Black money, corruption, debated at Non Fiction Festival

 Discussions on topics ranging from public accountability and governance to black money and corruption and the common thread that binds them along with the common thread binding them, dominated the discourse at the inaugural session of the fourth edition of India Non-Fiction Festival here on Saturday.

New Delhi: Discussions on topics ranging from public accountability and governance to black money and corruption and the common thread that binds them along with the common thread binding them, dominated the discourse at the inaugural session of the fourth edition of India Non-Fiction Festival here on Saturday.

A need for greater public accountability was one of the abiding refrain made through a panel discussion which comprised former Comptroller and Auditor General of India Vinod Rai and former Cabinet Secretary T S R Subramanian.

Calling for a "proper system of checks and balances", Subramanium stressed on the need for a neutral body on the lines of the Lokpal in order to implement more public accountability.

However, according to Rai there was scope to usher accountability within the existing mechanism.

"We don't need to wait for a Lokpal. We must make a start using the mechanisms of the existing systems first. We must link accountability and governance" Rai said.

He also spoke on the challenges that a bureaucrat has to face in office in the session titled "Governing India" at the two-day festival, which sported the tagline "Be Bold Stay Real."

"When you speak out, then the first reaction you meet with is denial. People at all levels stonewall you and don't allow you to function", Rai said.

The former CAG whose latest book "Not Just an Accountant" which had triggered a political controversy, however said despite the pressures of the office, there is "space for honesty" within the system.

Meanwhile Subramanian said, "If you don't bend and if you are non malleable, you simply get thrown out of the system."

Subramanium had earlier this year authored "India at Turning Point: The Road to Good Governance."

He cited an anecdote from his personal life to make a point on why the issue of black money should not be seen as a 'money transference' issue alone with no effect on the GDP of the country.

"When I drive from Noida to Delhi, everyday at the same place, there is a traffic jam which lasts for hours. The reason for the jam is a petrol pump set up in an inconvenient area because of exchange of money under the table. Such jams, cause huge losses to the exchequer every single day," he said.

Elaborating on the same point, Rai said corruption can be dealt with by "going for the ones at the very top."

"Don't go for the small fry. Tackle the ones at the top. The deterrence at the top will percolate down to lower levels and that will make a difference," he said.

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