Thursday, 16 June 2011

Lokpal - Just another Institution

To all those people who were happy that the government has formed a joint committee to draft lokpal bill, here's a big news  -  the government has decided that 2 versions of lokpal bill will be sent to the cabinet, out of which the cabinet will approve one and that version will be tabled in parliament. Of course there's no prize to guess that the cabinet will select the version drafted by elected members over the one drafted by civil society.

So now Anna Hazare and company would be fasting again...and we are back to square one.

I have been thinking on this lokpal bill and the provisions present in it; but somehow this lokpal thing doesn't drive me enough now-a-days. I have lost faith in this lokpal bill - let it be the government's version or civil society's draft. I was a strong believer that a powerful lokpal can curb corruption in our country but this statement doesn't resonate with my feelings now. The basic idea that if we have someone watching over all the public matters and keeps everything in check, then we will have a clean society seems flawed. We Indians are so clever that we will still find some loop-holes and sneak out! 

And to top it all...what if the lokpal itself is corrupt, who would keep a watch on lokpal, after all the lokpal (or the ombudsman) is going to be selected from civil society and god knows who would decide on his selection. People don't get any chance to decide on that as he/she would not be an elected member. Now-a-days people seem to think that a person from civil society will be an honest person and we can't trust an elected member, which I feel is utter nonsense. So who decides on lokpal, well they have come up with some crazy rules saying that one who has got a noble prize would be eligible or one who has got a Magsaysay award would be eligible - now please note, that these people may have excelled in their respective fields but that doesn't mean that they can become a good public servant, these two are completely different things. God, when would people understand that?

So by now you must be angry with me thinking "What a pessimistic fellow he is - doesn't support something good which is going on". Well, I am not completely against lokpal but what I am saying is don't expect lokpal to completely cleanse the society. Before lokpal we had corruption, even after lokpal we will have corruption.

Let's look at the root cause of corruption. The basic question I am asking is why is that even well educated people who are in control of a public office indulge in corruption? Why is that people are forced to take bribes? Why do we listen stories where an officer is transferred just because he wasn't ready to accept bribe? From where are all these issues coming up?

The reason is we have a systematic failure in curbing corruption and which cannot be controlled by appointing any lokpal or a super-cop.

To expand on that.. let's look at today's India, the economy is booming, private sector is offering unprecedented salaries with great perks and we have big-shots like RIL, Airtel, Tata, DLF offering salaries which no one would have ever thought of some 10 years back. Now let's think of salary a public servant draws..Can you draw any comparison? Well frankly speaking I can''s mind-boggling. A person working in a private organization draws easily 10-20 times more than one working in government sector at the same level. This is ridiculous, I mean how can the government not pay enough salary to a person who works in and out for government. There's an age old idiom - "I give as good as I get", which in one line tells the reason behind widespread corruption. If the government doesn't take care of the basic needs of a person - like give him good salary, good respect, a nice standard of living then how can we expect the public servant to give his best at his job and tell me why would he not indulge in corruption.  For instance someone working in a municipal corporation as a site officer (don't know exact designation), one who approves the building plan, how much do you think his salary would be 10K, 20K ok at max 40K per month and now let's look at the people whom he deals with everyday..they are big shots in construction industry whose everyday expense would be equal to 10k. Now if he is seeing so much of money in private sector and the govt is giving him peanuts, you tell me why won't he accept the bribe. Like this I can give 10 different examples, if you are not convinced. We can create n number of institutions like lokpal in our country but that will not remove corruption from our country, as someone has rightly said "You can change the Indian Constitution 20,000 times but that will not make our politicians honest". 

What India needs today is REFORMS. We need reforms in police sector, in healthcare, electoral reforms and what not. If there's anything which can help it is nothing but reforms, and it's not that we need the reforms just now, but I feel we should re-visit the rules/laws every 5 years at max. So that we don't have age old rules still forcing us.

If the government wants it's employees to not to indulge in corruption, the government needs to  give the  public servant enough salary and benefits so that he can take care of himself, his family and focus on his job instead of constantly thinking about money. If the government gives competitive salary, a decent home, takes care of his children's education and respects him, I have no doubt that any sane person will give his 100% and will not indulge in corruption.

To sum up, the government has opened up market but it has failed to open up it's mind and this is one of the biggest reason why we are seeing more and more of corruption in our country post 1990-1991.


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