Calcutta Notebook


The government system provides so many opportunities for corruption that only rarely can an official remain honest. The challenge before the Aam Admi Party (AAP) therefore, is to reform the system. Trapping individual cases of corruption will not go far since one hundred corrupt officials will go unnoticed for every official who is trapped.

Voters are also increasingly becoming conscious and more numbers of activists are willing to take on the corrupt. The way forward, therefore, is to set up systems that enable the voters to scrutinize the workings of the Government and raise hue and cry when corruption takes place. AAP should put in place systems that provide information to the voters such that the corrupt ways of the coterie is exposed.

The mischief begins with the appointment of corrupt officials to powerful positions. It must be made mandatory to place complete records of all appointments and promotions on the web. The information may consist of resume of all candidates; names of in-house officials who were eligible but did not apply; names of the members of the Committee that scrutinized the applications and made selection; copy of the ranking sheet in which tells the numbers allotted to all candidates on various criterion; etc. The selection should be followed by a period of 15 days in which the records of the selection process are placed on the website and comments invited from the public. The Committee should sit again, scrutinize the comments received and give its response to the same. Indeed the politicians can override the inputs but this will reflect badly on their "image", therefore, there will be less chance of a corrupt person being appointed to high position. Remember, those who are not selected will scrutinize these documents in detail and inform the public.

The Fifth Pay Commission had recommended that external evaluation of the work of Class "A" officials should be got done every five years. Need is to go a step farther. The performance of the officials should be evaluated by the public. The teachers at the IIM were evaluated by the students at the end of the semester. Government officials must similarly be evaluated by the consumers. A "Government Officials' Evaluation Organization" should be established along the lines of Central Vigilance Commission. This organization should secretly evaluate the performance of the Class "A" officials by conducting surveys, sending confidential questionnaires to "consumers" of that service. For example, questionnaires can be sent by post to 1000 consumers of electricity in a Electricity Distribution Division seeking their comments on the performance of the Executive and Superintending Engineers. The responses will certainly identify the corrupt. Results of the survey should be put on the website.

The importance of corruption in the appointment process is brought out by an example. Santosh Mamgain of Society for Revolution Against Corruption had filed an RTI request for providing information regarding the selection process for appointments to the National Institute of Technology, Uttarakhand. He sent an RTI request to provide (1) Number of marks obtained by each candidate in written test; (2) Ranking of candidates as per written test; (3) Numbers secured in interview by the candidates; and (4) Final ranking according to which the selection was made. NIT refused to provide the information. Central Information Commission confirmed the order of NIT. Now the matter is before the High Court. The fact that authorities refuse to provide information about the selection process tells of the fear of public scrutiny. This problem can be managed by making a law requiring such disclosure; and more, importantly, soliciting people's input on the candidates.

The same approach should be applied to all tenders especially those involving sale of land. All the applications, evaluations, rankings and basis of selection should be thrown open to public scrutiny. Such disclosure will enable the public to raise hue and cry on the adoption of corrupt practices. The NOIDA authority has reduced the threshold for e-tendering from Rs 2 crore to Rs 50 lac as a reaction to the Yadav Singh episode. Why not every tender be got done through e-tendering?

There is a provision in the Central Services Rules that every Government Servant has to disclose the property purchased. They also have to give a statement of assets in a sealed cover that is kept in sealed condition. It is opened if a complaint of corruption arises. In truth that most officials do not comply with this requirement. The way forward is to make such annual declaration mandatory and to place it on the web for public scrutiny. The scope of this disclosure should be extended to the immediate family.

The idea that government servants are entitled to "natural justice" needs to be revisited. Yudhistira was selected as yuvarja because he meted out progressively higher punishment to the Sudra, Vaisya, Kshatriya and Brahmin with the higher Varna getting higher punishment for their crime. The Varna should here be understood not in terms of birth but in terms of guna or differences in psychological predispositions or swabhava. The Indian constitution, on the other hand, provides equal punishment to the rich and the poor. The result is that the rich are maltreating the poor with impunity. The Government servants have become protectors of their own rights instead of the rights of the people. This is a logical result of everyone having the right to demand his natural rights even if he does not discharge his duties.

In an article titled "Corruption and Probity," Leslie Palmier explains: The security of employment awarded to the Indian civil servants "has been greatly increased by court rulings that their treatment must conform to the norms of natural justice. As a result, a civil servant was able to protract for a very long time any proceedings against him. The Committee on Prevention of Corruption in its 1964 report declared that, It was distressing to hear Heads of Departments confess that even when they were morally convinced that one of the officials working under them was corrupt, they were unable to do anything because of the difficulties in obtaining formal proof, finding, or conviction."

Corruption cannot be controlled by trapping corrupt officers one by one.. The way forward is to restrict the ambit of privacy of government servents and place all papers relating to their appointment, promotion, performance and wealth on the web so that they are subjected to true public scrutiny.

Vol. 47, No. 35, Mar 8 - 14, 2015