Crisis of Credibility

Himanshu Shekhar

Despite a number of schemes meant for betterment of weaker section, the ground realities are painting a bleak picture. The failure of delivery mechanism can be attributed to the corrupt system, which is undermining the faith in democracy. In fact, the culprit named corruption is creating the crisis of credibility in the prevailing establishment. Today, a common man, who is struggling to fulfill his needs, is of the view than nothing can change through his so called electoral power. In that case, he is loosing his faith in the system. However, we love to claim that India is the largest democracy of the world. In spite of that a common citizen of the country is taking it as an insulting joke because he feels the system is working in the favour of the elite class in the name of common people.

It’s needless to say that the system in which we are living today is driven by corruption. In fact, corruption is working as a lubricant to get things done in a certain period. This is forcing few great economists to advocate for its legalization. A section of society, which is the beneficiary of corrupt practices, is going to an extent of condoning the act of corruption. It seems that they are disparaging the common feeling which is flowing in every far-flung area of the country. However, our politicians equivocate on the issue of corruption. On the one hand, they always try to oppose corruption, but on the other they ensure that no strong bill against corrupt practices should pass through parliament, the so called temple of democracy. The country has witnessed the mockery of parliamentary proceedings on the issue of Janlokpal a couple of weeks back.

According to 2010 Global Corruption Barometer, a global public opinion survey of more than 91,500 people in 86 countries on the state and status of corruption in various services in different countries by Transparency International (TI), Political Parties are perceived to be the most corrupt institution by the Indians. Police and Parliament/Legislature were rated by about 97 percent of respondents as the most corrupt institutions in the country. Other institutions that were termed corrupt include the Public Officials/Civil Servants, the private sector, media and the judiciary. It is pertinent to mention that these sectors are at the core of the current system and citizens are of the view that the magnitude of the corruption is increasing by the passing of time.

The report cites, nearly three-fourths of the respondents opined that the level of corruption in India has increased in the past three years. Similarly, three-fourths of the people sampled felt that the government has not been effective in addressing corruption in the country. It clearly indicates, the faith in the political system created by electoral process is blurred. The survey indicated that the perception of government effectiveness in relation to addressing corruption has not improved from 2007. 74 percent of the respondents feel that the level of corruption in the past three years has increased. On a scale of 5, one means ‘Not at All’ corrupt and five means ‘Extremely Corrupt’, Political Parties scored 4.2, followed by Police (4.1) and Parliament/ Legislature (4.0). The corruption score in other sectors vary between 3.4 and 2.8. The 2010 Barometer shows that the common man mostly contacts public utilities (31.6%), followed by Education (24.1%) and Medical Services (20.9%) during the last 12 months. During their interactions, they paid a bribe. Its frequency is, however, maximum (63.8%) in Police, followed by Land Services (62.5%), Registry/Permit Services (61.4%), Tax Revenue (50.6%) and the Judiciary (44.8%). Such a state of affairs affects the poorest vis-à-vis high income respondents by petty bribe demands.

The above findings seem to be genuine in view of the current repeated exposure of corruption cases in the country. TI defines corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. This definition encompasses corrupt practices in both the public and private sectors. When new economic policies were introduced by the then Finance Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in 1991, it was promised that the entry and emergence of private sector is going to cure all illness related to corruption. But, the matter of fact is that the emergence and strengthening of private sector did nothing but institutionalized the corrupt practices. It nurtured and cultivated the nexus of policymakers, corporate and criminals. This very nexus is working to for personal gain in the name of social welfare and economic development.

The unholy nexus is indulged in the loot of natural resources and policymakers are defending this in the name of increasing GDP numbers. The Planning Commission has targeted a trillion dollar investment in infrastructure over the 12th Five-year Plan. At least half the investments are expected from the private sector, with public-private-partnerships (PPPs) forming a major share. It is evident that most of the infrastructure projects involve some form of public resources.

It’s a well known fact that the private developers are given valuable lands for development of ports, airports, power projects, IT companies, industrial zones, and commercial real estate. The government has surrendered airwaves and airline routes to telecom operators and airlines, respectively. Power companies are allotted coal blocks and mining leases are executed in favour of private mining firms. Our policymakers are in the process of transferring the management of existing and newly created community assets such as civic utilities such as water, sewerage, electricity distribution, municipal waste management etc. to private players through concession agreements.

It’s not a hidden fact that these transfers and allocations lack fairness and transparency. However, officials involved in these process love to claim that they are doing all these things fairly and the whole process in free of corruption. But, the country has witnessed the loot of iron ore in Karnataka. We all are aware with the issue of POSCO in Orissa. In a recent report, it was mentioned that the mining companies of Goa are paying just Rs. 10-12 for a tone of iron ore instead of prescribed price of Rs. 250 a tone. These companies are getting this kind of heavy relief on certain logics and no one is raising any question over the open loot of the natural resources.

Is not it a need of time to ensure that public resources are transferred only at a fair value? In this context, a proper mechanism needs to be developed with the pre-condition of fairness and transparency. It must be strictly mandated that all public resource allotments—made by central, state and local governments—be done only after a competitive bidding process that allows governments to realize the full value of those resources. The respective departments should prepare the modalities and process of resource allotments. Otherwise, the loot of natural resources is going to persist and this will fuel the pessimism of a common citizen of India.

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