Graft battle: Re-boot system to rediscover institutional verve

Against the backdrop of shocking scandals and the overwhelming mood of cynicism in the country, it is easy to forget that positives exist. But there are a few that stand out. In these times of hyperventilating media and a compulsive obsessive attraction towards negativity, not much attention has been paid to the fact that some of the country’s institutions have responded exceedingly well to the challenge of issues like corruption. Another conveniently ignored fact is that the country already has institutional solutions to institutionalised problems.

But for the alertness of the national auditor, the Comptoller, and Auditor General of India, all the major scandals India has been getting excited about over the last few months would have stayed buried in files. The catch of the CAG in recent times in particular is astounding – the 2G spectrum scam of 2010, the Goshkov deal of 2009, the Commonwealth Games scandal of 2009, the defence deals of 2009... an impressive list. No government took the CAG reports seriously just a few years ago.

How things have changed!

 Graft battle: Re-boot system to rediscover institutional verve

The Right to Information Act has not yet ushered in the waves of change it was expected to, but it is destined to be at the core of a transparency revolution. Reuters Image

"There was an era wherein the CAG reports were not taken seriously. I remember commenting, when the prime minister was present, that one-third of our reports go unanswered. But I must also accept that the government has become very proactive. I am very enthused by the fact that the defence ministry in their procurements, and the environment ministry in their assessments, have come out with revised guidelines,’’ said CAG of India Vinod Rai in a recent interview to Outlook magazine.

 

Good signs. An active CAG — it commands an army of 48,000 highly trained personnel across states — could be the biggest deterrent to corruption. Why not aim to strengthen it further? Detection of crime is as important as the prosecution of culprits.

The Right to Information Act is just five-and-a-half-years old. It has not yet ushered in the waves of change it was expected to, but it is destined to be at the core of a transparency revolution.

“The country is passing through a new era revolution -- the transparency revolution. The walls of secrecy are crumbling in every field gradually including politics, business, administration and judiciary. Once the trend has started, you can't stop it midway,” said Defence Minister AK Antony recently.

The minister said that the RTI Act would help transparency percolate to all walks of life, organisations and ultimately all families. “I think every facet of human life will be transparent,” he added. The minister’s assertion may sound a bit far-fetched at the moment, but the ring of truth and hope in it is difficult to ignore.

According to Satyananda Mishra, Chief Information Commissioner, around three million people seek information under the RTI every year. This number is likely to go up in future as more people become aware of the act.

India is busy experimenting with corruption, but it is busy with finding newer solutions to this age-old problem too. If the Whistleblower Act comes into existence and starts functioning in consonance with the RTI Act, it would be the biggest bulwark against corruption.

The Supreme Court has also consistently intervened to ensure that the guilty do not go scot-free in high profile corruption cases. The media has responded with alacrity (in some cases with self-serving shrillness though), and so has the public at large.

The message is that India has the ability to respond to challenges thrown at it. It has the institutions to take care of problems. Let’s not underestimate its inherent dynamism.

The solution is within the system not without it.

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Updated Date: Jul 05, 2011 19:30:56 IST


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