Confronting Corruption

AIbEiAIAAABDCNHI9JDL38HrYSILdmNhcmRfcGhvdG8qKGRmZjM3Y2IyNGFiNzVkYTE5Y2QxOWM5YjVjZDg5YzZhODkzY2FhYmYwAeb12e_1DLWxFoaTlOyiwl7aGBdwThere has been enormous debate on the problem of corruption in India.  The concerns on the collusive nexus of business and politics and the extractive politico-bureaucratic nexus working on the exploitation of natural resources of the country have been well publicized by the media. The widespread daily harassment faced by the common man when dealing with government functionaries from police and municipal departments are of course well known but eluding a systemic solution.

I was recently watching an old TV program on Gurcharan Das’ book, ‘India Grows at Night’, and all the three participants (the author Gurcharan Das, Sanjeev Aga from the Industry and  Mayank  Gandhi from India Against Corruption) were pointing towards improving accountability to people, as the road ahead on this issue, and it got me thinking. We have an electoral democracy for setting policies and the 5-yearly elections system to enable people to review the policy setting performance of the politicians every 5 years . The same system is supposed to review the goodness of the policy enforcement process, as part of the performance of the politicians. However, the distance of the policy enforcing bureaucracy including the law enforcing police, is too far from the people because their accountability to people is indirect, through the state or central government in power.  The sheer size of the bureaucracy and its service conditions like periodic transfers, add to the sense of anonymity when evaluating its performance on implementation. Also, due to security of job in government service, there is nothing in the system that can rope in accountability of civil servants to the people, for the manner in which policies and laws are implemented on the ground.  So then is there a way to democratize ‘implementation’ in the way that works for ‘policy-setting’?

Obviously, in the Indian context, I will have to delink the ballot based electoral process (though such systems for direct elections of mayors, who can appoint police chiefs (USA), and direct election of police chiefs (UK) exist in some countries) from solutions for bettering ‘poIicy implementation’. And I logically come back to my earlier panacea for many ills, viz. iterative Crime Victimization Surveys, which, I believe,  are a democratic tool for making the peoples’ feedback of the realities they face to work on police attitudes and professionalism. Every such survey can work as a baseline for initiating incremental changes in the working of a police station. And every next survey makes known the improving or deteriorating public satisfaction on the incremental changes in ‘implementation’.

Institution wide steps like increasing the computerization of processes, or use of technology like cctv cameras to monitor road junctions, all finally leading to more transparency and efficiency of policing performance, and any other initiative, especially local level initiatives, which could be something as simple as a useful liaison with civic authorities to improve the state of lighting in an isolated area, will improve service delivery at the bottom of the  system i.e. the police station. Since corruption thrives due to lack of any value to the system from peoples’ opinion on the effectiveness or otherwise of service delivery, increasing the accountability to the people at the absolute baseline of policy implementation in law enforcement, i.e. the police station, will surely have a systemic impact on corruption.


4 thoughts on “Confronting Corruption

  1. Delinking ballot based electoral process and having direct local elections instead is a pipe dream because it will involve major constitutional reforms. No one wants it either. We keep paying lip service to eradicating corruption, our culture of sycophancy, introducing accountability and transparency in the working of the government and so on. Caste politics dominate our thinking when we go to vote, when we look for marriage alliances for our children, when we want to bond with friends, almost always, yes! How can we think of minimizing corruption in isolation, without these myriad factors coming into play? Can a physician confront cancer by looking only at the affected organ? It is time to stop talking and start with small steps at micro levels? – S S Vaidyanathan


  2. eradication corruption is a herculean task.. actually an impossible task, given human nature. no politician be he/ she of any political party will allow any law which decreases corruption. on this, they stand united!
    Accountability would be the answer, but then, accountable to whom? Who are they answerable to? when the roads of mumbai are pothole ridden and cause loss of life and limb, who is held accountable? the contractors? the bureaucrats? the politicians? they have all had a hand in that pie..
    when rural farmers are denied loans because they do not cough up the required ‘cut’ who is accountable?
    the only ray of light in this grim scenario is the RTI… where a common man can ask questions and get some answers… of course he needs guts and tenacity to follow up on those answers…


    1. Dear Shri Vaidyanathan Sir and Naseem,
      Yes, evolving workable solutions to fight corruption seems a difficult task – since its a problem with many linkages to our cultural make-up as well as to the fallouts of globalization through its access to money. However, my point was that we should start looking for solutions from the point of view of the affected, instead of from moralistic expectations. From that end, it is important to make the common man count to the ‘implementation’ hierarchy. And that was where, for police, the Crime Victimization Survey idea could work to produce the desired tilt towards the common man’s problems.


      1. Elected crime commissioners are no success even in uk and many police chiefs have expressed grave dissatisfaction over their working. We have to remember that only 7% residents took part in their election. I agree that independent crime victimisationn surveys should be adopted to know the ground realties like british crime survey. Alongwith,integrity surveys and integrity tests should come into play like new york police. Needless to say that our internal vigilance mechanism is miles behind so as to tackle the rot. At the police station level the culture of gross concealment and minimisation of crime, wilful wrong detection, taking sides and misbehaviour with common man are only the byproduct of corruption prevailing within and leadership can not absolve itself so easily. The only way out is strengtheniing accountability processes so that the units could be tested against well defined lines of performance like level of fear of crime, rate of public approval and various other performance indicators.—V K Singh IPS-UP-1977


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