Curbing Corruption? Get Real!

To substantially remove corruption from India ’s political system calls for such drastic reform as would usher a full blown cultural revolution. To achieve the reform of a sick political system requires an approach no different from bringing about the recovery of a sick patient. The first step is to make a proper diagnosis of the sick patient’s system. The second step is to discover the flaw in the system. The third step is to prescribe a medicine to cure the flaw. The final step is to administer the medicine to achieve the patient’s full recovery. 
Our system is corrupt because the checks and balances contained in the Constitution have been upset by ignoring its provisions. Establishing a Lokpal will offer no solution. It will merely compound the confusion. Why will Lokpal function any better than the Central Vigilance Commissioner? The solution lies in what the Constitution has explicitly written.
In the midst of the clamour surrounding the Lokpal Bill has the nation made a proper diagnosis of the problem? Clearly it has not. For starters a proper diagnosis must insist upon the truth. Otherwise the correct medicine cannot be prescribed. India is like the proverbial ostrich with its head stuck in the sand refusing to see the truth. I recently wrote a short piece criticizing Anna Hazare for questioning the integrity of all critics expressing reservations about the Lokpal Bill. In it I made an indirect allusion to his misdemeanor of diverting money from a trust fund for his birthday celebration. He made a mistake. All humans make mistakes. He apologized for his error. Nothing therefore should be held against him. But should he criticize the integrity of those who differ from him? An irate letter-writer criticized me for refusing to separate the wheat from the chafe. He wrote that Hazare misused a mere two lakh rupees while corrupt politicians are looting billions. Good point. But who are these corrupt politicians? Are they not the ones with whom Anna Hazare is collaborating to draft his Lokpal Bill?
That brings us to the first harsh truth in our diagnosis. All politicians ranting against corruption are probably tainted because the system can only operate through corruption. Hazare exchanged letters with Sonia Gandhi who is credited with being the biggest political patron of the Lokpal Bill. Mrs. Gandhi wrote to Hazare: “You should have no doubt of my commitment in the fight for probity in public life.” In pursuance of that commitment should not Mrs. Gandhi demand a retraction and apology from author Yevgenia Albats, former member of the Soviet government’s official KGB Commission, who in her book furnished details, citing files, related to the money paid by the KGB to her family? Should she not sue Schweitzer Illustrate, the reputed Swiss journal, which alleged that she operated a secret bank account of over two billion US dollars? Should not the Indian government seek explanation and apology from the Russian government for its assertion through an official spokesman reported in The Hindu confirming that the Soviet government paid money to Mrs. Gandhi’s family in order to protect its foreign policy? Repeated requests to Mrs. Gandhi to refute these allegations have resulted only in deafening silence. If Mrs. Gandhi and Anna Hazare genuinely seek an end to corruption they must confront the truth. Then alone might we proceed with a successful fight against corruption. 
Let us hypothetically assume that the allegations against Mrs. Gandhi are valid. How would that help us get at the root of corruption? First of all, we would have to recognize that Mrs. Gandhi did not initiate corruption but inherited it. She did not seek KGB money but was voluntarily paid by the Soviets because she belonged to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that rules India. How might it be said that she inherited corruption? Quite simply we should recall that Pandit Nehru himself clandestinely received money from the Soviet Union purportedly as royalty for his books which he deposited in the foreign Bank of China concealing it from the Income Tax Department. This fact came to light after the 1962 hostilities with China when the Bank of China in Kolkata was seized by the government. The scale of corruption may have grown exponentially, but its seeds were sown in the halcyon days of early independence.
The truth we must accept is that the entire political class containing many honourable people is corrupt because the system is corrupt and permissive beyond measure disallowing honest functioning. Very recently Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya accused the Trinamool Congress of using black money in the ensuing assembly elections. This was laughable! Had he said that Mamata Bannerjee was buying voters with cash as has been done in Tamil Nadu he might have been heard with some attention. But using black money in elections? Is CPI-M using white money? Is any single party in any election anywhere in the country using white money in elections? Do donations to political parties come through cheques? Get real Mr. Bhattacharya! Only the late Chandrashekhar in a rare moment of candour admitted once that all elections were fought with black money. But he did precious little to rectify that. One doubts if he wanted to rectify that.
These days all manner of charges are being leveled against certain members of the Lokpal Drafting Committee. But who among the VIPs is not tainted?
Is not President Pratibha Patil tainted for having been allowed to contest for the President’s post despite an ongoing CBI inquiry against her for misusing her office as Governor to protect her relatives charged with murder? Having become President the CBI probe was aborted.

