CONTRIBUTED BY N. VITTAL, IAS(RETD), FORMER CENTRAL VIGILANCE COMMISSIONER FOR VIGILANCE AWARENESS WEEK 2017

My vision of a corruption free India is an India where the following conditions prevail:

1.No corruption of any of the three kinds namely intellectual, financial and moral in the functioning of the governments at the central government level and its organizations and also other formations like the States right down to the Panchayat level.

 2.Good governance.  Good governance, as I see it, must provide for the following:

•Rule of law, as visualized by Article 14 of the Constitution, equality before the  law and equal protection of law for all citizens of the country;

•Every human being has some talent and some potential.  Good governance  must ensure that an environment is created where every individual  citizen can rise to his or her  full potential and not only enjoy the satisfaction of being creative but also contribute to the overall happiness and development of society;

•There should be transparency in every aspect of functioning of government at level without compromising the security of the nation or compromising the privacy of the individual as clarified by the Supreme Court.

•There should be adherence to the principle of ethics or more accurately sanatana dharma which is the unique aspect of our Bharatia sanskriti.

• Sanatana Dharma includes an approach of looking at the entire world as one single family results in  respect for the dignity of every one as  a human being.

The vision of India as articulated by the Modi sarkar in my view is the best vision one can have for achieving this goal. This is also my vision.

As Central Vigilance Commissioner, way back in 2000, I was associated with launching the concept of observing a Vigilance Awareness Week ideally on the birthday of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on 31st October.  

The date in itself sends a lot of powerful positive signals.  Sardar Vallabhabhai Patel was a great visionary leader who stood for integrity of India in all its senses.

At an elementary physical level of integrity of India as Nation, his contribution, in a less than a year and a half, of uniting the three major areas of governance which we inherited from the colonial masters, namely, British India, the nearly 600 and odd native states as well as the tribal areas in the North East and Northwest frontier is unique in the history of emergence of nations.  There was a time when along with being known as the ‘Iron man of India’ he was also known as Bismarck of India.  Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor united much smaller countries in Germany and to achieve this, he had to resort to war in 1870 with France.  On the other hand, Sardar Patel realized his objective without resorting to war.  He resorted to only what he called "police action" for tackling the potentially dangerous stand taken by the Nizam of Hyderabad who opted to unite with Pakistan.  The earlier problem was Junagarh was also tackled in a peaceful democratic manner by mobilizing the aspirations of the people for self governance. 

In the sense of ensuring India as an integrated modern nation, it was Sardar Patel who had the vision to realize that the talent, experience and constituents of the steel frame of India, the Civil Services must be fully utilized .It  was his appeal to the remaining  ICS and IP officers in India at the time of independence in 1947  and  the vision he had of a free ,well governed and self governing India that ensured that the nation remained united and was  able to  tackle  a series of major problems like  the  horrible Hindu Muslim riots leading to mass migration of millions if refugees at the time of independence , the implementation of the partition plan and the attempt of Pakistan to grab the Kashmir Valley aiding the tribal raiders from the North West  frontier who descended in the Kashmir valley.

In yet another sense, he stood for ethical integrity in terms of all the three dimensions of integrity, namely, financial, intellectual and moral.  It is therefore, natural that 31st October was chosen by the CVC to launch the first Vigilance Awareness Week in 2000.  I am happy that  the observance of Vigilance Awareness Week since then, has  a  well established practice and more important, the issue of corruption has figured prominently in the democratic discourse of the country and especially in politics at the time of elections.  

The theme for this year being ‘Corruption free India’, I would like to highlight the following aspects which make me look optimistically towards the future that the policy initiatives by our visionary Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government will definitely ensure that the corruption free India does not merely remain a dream but become  a practical reality.

The most important aspect of Modi sarkar is its tremendous emphasis on transparency by invoking the full potential of today’s digital technology.  After all, sunlight is the best disinfectant.  Corruption breeds when there is delay and lack of transparency.  Information technology inherently is designed for good governance because speed and capacity for massive processing of data and instant retrieval are some of the special features of this technology which is becoming stronger and more ubiquitous day by day. 

 Shri  Narendra Modi  has displayed remarkable pragmatic idealism from day one  of his term as the PM.  When he took over as the Prime Minister in 2014, one of the earliest decisions he took was to make a U turn and give a push to Aadhar as the basic technology for establishing the identity of all people resident in India.  This was a great step to benefit the poorest of the poor like the poor from Bihar, and UP  who have no option  to migrate to other states  where they get the jobs which require harsh physical labour shunned by the locals, like harvesting or construction industry or mining.   Modi's  courage to make a U turn that too  within a week of  time of taking over was  his indeed a stunning demonstration of his political will, honesty of  purpose [niyat] and ability to walk his talk .

