‘Protect ordinary citizens from corrupt officials’

In this exclusive article, former Indian diplomat G Parthasarathy says that even though corruption has become a feature of national life in many continents, the common citizens may not necessarily face the menace in everyday life.

But, it must be noted that in some countries like Singapore, the level of corruption faced by ordinary citizens in getting government services is minimal. In India, unfortunately, not only is there corruption at the highest levels, but the ordinary citizen too faces harassment from corrupt petty officials.

Life for the common citizen can be made easier if the procedures for rendering of services like issuance of passports, ration cards, driving licences and even death certificates is simplified and procedures devised for time-bound provision of such services, with minimum discretion given for delaying provision of services. Increasing resort to e-governance is imperative. Police should be made accountable to citizens` committees at every level.

In India, laws are such that prosecuting high functionaries for corruption is a time consuming and extremely difficult process. One cannot think of a person sitting at the highest levels in the government who has yet been convicted and jailed for corruption. Moreover, the politicisation of the investigating machinery has compounded the problem of corruption.

The sad reality is that even officials with honest intent cannot act against the high and mighty involved in corruption of one kind or other. Sadly, it is rare to find people in public life who abide by the values of probity and integrity that one found in persons like K Kamaraj, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, or KM Munshi, who belonged to the first generation of our country`s leadership.

As long as the Supreme Court judgement requiring the police to be freed from political control is implemented in the right earnest, corruption emanating from the highest levels cannot be addressed. Also, the slow pace at which our judicial process moves also promotes the rot in the system.

Unless you have summary trials with the help of special courts, and exemplary punishment for those convicted in corruption cases, one cannot expect worthwhile change in the system. In any case there should be no bail for people convicted in a court of law for corruption and people who face charges framed by a court for a criminal offence should be debarred from contesting elections, or holding any public office.

It would also help if the Lokpal Bill passed by the Lok Sabha becomes law, after endorsement by the Rajya Sabha and states enact legislation like in Karnataka for having a Lokayukta.

There are thus two levels of corruption which currently plague our country. While the common man is subjected to corruption at the lower levels, there also exists corruption at the higher levels involving highly placed police officials, bureaucrats and politicians. This corruption grows with an unhealthy nexus between people holding high office and business. I think both kinds of corruption feed on each other. How can you expect an ordinary constable to be corruption-free if the chief minister of the state is tainted by allegations of corruption?

Courtesy: OneWorld South Asia/Ashok Kumar

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