Is not Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh tainted for having filed a false affidavit that he was a permanent resident of Assam in order to be elected to the Rajya Sabha from that state?
One can go on. The point is that we must recognize that the malaise of corruption and impropriety has gone so far beyond normalcy that indulging in name calling is futile. In differing degrees we are all corrupt. If we don’t practice corruption we indirectly abet it. The system is corrupt. So let’s consider the system.                    
Our system is corrupt because the checks and balances contained in the Constitution have been upset by ignoring its provisions. Establishing a Lokpal will offer no solution. It will merely compound the confusion. Why will Lokpal function any better than the Central Vigilance Commissioner? The solution lies in what the Constitution has explicitly written. It has given us a President elected indirectly by the entire nation, empowered to protect all laws and the Constitution, to monitor and guide the functioning of the Union Cabinet, and to proffer advice to either or both Houses of Parliament. If it is preferable for the President to be elected directly by the people, that can be done. By an amendment that does not violate the basic structure of the Constitution the change can be effected. Only a President acting as the super Ombudsman of the nation elected by the people offers a realistic hope for a systemic change without a Constitutional change to curb corruption and restore governance. The proposed Lokpal is a non-starter.
If and when such revolutionary reform does occur in India we would have to offer an amnesty scheme that allows the guilty politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen to retain only a fraction of their illegally earned wealth and deposit the rest with the State. They should be allowed to keep their identities secret if they willingly cooperate. If they do not comply they might be severely prosecuted. This would be the only realistic solution. With zero tolerance after a cut off date they would reform themselves. We would have to give opportunity to the guilty to be reformed because while they corrupted the system, it is equally true that the system corrupted them. 


More by :  Dr. Rajinder Puri

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Views: 3401      Comments: 7

Comment Lokpal bill is not important point of discussion if there are alterernate which are made effective. corrupt nexus of authority (some journalist too ),wish to fritteraway good intention of anna hazare by diverting debate to non relavent.

simple question is whether there will be effective action against corruption or not??
if yes,let public hav action plan with solid actions or go ahead with lokpal bill even if its defective.

very few journalist even acknowledge that raja or kalmadi or ashok chavan didnot alone benifit from scams and higher up are still smiling with strong bank balance,power and clear contempt to dignity of indians.except manmohan singh very few national leaders can pass the test of personal honesty and parties like NCP and DMK are cruel joke on poor indians.

donot support diversion to movement till tangible solution to action against corruption is found

i reqst mr bhatia to recgonise that unless we ac t even god cannot save us

best wishes

29-Apr-2011 08:41 AM

Comment Often people say - corruption is everywhere in the world. When it is present in developed countries too, why should its presence in India should cause a loud cry ?

And I answer in the following manner - you have two nice cars in front of you. One is covered with mud because its owner never cares for its cleanliness, owner of the other cr cares to clean it each day, but still it has some dirt spots at the lower side of the body.

So, both cars are not clean and both owners should put in same category !!

Practicality of situation explained. When total black money is accounted for Rs. 400 Lakh crore in a country where crores of people sleep hungry every day (to only quote part of the problem), corruption matters. And talks and actions to check corruption matters a lot.

We explain, in the article and in comments that why corruption exists and how system corrupts people and so on.

One can explain 1 crore, 2 crore, 10 crore or 50 crore of hera-feri in this manner. How can someone explain thousands of croroe of hera-feri on the lines of compulsion ?
(And if hera-feri is in tune of few crore rupees than corruption is will be equivalant to that in some of the developed country, and then the impact will be much less).

Does someone suggest that those sitting on top, causing thousands crores of scams do ot understand implications of their act to this country and its citizens ?

If they understand implications and still involve then they are not worthy of sympathy.

If they do not understand implications and are involved, then they should not be in power any way as they are not capable even to understand impact of their actions while in power.

Let's not be sympathetic to those who are corrupt, like to car covered with mud.

Dinesh Kumar Bohre
25-Apr-2011 09:21 AM

Comment Sir, yesterday one Mr Vikas Singh, a litigant against the Mayawati govt in the Noida land allotment scandal revealed that both Mr Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan were allotted farm house plots of 10000 sq mtr each at highly concessional rates.If they are really honest persons why did they not refuse the allotment like Vikas Singh did because he thought that the allotment was done to him as a bribe in the hope that he would keep quiet.
But the larger issue is that the country should take at least a small step in the direction of reducing corruption.Let us not only keep debating, everybody accusing everybody else,and doing nothing.The longest of journeys starts with a small step.And we should be absolutely clear that it is a long, very long journey.

24-Apr-2011 01:05 AM

Comment Excellent article.
This was news to me= 'we should recall that Pandit Nehru himself clandestinely received money from the Soviet Union purportedly as royalty for his books which he deposited in the foreign Bank of China concealing it from the Income Tax Department. This fact came to light after the 1962 hostilities with China when the Bank of China in Kolkata was seized by the government.'

