Reforms to counter poor governance

VK Bahuguna

August 3, 2022, 10:02:34   

Reforms to counter poor governance

(The author is Chairman of the Centre for Resource Management and Environment)

The recent raids by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) at the residences of associates of two Bengal Ministers have recoveredmore than 40 crore cash. Both Mr Chatterji and his close aid Arpita have been arrested.In June 2022 Mr Vijay Singla Punjab Minister was arrested along with his aids soon after becoming Minister for demanding money. In June another IAS officer from Punjab Sanjay Popli was arrested for demanding bribes. A few months ago in May 2022 the residence of Jharkhand Mining Secretary Mrs Pooja Singhal an IAS officer and her Chartered Accountant were raided and the ED recovered more than 19 crore rupees. 

Some months ago the former Home Minister of Maharashtra Mr Anil Deshmukh was arrested in April 2022 by the CBI on corruption charges and money laundering. The police inspector Sachin Waze and Minister’s personal Secretary and assistant were arrested. It was alleged that the Minister had directed Waze to collect Rs 200 crores every month. The Health Minister of Delhi was arrested by ED for 4.8 crore money laundering cases after the CBI field a case for corruption in 2017. One Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer of Orissa cadre Abhay Kant Patnaik was arrested in Novemember 2020 for spending 3 crore for travelling on Chartered flights and huge amount was found in the Bank account of his Son.

For the past 15 years Uttarakhand Subordinate Service Commission is always in the news for recruitment scandals on the one hand and on the other hand the youths are trapped in outsourced scandals for man power engagements. No accountability and everything is buried in politics of mutual blame game. Similarly, in Uttar Pradesh one Public Service Commission Chief was of dubious qualifications, which openly created a big scam in the recruitment of officers in the provincial services. 

No one it seems is taking such arrests of Ministers and crumbling of institutions seriously. The purpose of narrating these cases is to prick the core conscious of the nation that the system of governance in our country especially in States has started rotting. The degradation of system is not attracting the attention of law makers and the judiciary to the extent these institutions of governance should take cognizance. Such news has become very common these days and it seems the people have accepted it as new normal governance as the society is not bothered on honest and efficient governance. It is also the symbol of cultural degradation. The people attach more importance to anyhow meet the ends.

Now the question is why this has happened and where will it lead this nation. If we take into account the prevailing scenario, the democratic institutions do not seriously bother for the sanctity of accepting the truth and accountability. This will ultimately erode the faith of present democratic system and the history is replete with examples that those societies who do not learn from the mistakes give way to dictatorial forces or disintegrate. Sri Lanka is a recent example of how divisive politics and corruption played over 40 years ruined the nation.

The British takeover at the end of Mughal rule did unite India as a political entity as a nation and the present democratic constitutional governance makes India as the largest democracy. The corruption by the people in power is openly practiced by the politicians as well as bureaucracy at all levels. It is impossible for the common man to get work done without a ‘facilitation fee” euphemism for extorting money. The economy is growing; the Budget of Central and States Governmentsis crossing and it open up scope for more schemes and thus more corruption and ultimately more suffering for the disadvantaged sections. The Judiciary is busier in solving the umpteen squabbles of political parties out of anti-defection law, urgent cases, economic disputesetc and huge pendency of cases is a reflection that poor and middle class people either silently give up or compromise. 

In short the country’s institutions of governance are crying for reforms. To counter the vote bank politics and corruption,agenda for political and administrative reforms should be on top. The criminalization of the politics and to check the money power and cash flow during electionsis the single most threat to democracy. For honest politicians it is next to impossible to contest even an urban body election what to say of assembly and the Lok Sabha elections. In an era of media and rising literacy rate, there should not be much gap between the final date of filing nomination and the election date.The Prevention of corruption Act should be amended to provide for confiscation of property disproportionate to the known source of income. The political parties should be brought under the section 2(h) of the Right of Information Act so that in money matters and giving tickets to criminals the voter has the right to know. The anti-defection law has totally failed and it should be scrapped all together.To check unruly behaviours of MPs and MLAs a strong code of conduct must be evolved and the presiding officers should be empowered to expel such members from the rest of the session and habitual misconduct shall be sufficient to debar such members from contesting elections for another 6 years. Similarly, sudden and indiscriminate blockage of roads and damage to public property in the name of democratic protest should be made punishable offence and for democratic protests some specific place should be assigned by the administration like the one we have at Jantar Mantar. The local area development fund of MPs and MLAs should be linked topre-approved schemes in district development plans so that these schemes are included in the budget.  There is a need to amend the constitution and create a provision of ‘Referendum’ so that direct democracy can be practised to decide on certain national issues like population control and national security so that fruits of development are not frittered away. The civil services must be made accountable and a process of periodical review should be undertaken to weed out the inefficient, insensitive and corrupt bureaucrats. A civil services bureau may be created for this purpose and also to punish civil servants for misuse of powers and the remits of corruption should be redefined beyond financial corruption to include delays, procrastination and deliberate arbitrary acts. Indian genius shall rise again for sure and we must get that genius to rise fast.