Context:

  • With several popular anti-corruption movements fading out, it is hard to bring a culture of honesty in the country all by law alone.

Explanation:

  • As India prepares to celebrate its 70th year of independence, it will do so as a nation that has achieved a lot of socio-economic dimensions over the decades—first with its technological accomplishments, wiping out famine, then by remaining largely steadfast on the democratic path and, finally, by unleashing its prowess in the services sector and consolidating its position as one of the world’s leading emerging economies.
  • But two failures blight India’s accomplishments:
  • Firstly, Poverty is persistent. More than 27 million people, that is 22% of Indians, live in conditions of extreme poverty, earning $1.90 or less a day, according to the World Bank.
  • And the second problem is that of corruption.

The legal framework to curb corruption

Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988:

  • Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (POCA) is India’s principal legislation against corruption.
  • Its main thrust is to prohibit public servants from accepting or soliciting illegal gratification in the discharge of their official functions.
  • In addition, bribe-givers and intermediaries may be held liable under POCA for bribing public officials. 

Indian Penal Code (IPC):

  • Various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) provide criminal punishment for public servants who disobey relevant laws or procedures, frame incorrect or improper documents, unlawfully engage in trade, or abuse their position or discretion.

The Prevention of Money Laundering Act:

  • The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 seeks to prevent money laundering including laundering of property through corruption and provides for confiscation of such a property.
  • It mainly targets banks, financial institutions and intermediaries such stock market intermediaries.

Right to Information (RTI) Act:

  • The Right to Information (RTI), 2005 Act represents one of the country’s most critical achievements in the fight against corruption.
  • Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen may request information from a public authority which is required to reply within 30 days.
  • The Act also requires every public authority to computerize its records for wide dissemination and to proactively publish certain categories of information for easy citizen access.
  • This act provides citizens with a mechanism to control public spending.

Demonetization:

  • On the evening of 8 Nov 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that currency notes of  500 and  1000 would be demonetized from midnight, thereby withdrawing their status as legal tender. Instead, advanced currency notes of denomination  500 and  2000 would be introduced.
  •  This initiative of the government is expected to make it extremely difficult for the law breakers and the corrupt to carry out tax evasion, financial crime and money laundering.

The Institutional Framework to curb corruption

  • There are various bodies in place for implementing anti-corruption policies and raising awareness on corruption issues.
  • At the federal level, key institutions include the Supreme Court, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Office of the Controller & Auditor General (C&AG), and the Chief Information Commission (CIC).
  • At the State level, there are local anti-corruption bureaus such as the Anti-corruption Bureau of Maharashtra.

Failure to curb corruption:

Failure to enforce laws:

  •  India lacks by poor enforcement of laws, even where the laws are good.
  • Data analysed by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) shows that between 2001 and 2015 the government’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) documented the registration of 91 million offences across the country, punishable under the Indian Penal Code and various special laws.

Inefficiency of institutional frameworks:

  • The institutional anti-corruption framework generally suffers from a lack of coordination, and overlapping and conflicting mandates between institutions addressing corruption.
  • Key institutions often lack the staff and resources to fulfill their principles adequately and struggle to protect themselves from political interference.
  • Influential politicians and senior officials are rarely convicted for corruption, eroding public confidence in the political will to effectively tackle corruption.

Thievery and Bribery:

  • Thievery is common in real estate.
  • It is common for a property developer to flout regulation through bribery.
  • During 2011-2016, people filed 116,010 complaints over being required to pay bribes on the popular website, ipaidabribe.com.
  • This indicate severe lack of public confidence in the ability of the anti-corruption agencies to probe a complaint of corruption, collect evidence and put the case up for trial.
  • Bribery and Thievery are only two forms of corruption. The PCA recognizes various offences as corruption.

Limitations for the Whistle Blowers:

  • In 2015, the government had introduced a bill in the parliament to amend the 2011 act. The key criticisms of this bill are as follows:
  • Whistleblowers should not be allowed to reveal any documents classified under the Official Secrets Act of 1923, even if the purpose is to disclose acts of corruption, misuse of power or criminal activities.
  • It also puts a restriction on disclosure of any information that could prejudicially affect the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India and good relations with foreign State.
  • The bill puts bars on the activity of whistle blowing in such a way that only some information obtained through RTI etc. has been kept in its ambit.
  • The bill says that the whistleblowers would be entitled to official protection only if these conditions are met; and they could face action if they are not.
  • The amendment Bill seeks to remove immunity provided to whistle-blowers from prosecution under the draconian Official Secrets Act (OSA) for disclosures made under the Whistleblower Protection law.

Suggestions:

Paying civil servants well

  • If public sector wages are too low, employees may find themselves under pressure to supplement their incomes in unofficial ways.
  • Even though greed may still be an issue but a good amount of pay scale will stop corruption to a large extend.

Judicial reforms:

  • There is urgent need of judicial reforms and justice delivery system. A time bound disposal of the cases and disputes of all categories is the most important requirement.
  • People die contesting cases, they are forced to offer bribes and spend their valuable time in pursuing the cases, causing great losses to economy.

Protection of whistleblowers:

  • Effective protection of whistleblowers will support an open enterprise culture where employees not only have confidence in reporting but are also aware of the reporting procedures.

Creating transparency:

  • Subsidies, tax exemptions, public procurement of goods and services, soft credits, extra-budgetary funds under the control of politicians—all are elements of the various ways in which governments manage public resources.
  • The more open and transparent these process, the less opportunity it will provide for malfeasance and abuse.

Educating ethical and moral values:

  • The country needs to develop a sense of moral character in citizens, starting with the family, and all other institutions in society.
  • An upright moral character will even deter the hungry from stealing.
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