Geeta Luthra, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India, tells Ashok Kumar of OneWorld South Asia that people should respond to movements like the one by Anna Hazare and make it clear that they will not tolerate dishonest politicians.
Why do you think is India struggling to control the menace of corruption?
India does not have any special laws to prevent corruption. Like every other system it has loopholes which can be taken advantage of. Also, the public perception regarding corruption is rather limited.
Unless people respond strongly by rejecting corrupt people in elections, one should not expect much from the system. I am surprised to see that people in India do not look down upon those who become wealthy by adopting corrupt means.
We seem to be an over-forgiving nation. Being a federal country we have many rungs of political parties which increase the number of power points we have. Therefore, the number of public servants too is much higher than in a country with a unitary system.
Do you think the common man can take on the issue of corruption?
The bottomline to fight corruption are the election laws. Common people should respond to movements like the one by Anna Hazare and make it evident through their voting patterns that they will not tolerate dishonest politicians.
How can the country get rid of corruption at the grassroots level?
Unless the feeling of accountability is there, or unless we change our value system, the chances of uprooting corruption from the grassroots are very bleak. At the same time, I think corruption at the higher level is far more serious than the one at the grassroots level.
For example, if the Prime Minister of the country is honest himself but is not able to root out corruption from the lower ranks it does not serve the purpose. I seriously feel that honest governance even at the cost of being unpopular can actually fight corruption.
Apart from the rare person who gives in to one off temptation, the average corrupt person has it in his veins, which is what makes the entire system corrupt. Higher authorities should set an example for those at the bottom. One way of dealing with corruption effectively is that crimes related to corruption should be dealt with in an expeditious manner.
What impact does it have on people when they see law enforcing authorities indulging in corruption?
The kind of education we are imparting to our future citizens is a waste. It is the moral fabric which is responsible for the spread of corruption. When a humble person sees the officers, the boards and the lawgivers and law keepers indulging in dishonest practices, then you have very limited chances of curbing corruption.
Police is one of the scariest examples of rampant corruption which we face in our daily lives. If the protectors of law, like the police, misuse it to make money or you have a gangster in police uniform, then there is no recourse for the common man. He has nowhere to go.