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--------------------------------------------------------------------- Please help make the Manifesto better, or accept it, and propagate it! --------------------------------------------------------------------- From: Dr. Sanjeev Sabhlok <sanjeev@sabhlokcity.com>
To: debate@indiapolicy.org
Subject: Law of political corruption + draft talk

A) After considerable thinking and finding no rebuttal, I am now ready to bring the 'law of political corruption' out of the internet closet into the open. Apart from having handed it over to many colleagues in the IAS and the Dy. Chief Election Commissioner,without any response, I am now presenting it in a workshop tomorrow. I had already presented the gist of it in a talk to IIT Kharagpur students of MBA last month.

Please let me have ANY objections, if any, immediately.

B) The draft of my talk is below. Quick feedback will be appreciated.


SS
-----

TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABLITY:
FACT AND FICTION

Dr. Sanjeev Sabhlok, 2.3.2000

While there can be no denying that transparency in Government is critical to elimination
of corruption and the promotion of citizens involvement in government, as well as in a multitude
of issues related to efficient delivery of services, it is important to understand how the incentives
which are prevalent in India prevent transparency. We must seriously wonder: when everyone
was talking about these issues even 50 years ago, there must be some major problem why we still
continue to talk about transparency, and are in fact in a worse condition than ever before, as
measured by yardsticks set by organizations like Transparency International, and others.

That everyone always talks of these things now-a-days is clear. On the 28th of February,
the Prime Minister of India said in a public meeting near Lucknow that "the tendency of making
underhand money will have to be stopped." He also stated that while his Government had
launched a movement against corruption, the malaise continues to exist. (The Times of India).

We all know of the recent efforts of Mr. Vittal in attempting to bring transparency to the
process of bringing the corrupt officials to book. But we also know that law-makers are outside
the ambit of the CVC (The Times of India, 28.2.2000). Further we also know that politicization
of the bureaucracy is the biggest evil facing the country, as stated by Justice J.S. Verma,
Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission at the Academy (reported in Sentinel 29.2.2000).
Consequently, as the CVC has pointed out, "in many instances [of corruption] action is
inordinately delayed to protect some people," and "the big fish, unless they belong to the
opposition, rarely get tried."

We also are aware of the N.N. Vohra Committee Report (download copy from
http://www.indiapolicy.org/clearinghouse/anti-corruption.html), which has confirmed the
existence of close links between some politicians, bureaucrats and criminal syndicates. While
this might not be true of Meghalaya, a simple analysis will show that due to the need to spend
money to contest elections, an amount which is rather huge, and due to the very meagre
compensation given to the representatives of the people, it is virtually impossible for them to not
make money beyond the official remuneration that is given to them. I will not disclose any
names here, but I have personally confirmed this compulsion from discussions with a Minister,
apart from a thorough economic analysis (see
http://www.indiapolicy.org/clearinghouse/corruption_political.html).

Indeed, throughout my career in the bureaucracy, I have seen pressures toward corruption
emerging mostly from the top, and only rarely from the bottom. Pressures from the bottom can
be easily killed. But what do you do with pressures from above? Therefore, when a Prime
Minister says that he is unable to stop corruption and inefficiency, and asks a question "why it is
so?" (as quoted in The Times of India dated 28.2.2000) he must be told: "The buck stops with the
you, Mr. Prime Minister. If you are ignorant about the causes of corruption, then there is no hope
for India. Please look closely at the compulsions of the electoral process, and the remuneration of
people's representatives, and then look at the behaviour of many representatives of the people
emerging from these compulsions, and you will find the answer." If the top bosses want honesty
only, they will be able to eliminate the corrupt immediately. They will be able to provide
transparency immediately. It is virtually impossible for corruption to flourish in a department
where the Minister is honest.

Thus I see very little point in talking about transparency and accountability in isolation.
So long as we do not have the political will to pay our representatives a compensation which is
comparable to the investment made in contesting elections, we cannot see real transparency and
efficiency. We have the best civil service in the world. We need leaders who will use it wisely. I
see no point in these fruitless activities such as workshops: in writing, re-writing some very
obvious stuff, so long as our leaders are always trying to get out of the ambit of laws designed to
check political corruption. But as I said earlier, I do not blame them. They have no choice.

After 50 years of the Republic, we still do not have a Lok Ayukt. Information that is
critical to assisting the public learn about how important decisions are taken regarding purchase
of materials out of public money, about how files are held up, about how officials are transferred
when they refuse to violate the rules laid down by the people's representatives themselves, is
today not made available to the people. Efforts to prevent illegal appointments are met with
officials being shunted out. The draconian Officials Secret Act which has long since been
withdrawn in England, still continues in India. Officials who are caught red-handed accepting
bribes from the poor are able to escape from the clutches of the system because they are able to
bribe those who count. In this situation, to my mind, there is no transparency and accountability
in the Government, and none is possible.

And yet, despite all this, and despite the fact that our system has reached a point from
which only a miracle can pull it back, it is necessary for us today to continue to determine how
we can assist the people whom we serve -- the public who pay our salaries -- through provision
of a truly transparent and accountable administration.

How do we do that? In this area, not much is left to say which has not already been said
hundreds of times elsewhere. I outline some of the important issues as I see them, but I am sure
you will do a much more thorough analysis in your groups today and tomorrow.

1. Involving the people at all levels. I am circulating a copy of my paper on Local Boards
which tries to show how this can be done. I find that similar concepts are floating around such as
the Hospital Management Committee, Women's Vigilance Committees, etc. I urge you to
consider involving the people closely in each of your Departments and promoting close access to
your offices and programmes.

2. Information technology. The CVC has demonstrated the power of the internet. I would
urge you to consider utilising the internet to provide the public relevant information about your
Departments through the world wide web. Let them have as much access and information as is
possible. All your laws, rules, procedures, forms, addresses, notifications, etc.: let these be on the
web.

3. Change in attitude. We must always remember that we are employed by the public to
serve them. Therefore, unless there is a very critical security interest involved, we should provide
to the public to access to information that is of interest to them. They pay for us. They are
entitled to know what we do.

4. I also notice a compilation of suggestions which have been provided by MATI. I urge a
close examination of these suggestions.

In the end, it is a fact that despite the very serious problem of efforts toward transparency
being blocked at the highest level within government, it is our mandate under the Constitution of
India, which binds us to serve the people, to provide a good and clean administration. We will
perhaps never become truly free as Rabindra Nath Tagore wanted us to be, but let us at least not
give up our efforts to provide to our people, an India where "the mind is without fear..."

I hope that the deliberations of this workshop would help Meghalaya achieve much
higher levels of transparency and thus help us all to become accountable to the people. Also, I
would request that suggestions made today be as practical as possible. Keep in mind always the
constraints under which we function.




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