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Re: Corruption in high places



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There are a few points here to be noted:
1. Corruption, in order to flourish,  requires bribe-givers ,  as much as
bribe-takers. Believe me, no bribe can be taken unless it is given.  If people
start making excuses for bribe-givers on the grounds that they are forced,
they
have no other option, etc etc, they support corruption. Tehelka move is
definitely a welcome one, in spite of whatever politics was behind them. But,
what is important is to note that all this talk of probity and honesty in
public life, which started with VP Singh more than a decade ago will not mean
much unless bribe-givers reform themselves. They could take help from other
activities like (a) organizing civil society anti-corruption forums (b)
advocating and lobbying for simpler procedures, doing away with impractical
rules and bringing out greater transparency (c) working hard in innovative
ways
in order to promote genuine competition and work against monopolies and
monopsonies (d) develop a culture of sticking to rules even when it is not
'convenient' to us and even when it means paying a little extra to government.
(e) take cue from tehelka and work actively with anti-corruption agencies for
laying more traps and obtaining real vital information on properties acquired
etc by the bribe-takers. (f) plead for more effective use of Information
Technology for strengthening citizen-government interface so that delivery of
services is not linked to one individual who could demand bribe. Basically the
idea is to  enable web-based approaches for delivery of various government
services. This would provide alternatives to honest citizens.
2. All recent exposes and even good old anti-corruption crusades starting from
Kuo Oil deal unearthed by Arun Shourie long back, Bofors, Securities Scam,
Bihar animal husbandry scam, Urea Scam,  and several instances of routine work
by anti-corruption agencies  have so far failed to show much impact on
bribe-givers of India. Why do we blame politicians and persons in high places
when  ordinary bribe-giver in India has changed little? Therefore, let us
analyse a little dispassionately and see that in the absence of any change of
systemic procedures or change of heart on part of bribe-givers, all this can
logically result in only one outcome: The risk factor of getting caught by use
of modern technology like spycams will be inbuilt into the costs and thereby
the corruption rates will increase.
3. Now, I am not a pessimist and I don't want that to happen. Therefore I
think
all of us should work hard in our own walks of life, first and foremost, as
good citizens and prevent bribe-givers from continuing their merry ways while
lamenting that society is becoming corrupt. Let us make it tough for the
bribe-givers, even if it means we have to be nasty. We should be in a position
to decline a wedding invitation from a government functionary when we sense
very high and lavish expenditure likely. We should not close our ears when an
uncle says he has purchased land for two lakhs but had to show only fifty
thousans so that stamp duty is 'saved'. If I am a doctor and somebody
approaches me for issuing a false sickness certificate, I should be able to
say
no. We should try in our own lives to prevent bribe-givers continue the
attitude of blaming others. And of course we should work on other points
mentioned above.
4. There is no need in my view to think that debate is necessarily
meaningless.
There is no harm in having a discussion forum, provided we bring in our own
lives some harmony between what we click/write and what we practise. Having a
manifesto or forming a party is just one of the purposes. IPI can help
stimulate ideas and provide people to share different thoughts . There is no
need to think that it would be waste of effort. There is no basis to presume
that the only purpose of IPI is to lead to a direct political party.
5. Incidentally, the 'free trade' model does not require anybody to do
anything
for India. You can do something to enrich yourself and enjoy life with
absolutely no qualms about your countrymen, that is perfectly fine. The moment
you start thinking of doing something for 'India', you have introduced a
distortion in the equation and  would move it away from economic
equilibrium. I
don't mean to say that one need not think about the Nation or the people, but
that we should realize that there are several, very important, non-economic
factors which cannot be wished away. The reason I have highlighted the role of
bribe-givers here is that generally it gets ignored, while other two elements
of corruption i.e. the bribe-taker and the 'system' get wide coverage in
discussions everywhere.
6. One common view is that corruption can be reduced greatly by privatization.
They argue that by moving away from license/control raj and by limiting the
activities of the State to some key areas, one is reducing scope for a corrupt
politician to make money. This idea appears alright superficially, but do we
see real evidence to support this hypothesis? Do we think there is less
corruption in high places in Japan or USA? Do we see any reduction in India in
corruption after 1991, when we adopted the new economic policies? This idea is
based on a fallacy that private sector is more honest or more efficient than
government sector, "if it is your own money, you will handle it more carefully
and private sector works differently because it is their own money". This
approach does not  go into many other relevant factors like the fact that
corporate sector does not necessarily deal with 'own' funds, as can be seen by
the extent of equity spread and high leverage enjoyed by companies. They
sometimes handle more public money than what government handles. There are
also
many other factors like 'built-in obsolesence', 'creating a consumer demand',
apart from oligopolies, huge money spent on advertisements and packaging,
which
all militate against the private sector essential spirit of 'customer is
king'.   In fact corruption in India cannot exist  even one day if the private
sector decides "Nobody shall be bribed from tomorrow".


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