- Corruption directly vitiates the relationship of the citizen with the state.
- Post-Independence, measures to remove corruption assumed great significance in India as the state evolved.
- A major financial irregularity in a public sector company in 1957 triggered a debate in Parliament and led to the formation of a committee on the prevention of corruption, popularly called the Santhanam Committee with member of Parliament K Santhanam as chair.
- In its report, the committee observed that corruption stemmed from a few broad categories. One, administrative delays; two, government arrogating to itself more than what it could handle by way of regulatory functions; three, the scope for individual discretion in the exercise of powers vested in state officials; and finally, cumbersome procedures to deal with issues that impact citizens on a day-to-day basis.
- The committee also recognised that “it is also essential to evolve or apply common standard in matters relating to prosecution, departmental action and the award of punishment” and felt “that the time has come to put the entire Vigilance Organisation on a proper and adequate basis.
- Accordingly, it recommended the creation of the institution of Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to oversee and monitor vigilance administration of various central government organisations.
Framework to fight graft.
- GoI accepted the recommendation and notified in a resolution dated February 11, 1964, the creation of CVC, the first step towards establishing an effective vigilance administration mechanism for the country.
- Statutory status was conferred on the commission through the Central Vigilance Commission Act of 2003.
- India’s federal constitutional structure ensures central and state governments have well-defined division of powers, functions and authority. Lokayukta, state vigilance commissions, anti-corruption bureaus are some state-level agencies to combat graft.
- At the Centre, CVC aside, the Central Bureau of Investigation, Enforcement Directorate, Serious Fraud Investigation Office, Comptroller and Auditor General and Lokpal are mandated to nurture accountability and probity in public life.
Using tech to curb corruption
- Corruption primarily involves selfish exercise of powers, which operates in shadows, aided by opaque systems.
- Transparency is key to breaking this shadowy nexus and forms the basis for effective vigilance mechanism.
- Since transparency and accountability in governance systems significantly reduce corruption in public life, the commission has shifted focus to preventive aspects of vigilance administration.
- Simplification of processes, identifying and implementing systemic improvement measures and removing discretionary powers, alongside transparency in service delivery mechanisms, are key preventive vigilance measures the commission emphasises.
- Increased use of technology in the online railway ticket reservation system, online processing and payment of income tax refunds, online payment of property tax is among initiatives that have led to increased transparency and a reduction in the scope for discretion at the individual level.
- Citizens’ participation is essential
- Combating corruption is not merely a matter of making laws and creating institutions but is deeply rooted in human values and individual morals.
- The fight against corruption cannot be won without citizens’ support, participation and their active vigilance.
- Public participation is therefore essential to promote good governance and integrity, and to control corruption.
- To ensure public participation, the commission has developed a complaint management system and a separate whistle blower mechanism for grievances against public servants.
- Complaints can be lodged on a portal (portal. cvc. gov. in) or in written communication.
- Naturally, the commission guarantees the complainant’s identity remains confidential via the whistle blower mechanism (Public Interest Disclosure and Protection of Informers Resolution).
To promote the idea of probity in public life, an integrity pledge has been designed for citizens and organisations.
- Here, citizens commit to uphold highest standards of probity and rule of law in all walks of life.
- A vigilance awareness week, held every year since 2000, provides opportunity for the public to help eliminate corruption.
- The G20 anti-corruption working group formed in 2010 has focussed on integrity and transparency in public and private sectors, capacity building, collections of best practices, and development and implementation of national anti-graft strategies.
- Through information and communications technologies, it has promoted public sector integrity.
- Given the focus areas, India’s framework to fight corruption is in sync with global practices.
SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB