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Corruption

Print edition : Dec 31, 2010 T+T-

IN this season of scams, the scamsters are crawling out from the proverbial can of worms (Cover Story, December 17). But they have just a small part in the larger, insidious game plan of defrauding the nation.

The frauds have deprived the nation of revenue worth crores of rupees and the common man of millions of hectares of forest, tribal and urban land in addition to crushing him with the burden of manipulated prices of agricultural products and daily essentials.

Each scam has its patron saint, and the benefits accrue to him and his brood. These people are so effectively protected by the political, financial and media leverage they possess that long before anything can be done to them the scams fade from public memory.

CORRUPTION has become a way of life for most Indians an no file moves in most government offices unless hands are greased. Ratan Tata did the right thing in shelving his plan to launch a new airline a decade ago, after he refused to pay a huge bribe to the top honchos in the government.

But ordinary persons cannot afford to exercise such as option. If they do not bribe an official, they will have to visit offices several times in order to get a small job done. In fact, even those visits may not yield results. A political will is needed to implement anti-corruption laws.

THE 2G spectrum scam has shaken the nation, and the Prime Minister's 15-month silence on the issue is even more shocking and bodes ill for democracy.

Many politicians in the past managed to escape punitive action by taking advantage of antiquated laws and an ineffective system, so the Prime Minister should take action to protect the government's image. Also, given the sheer scale of the scam, the common man has a right to know the facts of the case.

THE UPA in its second innings has allowed the cancer of corruption to spread to all walks of life, paralysing the democratic system. India's politicians have become moral dwarfs and are responsible for making the taking of mamool a way of life. India's market index may be going up, but its integrity index is going down.

PRIME Minister Manmohan Singh is a good and honest man, but coalition politics compels him to keep corrupt men around him. Corruption is increasing in India but is not considered a big crime.

Some political leaders treat corruption charges like a badge of honour. Big scamsters should be awarded capital punishment or life sentences and their wealth should be confiscated. The authorities should investigate all those who live beyond their known sources of income.

S. Raghunatha Prabhu Alappuzha, KeralaPolitics as business

WITH the exception of a miniscule minority, the mindset of the common man is to amass material wealth by illegal means and acquire status in society (Cover Story, December 17). Politics was once considered a selfless service for the cause of the common man, but today for many politicians it is a business opportunity and a means to amass wealth and authority to take of care of corporate interests and not the aam aadmi.

In China, Premier Wen Jiabao has issued detailed guidelines specifying 52 practices that are considered unacceptable and vowed not to let corrupt people go unpunished or keep a penny out of their illicit gain. In Malaysia, attachment of immovable and movable property, including freezing of bank accounts, is the first step taken in cases related to economic offences. In India, no such mechanisms and methods are in force.

Suu Kyi

IT was foolish of the junta in Myanmar to think that it could stifle the spirit of democracy by imprisoning Aung San Suu Kyi (A New Democracy, December 17). It is commendable that even after spending 15 years under house arrest she has retained her composure and sense of humour.

Microfinance

IT is unfortunate that microfinance institutions (MFIs) have shown a lust for profit and ignored the social objective (A route to disaster, December 3) MFIs can try to be viable but not at the cost of the lives of borrowers.

Adarsh scam

THAT the Adarsh Housing Society flats were marked for Kargil War widows sounds ridiculous now (House of scandal, December 3). If the government were so generous to the personnel of the defence forces, there would not have been any dearth of aspirants for the defence jobs. The only people likely to be punished for this scandal are the defence officers involved. The bureaucrats will get new postings and the Ministers involved will be rotated from State to Centre like a game of musical chairs. Thus, the curtains will come down on the Adarsh scam, forever.

Holy' wars

THIS is apropos of the review of the book Children of Abraham at War (Divine' mandate, December 3). I am surprised at the conclusions drawn by the scholar-ambassador author. He justified the atheist concept that religion is the cause of all violence. As an impartial observer and an experienced diplomat, he should have clearly marked out who the wrongdoers, the guilty and the wronged were. The era of freedom movements is not over, and in fact, Muslims in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, and so on, are fighting for freedom from the yoke of neocolonialists. If their religion provides special impetus for them to fight back, it is their universally acknowledged right. And there can be no objection to their struggle.

Keep UID out of NREGA

THE undersigned demand that the plan to link the MGNREGA (Mahata Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) to aadhaar (UID, or Unique Identity number) be revoked immediately. This is an extremely dangerous move that threatens to cause havoc in the MGNREGA's fragile structure.

The Ministry of Rural Development has put out a tender (dated October 11, 2010) worth Rs.2,162 crore to engage service providers for the MGNREGA under a public private partnership model. The contract includes UIDAI compliant enrolment of job card holders under MGNREGA scheme, Recording... data in the field such as biometric attendance at worksite with GPS coordinates and updation of centralised MIS and similar measures.

Clearly, the Ministry intends to link the issue of new job cards to UID enrolment in the States. Job cards issued in 2006 are due to expire in 2011. Job cards are required to claim employment under the MGNREGA. If the issue of new job cards is linked to UID enrolment, there is a danger of creating a jam that would disrupt the programme. The process of job cards renewal, in any case a slow process, will be further slowed down. Many people are likely to be denied their entitlement to 100 days of work as they will be without a job card. Further, in spite of the hiring of service providers, the entire administrative machinery is likely to be diverted into capturing of biometrics or supervising service providers. The scale of MGNREGA works is bound to suffer. This would be a gross injustice to NREGA workers, who are already deprived of their basic entitlements.

The proposal of biometric attendance at the worksite with GPS coordinates is completely impractical many MGNREGA worksites are in remote areas with poor or no connectivity. Does that mean those worksites will close down?

We do welcome the use of technology provided that it enhances transparency, empowers labourers and is cost effective. Such technology has been used with success in Tamil Nadu. For instance, it combines SMS reports on daily attendance with random spot checks to curb the problem of fake muster roll entries. Localised use of biometrics, independent of UID, to speed up payments can be considered. Biometrics and UID are not the same. In Rajasthan, simpler measures have been put in place, such as transparency walls where all job card holders in the grama panchayat are listed along with days of work, allowing people to monitor implementation.

There are many problems in the implementation of the MGNREGA that need the urgent attention of the Ministry. These include the non-payment of minimum wages, delays in wage payments, insufficient scale of MGNREGA works, discrimination against Dalits and women, and so on.

We, therefore, demand that neither MGNREGA employment nor wage payments be linked to UID enrolment. Employment of 100 days under MGNREGA is the only universal entitlement that the rural poor enjoy. It should not be jeopardised by the introduction of disruptive technology under pressure from corporate and security lobbies.

Signatories:

Jean Drze (Honorary Professor, University of Allahabad);

Nikhil Dey, Aruna Roy and Shankar Singh (Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan);

R. Ramakumar (Associate Professor, Tata Institute for Social Sciences); and 98 others.