Sunday, 18 December 2011

corruption in India

Look at the rampant corruption and mess of the currently being organized Common Wealth Games in Delhi. Crores of rupees are alleged to be swindled in organizing these games and news channel investigations have show that almost everybody involved in the games have minted money. Fortunately, this has been revealed and unfortunately this is not the first time such large scale corruption and administrative incompetence is displayed in this country.

China by organizing the Beijing Olympics proved that it is a super power in the making.

Is India by messing up with the Delhi CWG proving that it is only a paper power?

And this is just one instance.

Look at the tonnes of rotting food grains going waste in government granaries.

Look at the rampant corruption in almost all of the government organizations.

Look at the pathetic state of infrastructure in the country.

Look at the way some of our ministers and administrators speak.

Look at the way parliament, assemblies, corporations all function in the country, screaming and fighting members, politicians abusing each other and behaving like goons.

Look at the number of politicians with criminal track records.

Look at the common public who have assumed that paying bribe is a part and parcel of their life and so is finding means to evade taxes and law. A two wheeler rider riding without a license is as guilty as the traffic policeman who takes bribe from him. Bribe is a convenient way for both the parties to restrict the law only inside the books.

Look at the sons and daughters of VIPs and VVIPS driving rashly and killing innocents on the streets without getting caught.

And, the root cause of all these problems in this country is Unaccountable Democracy.

A democracy where

Representatives once getting elected can rule, ruin and loot the country for the next five years without ANY accountability, and at the most they might lose the next election, before which they would have made enough wealth for their next 10 generations.

Public servants and employees of public sector companies once entering a government job can sleep on their jobs without having any real sense of service till they retire! Nobody can dismiss them from their jobs, and at the most they get is a suspension or a transfer!

And the general public who keep blaming the elected representatives without ever casting their vote, or casting their votes based on caste, region and religion, who due to lack of time or money or whatever become a part and parcel of the corruption system. Takers are always there as long as there are givers, isn’t it? If people keep saying, my votes won’t make a difference, well then they need to go back to their school days to unlearn what they currently know and to relearn the lesson which goes “Little drops of water make a mighty ocean”.

Now this has made our democracy into a five yearly rotating dictatorship. People elect a set of dictators who then rule the country based on their own rules. This results into a system where smaller insects are swallowed by the spider, where as the larger mightier ones actually become the supporting pillars of the spider’s web.

And the only solution to this is to convert our democracy into an accountable democracy. In a corporate environment, failure to meet the deadlines results in disciplinary action being taken and the project in question might be related to even a few hundred people. Now compare this with the politicians and ministers, who are accountable for millions of people, and what is the disciplinary action taken against them for their failure to perform and show results?

So how do we convert our unaccountable democracy into an accountable one? How do we make sure that the system remains democratic (because we naturally hate communist or military rule or any other dictatorship) and yet is extremely accountable at all levels?

The first thing we need to do is to enable active participation by the general public instead of the current passive participation in the democratic process. Currently we elect and forget for we cannot do anything till the next elections arrive. We need to convert this into an active participation. How?

1. Have an annual or half-yearly review of the elected representative’s performance by the voters who again vote to indicate their level of satisfaction about the performance of their representative, and if more than a certain percentage (say 50%) of the voters reply in negative, then the elected representative’s term should be immediately ended calling for a re-election in that constituency. This might seem a costly and time-consuming process, but if one considers the gains of creating a corruption free society and rapid development due to alert administrators, this process is really worth it. This would also keep the electorate informed about the progress in their constituency.

2. At the end of a five year term, every minister should have the country vote for their performance in the past five years. In case of state governments, the entire state should vote on the performance of each minister at the end of the government’s term. Now if more than certain percentage (say 80% of the voters) say that they are not satisfied with the performance of the minister, then the minister should be imprisoned for the next five years for stalling development of the nation (or state) for five years and for not keeping up the promises made to millions of people to win an election. Section 420 of the IPC (Indian Penal Code) punishes a common man if he cheats another single person. Then shouldn’t there be more stringent punishment for a person who cheats millions of people for five years and wastes five precious years of development of a country or state?

3. Measure performance in government services and drop non-performers. Remove the guarantee of a government job till retirement. Privatise all public sector companies and allow for competition by private companies. When BSNL was the only telecom service provider in India you had to wait for months to get a telephone connection. Today after privatisation, one can get not only a telephone connection, but even mobile and broad band access within a matter of hours.

The job of the government is NOT to RUN BUSINESS, but is to MODERATE business to make sure that the private sector is functioning according to the law of the land.

4. Get rid of paper work in all government departments and make everything electronic and make all information available online so that the citizens can log in into online government portals to see the status of their services. It should be the system that raises an alarm in case of a delay in providing the service, and not the affected individual. Every administrator who has files pending on his desk past the clearance due dates should be penalized accordingly. Make RTI (Right to Information Act) automatically applicable to all government services ie every citizen should get the status and details of his services in his online account WITHOUT having to apply for it.

5. Democracy requires active participation of the citizens and not participating in the democratic process should also invite penalization. If an eligible voter has not cast his vote in an election then he/she has to provide valid justification for the same. At the same time government should also use technology to make voting an easy process instead of having to wait in long queues for hours. For instance, technology can be developed to enable citizens to vote via their mobile phones! Eligible voters who skip voting for say more than three consecutive times should be penalized. For instance such voters should be refused certain government amenities like subsidy or loan eligibilities.

Just a few thoughts in a dream land, but who will bell the cat?

And going further deep, is democracy a perfect form of governance?

Isn’t Democracy a society where 51% steal the rights of 49% ?

or isn’t Democracy just the right to elect our own dictator ?

or like Mencken once said isn’t Democracy just a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance?

Are there any better alternatives available? or is democracy the best bet? Do we need more innovation in governance?