally poor
Legal Framework for Fighting Corruption:
- Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 provides for penalties in relation to corruption by public servants and also for those who are involved in the abetment of an act of corruption.
- Amendment of 2018 criminalised both bribe-taking by public servants as well as bribe giving by any person.
- The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 aims to prevent instances of money laundering and prohibits use of the ‘proceeds of crime’ in India.
- The Companies Act, 2013 provides for corporate governance and prevention of corruption and fraud in the corporate sector.
- The term ‘fraud’ has been given a broad definition and is a criminal offence under the Companies Act.
- The Indian Penal Code, 1860 sets out provisions which can be interpreted to cover bribery and fraud matters, including offences relating to criminal breach of trust and cheating.
- The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 regulates the acceptance and use of foreign contributions and hospitality by individuals and corporations.
- The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 provides for an establishment of an ombudsman for the central and state governments (Lokpal and Lokayuktas, respectively).
- These bodies are required to act independently from the government and have been empowered to investigate allegations of corruption against public servants, which include the prime minister and other ministers.
- The Central Vigilance Commission is mandate is to oversee the vigilance administration and to advise and assist the executive in matters relating to corruption.
There is a need for windfall reforms in each and every section of the system to fight the menace. Every aspect of governance must be improved for efficiency, economy, and effectiveness.
- Imposing limits on the overall expenditure of the political parties.
- Making state funding of elections a reality.
- Empowering ECI by giving legal force to MCC and making paid news a criminal offence.
- Strengthening of autonomous institutions
- Protecting the autonomy of CIC-giving him/her a constitutional status
- Eliminate overlapping of jurisdiction- e.g. Lokpal and CBI
- Establishing the Civil Service Board to curb the excessive political control over the administration.
- Conducting periodic sensitivity training for the civil servants.
- Simplifying the disciplinary proceedings and strengthening preventive vigilance within the departments to ensure corrupt civil servant do not occupy the sensitive position.
- Police and judicial reforms– implementation of Prakash Singh recommendations.
- e-gov apart from advancing the good governance objectives of accountability and transparency also seeks to reduce the manual interface between state and citizen thus preventing the incidences of bribery
- Drives like Digital India projects like Government e-Marketplace must be implemented.
- Enactment of the right to service act. E.g. Rajasthan social accountability bill
- Negating legal lacunae in banking, stock market legislations.
- Improving corporate governance by implementing corporate governance committee reports
- Formalization of the economy
Social sector improvements
- Awareness of citizenry by training them in RTI act, Citizens charter, social audits.
- Increasing democratization of the masses.
- Curriculum reforms to inculcate values even in higher education by which youngsters acquire high standards of ethical mindset.
Integrity, transparency, and fight against corruption have to be part of the culture. They must be thought of as fundamental values of the society we live in. In India, some recent anti-corruption initiatives have been taken. For example, various Supreme Court’s ruling in pursuit of curbing criminalization of politics, many e-governance initiatives will improve transparency and accountability. These measures are indeed steps in the right direction, but bringing behavioural change in society will act as the most potent weapon against corruption.
Source: Indian Express