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Corruption- Role of State and Civil Society

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The recent bribery scandal in the defence helicopter deal of 3600 crore rupees has once again brought the issue of corruption on forefront in India.

Interestingly, the Union Cabinet has accepted 14 out of 16 recommendation of the select committee for passing the Lokpal bill, meant to tackle corruption in the country.

It’s an irony that even a prolonged campaign against corruption last year could not throw any tangible solution. The matter is bursting at its seams but there is little hardly any respite to the common man hit hard by such unethical practices.  

India like many other countries of South and Southeast Asia is grappling with the problem of corruption. This evil has seeped into every segments of the country, be it administration, judiciary, legislature, education, health defence or developmental projects.

Corruption is mostly attributed to the government functionaries who demand a hefty sum for getting a simple job being done. The most popular adage is, one has to pay bribe for getting a birth or death certificate in India.  

In 2012 India was ranked 94th out of 176 countries in the corruption list. The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index has found that more than 62% of Indians have first-hand experience of corruption in getting jobs or work done in public offices.

The causes of corruption in India include excessive regulations, complicated taxes and licensing systems, numerous government departments each with opaque bureaucracy and discretionary powers, monopoly by government controlled institutions on certain goods and services, delivery, and above all lack of transparency of laws and processes.

Indian corruption scenario could be divided into two phases, one before the economic liberalization in 1990 and second post liberalization.

In the first phase government nationalized many sectors of the Indian economy to protect the growth of its nascent industries. Thus began an era of license permit raj and corruption flourished with impunity. The business -government nexus developed. Only those who can afford to pay the officials were able to procure license for doing businesses.

With the opening up of the economy in 1990 the post liberalization era begun. In this phase the quantum of corruption multiplied manifold and continues to increase at an alarming pace.

In the name of de -regularization and inviting private players, some government officials indulged in corrupt practices as many players scrambled for favors through greasing their palms.

The politicians, the bureaucrats, the middlemen nexus became all pervasive and all were seen hand in glove to provide fodder to corruption.

As a result, every institution of the government was infested with the menace of corruption. Even in the private sector corruption started making its inroads.

Even though there are many laws and regulations to handle corruption, none seem to provide any relief to the people. They are all under the control of the government that’s seen as the engine of corruption.

When corruption hit the roof as scam after scam started surfacing every now and then and newspapers littered with corruption stories, common man became restless what to do, it’s  at this point of time some members of the civil society came forward to launch  campaign against corruption.

Anna Hazare, a prominent Gandhian along with other members of the civil society in 2011, launched a campaign to fight corruption in India. This campaign against corruption drew huge response and some even called it as second freedom struggle in the country.

The anti corruption campaign was essentially to bring a Lokpal bill that would constitute a separate body comprising prominent members of the civil society to monitor the corruption cases in the country.

When the intricacies of this extra constitutional body was discussed and debated in the backdrop of Parliamentary democracy, the civil society’s campaign against corruption started receiving a lukewarm response from the masses, which initially whole heartedly supported the initiative taken by the civil society.

Anna Hazare ultimately had to withdraw his movement and disband his team that was in the forefront of this electrifying movement. Later, he made some attempts to kick start the movement holding a public rally but hardly any enthusiasm was seen among the general public.

Arvind Kejrewal, a member of team Anna and Right to Information activist took up the fight forward and launched a political outfit called ‘Aam Aadmi Party.’ It remains to be seen how this party fares in the general elections and fulfills the aspiration of the people. 

Meanwhile, the Union Cabinet has approved amendments to the official version of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill that it brought in 2011 in wake of Anna Hazare’s agitation. The government has accepted 14out of 16 suggestions made by the Select Committee comprising of the members of the Rajya Sabha represented by all major political parties.

The bill accepted by the government rejected the core demand of the civil society making Lokpal appointment free from government control and providing autonomy to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

No wonder the members of the civil society have rejected the government’s move to control corruption as it has failed to address their key demand.

So in the current situation, neither the government nor the civil society is able to come up with a plan of action to tackle corruption. The general feeling among the masses is both have failed to provide concrete solution to address the core issue. As a result the problem corruption continues to remain as it is in the country.

Syed Ali Mujtaba

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