Ultimately, the question arises, between Sharad Pawar and Anna Hazare, who would you rather vote for or have running things? According to Sawant Commission report, Hazare's Anti Corruption henchmen were third rate hoodlums extorting money from simple people. Hazare did not investigate complaints against them. The fellow was observing either maun vrat or tatti bandh or shodh yatra or something equally worthwhile. Hilariously, a corrupt bus-conductor who was beaten up by the new (also corrupt) electricity linesman who'd taken his place as the new District head of Hazare's campaign retaliated by starting his own anti Corruption drive called Briashtachar Virodhai Yuvakranit Jankalyan Samiti! Hazare is trying to turn the rest of India into a place as backward as his 'model' village which is not self-sufficient at all, but sucking up Govt. funds. No doubt, in the rural areas, people have nothing better to do than set up N.G.O's , S.H.O's and Brashatachar Virodhi Aandolons to protest against rampant corruption of the N.G.O' s and S.H.O's and Brashatachar Virodhi Andolans set up by their neighbours and siblings and spouses and children and goats. But how does this help the rest of India? Already we are seeing media attention shift from scams and Swiss Bank accounts to the public outcry against corruption against the anti-corruption crusaders! What's next? We have an Lok Pal Commission another Commission to investigate the Lok Pal Commission, another Commission to investigate the investigator....
Sharad Pawar may or may not be many things which are alleged, but he gets things done development wise. It is another matter that development itself may be considered evil but, given the choice, it is what people vote for. I'd rather vote for the crooks from the various Dravidian parties which at least offer me a biryani and half a bottle of brandy- not to mention a TV- rather than some holier than thou Gandhian lunatic who thinks eating chicken biryani is equivalent to killing your own grandmother and considers Prohibition to be the key not to goondaism and corruption but the golden age of Lord Rama.
Gandhi was a failure, Bhave a deluded failure (remember 'Bihardhan'?) J.P a failure, Karnataka's supposed 'revolution in accountability' complete with a Lokayukta a complete failure, Swami Agnivesh's crusade against child labour a failure (he's moved on to bigger things now though), Mallika Sarabhai a failure, Kiran Bedi don't know what she was supposed to be doing but it failed, PIL litigation not just a nuisance but a howling failure, Judicial activism a ludicrous failure- when a remedy doesn't work discard it. Why is that difficult for people to understand? Some nutjob from the villages can't go on a 4 day fast and fix everything. To believe otherwise is to believe in magic.
The literature on how to get rid of Corruption is extensive. Economists and Social Scientists have a road map. But, no, Hazare hogs the headlines and people talk nonsense about 'Civil' Society. Why? It is because these people believe in Magic not Civilization.

23-Apr-2011 19:27 PM

Comment The saying 'power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely' is evident in the dicatorships of the Middle East currently being overhauled. But we cannot be too harsh on the dictators, because it is power, not their personalities that corrupts.

It is part of human psychology that an opportunity for self-gain is perceived as evidence of right - whether legal or illegal, given that one can get away with it in the latter instance, which defines its rightness in terms of self-benefit. This is the trap people of good character invariably fall into. A very good example is the outbreak of looting in a situation of civil unrest by ordinarily honest people. Coming back to the situation in India of 'widespread corruption' it is of the form of self-benefit - but note, it is compulsive; so that you or I put in the same position would experience the same force of compulsion of self-benefit, and would, unless we had sufficient fear of consequences - which the people in that same position currently do not possess - act likewise.

It is unrealistic to think there are people who can resist corruption to replace those who cannot. The vastness and complexity of Indian society appears to provide commensurate opportunities for corrupt practice that is, let us not forget, compulsive - even as a form of civil looting. There is a line in the prayer the Our Father: 'lead us not into temptation', where it is implied that temptation itself invariably leads to sin, given one's life is not endangered. This would imply anyone in a situation of opportunity for corrupt practice would more than likely succumb to the compulsion, unless it was a danger to his life circumstances to do so. This is in tune with the sentiments expressed in the last para of your article, but it echoes with the apocalyptic justice achievable only at the end of days.

22-Apr-2011 21:44 PM

Comment I totally agree with Mr. Puri when he says "The point is that we must recognize that the malaise of corruption and impropriety has gone so far beyond normalcy that indulging in name calling is futile"

So let us act.

I recollect an instance from the 70's. I was privy to a pleading by a have not to a baniya; Translated, it went thus, "Please babuji, you may kick me in my back but please don't kick me in my stomach"

Sending people behind bars is akin to kicking a person in his back. Decimating his ill gotton asset is akin to kicking him in his stomach.

As a start, demolish Adarsh. The reverbrations will be resounding; a lesson for people who think the law is an ass and which will be remembered for a long long time.

Ravinder Malhotra
22-Apr-2011 12:58 PM

Comment 22nd April 2011

Mr Puri's commentary is an excellent commentary on corruption, Lokpal Bill and State of Affairs in India in general. He did not make any concrete suggestions.

It is true that corruption in every walk of life is so rampant, that there seems to be no way to walk out of the maze. Corrupt investigators are corrupt, legal system is corrupt, people reporting are corrupt - so where to start?

Lokpal Bill or any other forum can be effective only if they are given power to take action, action to be time bound and action to be sever. The guilty person along with all who abetted including the family members having full knowledge of the corrupt acts should be punished.

God save us.

Raj Bhatia

Raj Bhatia
22-Apr-2011 01:28 AM

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