Wednesday 16th Jan 2019
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Corruption in High-ups Takes Centre-stage

Cover Story

MOHAMMAD NAUSHAD KHAN comments on the cases of corruption in high-ups in both India and Pakistan and suggests how this ever-rising menace can be contained.

Corruption has hit the headlines more or less in equal proportion in both India and Pakistan. It has penetrated deep into the system and has also touched the highest political strata in both countries. It is a matter of grave concern for common man, and calls for immediate attention with firm strategy in order to wipe out this menace at all levels.

Recently, both India and Pakistan plunged into political turmoil on the issue of corruption when Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in a corruption case and former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, his son Ajay and 53 others were sent to jail for teacher recruitment scam. Raja Pervez Ashraf, who was named prime minister after exit of Yusuf Raza Gilani last year, has been accused of receiving kickbacks and commission in two power plants as minister of water and power during 2008 and 2011. Pakistan Supreme Court in its order has asked the National Accountability Bureau to arrest Ashraf and 15 other higher officials in corruption cases. The court in 2012 had ruled that the power plants were illegal and had ordered its closure. The court had also at that point of time initiated proceedings against Ashraf.

Many believe that the Supreme Court ruling in Pakistan is bound to flare up the already volatile relationship between court and the government, which has remained at loggerheads on many issues in recent past. It may further push the country to yet another political turmoil. Presently, Pakistan establishment is facing problems on many fronts and is reacting cautiously. Notably, the order came when Pakistan’s scholar Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri was addressing large gatherings outside parliament, demanding removal of the present government.

National Lok Dal president and former Haryana chief minster Om Prakash Chautala, his son Ajay Chautala and 53 others were convicted by a special CBI court for illegal selection of over 3,000 teachers by replacing the original list with a fake list. The recruitment drive was initiated to fulfil the shortage of teachers in the state and accordingly 3,206 seats were created and advertised for the purpose in 18 districts of the state. The episode came into picture for the first time when Sanjiv Kumar, the then Director of Primary Education approached the Apex court with a writ petition in 2003 alleging that he was pressurised by Om Prakash Chautala to replace the original list with a fake one.

In India the issue of corruption has certainly touched the nerve of the people. At one point of time it was thought that the issue will be remembered as an uprising in India on the lines of uprising in Arab world. Anti-corruption crusaders like Anna Hazare and his team members certainly made it an issue of national importance and on many occasions forced the government and the policy makers to come to terms on the negotiating table and to great extent they were able to make the people of India realise that it has to be dealt with on war footing. But they too failed strategically rather miserably and lost the direction midway. It did provide the political leaders to play with the issue and prove their point that the crusaders were protesting or agitating with something in their conscious mind and that was to make their presence felt in political sphere in Indian polity. Even if they had some political motives in their stores, at least they were able to make corruption an important issue for one and all at different levels.  

In India, the Supreme Court has acted firmly on issues pertaining to corruption at all levels irrespective of what position he or she holds in political and industrial sphere. Response and in time direction of the Supreme Court in 2G cases or corruption of such magnitude has been exemplary. The court has on many occasions even directed the government at the state level or at the centre to act tough in cases of corruption promptly. No doubt, the arrest of political leaders in recent times and various important personalities from the business industry has sent a tough message and is believed to act as a deterrent in the near future.

It is generally believed that there is no department that is termed corruption-free or where no scam ever took place. The lists of scams are growing by the day. Corruption over the years has affected each and everyone but its magnitude has increased manifold and acquired the space from bottom to top in various fields.

India’s effort in tackling corruption as per Transparency International’s Corruption Perception has not improved because this year India has been placed at 94th rank among 176 nations. India’s position was at 95 last year. In 2007 India’s rank was 72 in 180 countries and from then onwards India’s ranking has been on a declining trend. Notably this year India is ranked even below the countries like Sri Lanka and China.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi while speaking at Congress Chintan Shivir in Jaipur said that people are fed up with the level of corruption they see in day to day life at high levels and also with the level of corruption they come across in their daily lives. Recently, former chief vigilance commissioner Pratyush Sinha, while speaking at a programme organised by the Federation of AP Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FAPCCI) in association with the Hyderabad Management Association in Hyderabad, said that corruption is socially acceptable in India as a large number of Indian families bribe officials for easy access to basic services. He further said nearly 30 per cent Indians are totally corrupt, 50 per cent are on the borderline while only 20 per cent Indians can be said to be honest. But one fails to fathom how he could ascertain these percentages with certainty.

In past several years, corruption was exposed in high places and scams like Common Wealth Games and 2G scams exceeded all boundaries. The Lokpal and the Lokayukta can serve the purpose to some extent but not entirely as is required to be. Like all other problems, corruption too cannot be wiped out from the system unless and until people’s behaviour towards this issue changes meaningfully. CAG and other constitutional institutions are in fact playing an important role to contain corruption or to force people to think twice even at higher levels before thinking to do wrong or indulging in any corrupt practices. The only thing that can ensure meaningful change in the behaviour of people is the strong sense of accountability in the hereafter. It is this sense that can serve as the most effective deterrent in containing rather wiping out not only corruption in high-ups but also all other crimes and evils. Hence what social scientists and policy makers need to do at this critical juncture is to think how this strong sense of accountability in the hereafter can be inculcated in the large segments of masses.

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