The extensive use of information technology and many other projects of the Modi sarkar like Make in India, Digital India Swatch Bharat and so on are only articulation or extension of the concept of transparency and improved service to the public which goes with good governance. 

At the same time, this is also a great disincentive and a great structural modification to check the growth of corruption by way of false or unauthorized documents in the many functions of the government.  

Aadhar has become a powerful tool and it can plug corruption and leakage of public money in many of the schemes.  The opposition to Aadhar came from vested interests invoking the holy principle of protection of privacy of the citizens.  Fortunately, the Supreme Court has also come up with clear directions about privacy.  Thanks to the Supreme Court, we can hope that Aadhar as visualized by the visionary technocrat Nandan Nilenkeni will turn out to be the unique achievement of India in the world in   harnessing information technology for good governance and a massive step against corruption.

Black money is the money on which tax is not paid.  It remains in the form of cash.   It doesn’t mean that all cash transactions are black money transactions.  It is also a fact that majority of people especially in the rural areas use cash in their day to day transactions.

Most importantly, in the unorganized sector, which provides perhaps maximum number of employment, most of the transactions are on the basis of cash transactions. 

Demonetisation was a surgical strike on the black money  It was a massive blow at the currency stock  of  the black money in the system, i.e. the money generated through illegal transactions and which was used essentially for many anti national activities like funding, terrorism, smuggling and so on.  Two earlier attempts of demonitisation have failed and the attempt of demonitisation by the current government has been a great success. 

Many pragmatic captains of industry have appreciated this aspect.  For example, Jamie Dimon, Chairman JP Morgan Chase in an exclusive interview in the Economic Times dated 26th September 2017 has said, “Demonetisation was a bold thing to do.  Most countries have not done it, because they are afraid of that”.  The ET head line reads, “Dimon gave a big thumps up to demonetisation” 

Ultimately, black money is called" black" because it is hidden from the tax authorities.  Blaming demonetisation saying that it had virtually destroyed the unorganized sector and it has been harsh for poor [including the tragedy of more than 100 have been dying apparently waiting in the queue for exchanging the demonetized currency] is totally wrong. As the perceptive commentator S. Gurumurthy in couple of articles in the New Indian Express in September 2017 highlighted the process of demonetisation has saved the nation from a potential serious economic crisis on the monetary front.

What is more, the action of Modi sarkar on the issue of demonetisation has highlighted the fact that it has the gumption to the myth that what is good economics is bad politics and vice versa in democracy.  Our political experience post independence has upheld this myth.  Shri P.V.Nadrasimha Rao being exhibit A.

Indian experience overall is that what is economically correct is politically disastrous, especially when it comes to elections.  That is why Mr. Dimon talked about the boldness of the Modi sarkar in going for demonitisation.  So apart from the capacity to make a U turn in policy if necessary as in the case of Aadhar or from a bold decision like demonitisation, Modi sarkar has shown that they have the political will to take unpopular decision which will be in the long term interest of the nation, clean intentions and determination to usher a corruption free India. 

Finally, there is the element of ethics and ensuring that sanatana dharma which is very unique for our Bharatia sanskriti pervades all decision making in the government.  The Prime Minister and his party have clarified that that is their policy.  They are proud to be called nationalist and invoke the vision and inspiration of Mother India.  We can therefore, look forward confidently to a corruption free India with good governance in the years to come.

The views mentioned so far can be taken as a presentation from the top of the hierarchy, of a bureaucrat who had been connected with the government for 42 years of active service. In other words, a bird’s eye view.  This has to be supplemented with what I would call worm’s eye view.  What exactly is the process of change at that level and which can be called as ground realities?

Ultimately, human nature being the same, how can we expect that a whole governmental system managed by corrupt bureaucrats will reconcile itself to the changed regime of the right nationalists themselves and play a part in building a clean India?

The simple answer is ‘no’.  That is why, we should look into the dynamics of how the change takes place in any organization including a nation.  The series of decisions taken especially involving the infrastructure for transparency, the empowerment of people, the speeding up the process of fixing responsibility and punishment and finally the continuing exercise for finding right people to man the right jobs through these measures will have their impact over a period of time.

This certainly will not happen overnight.  The transformation from a situation where you presume that every bureaucrat is corrupt to a situation where you find that corruption is an exception rather than a rule become over a period of time only.  But, the experience of the human kind is that people adjust to the type governance and the type of ruler they have ‘yatha rajaj thatha praja’.  Modi sarkar’s track record so far which have witnessed so far, makes me to feel that the possibility of the dynamic change taking place on the lines indicated above is very high.  Hence  my optimism.

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