Monday, August 22, 2011

Lokpal Bill - An Allopathic Approach to Fighting Corruption

Lokpal Bill is more of an allopathic treatment with known and unknown side-effects. It seems to be directed at treating the symptoms of corruption that is overtly visible.

It rests on the assumption that we can police corruption. It rests on the assumption that corruption would reduce on a sustainable basis, if we persecute the guilty. It rests on an assumption that the Lok Pal himself and the Lokpal committee would be super-humans and would not get lured into corruption.

Although these assumptions are valid at a certain level in terms of inducing fear among the people who wields the power to do corruption as public servants, yet they are not an end in itself. We have to get inventive to arrive at sustainable solutions to curb corruption and more specifically to curb the need for corruption. There is no single solution and it wont happen in the short term. We have to arrive at a series of policies and strategies to be implemented in the next 50 years to curb the idea of corruption.

This blog post is an effort to point at some of the steps that should be taken to curb corruption. There may be many others that I am unable to think, but the idea is to have solutions that are human independent, and process dependent. A process oriented solution would stand strong even if the main proponent or the main committee decides to quit the program.

Each of the solutions that I am suggesting can become a paper for discussion. So I intend to keep it short.
  1. Who funds the political parties to fight elections? My first solution lies in this question. There should be a central pool of funds (tax money) that should fund the political parties and their election expenses. There should be a bill that defines the role of funding and restrictions put on political parties in using any kind of funds of their own. This solution will address the huge need for funds that political parties have to sustain their campaign and to sustain their dedicated party workers. I consider this need for funds as one of the primary reason for corruption.
  2. How many political parties today pay their taxes? There was a news item recently that highlighted over 300 registered political parties, which have never filed their tax returns. The Government should stress on reforming the control and accounting standards over political spending and donations. This would put restrain among the funding lobby in the political parties. The need for funds would also be lessened and additionally a proper accounting policy would put restraints on the collection of funds.
  3. Do we have a strong moral science subject in our primary and secondary syllabus? Primary education and then secondary education form our attitude and impressions about life. Not many schools, except for the few convent schools have any subject that teaches the kids about being a good citizen and a good human being. The Government should empanel acknowledged academicians to prepare a subject that is compulsory till the 10th standard. The subject would impart education about becoming a good human-being and a good citizen. It should also rationalize the need for it and why it is beneficial for everyone, the society and the country. This subject should cover the negative effects of corruption in personal and public life, and to the community in general. 
  4. Do we know how many house holds were raided for income tax irregularities in your city? It is important to have a deterrent strategy in place. We live in a society and have certain inherent fears that guide us. As part of the RTI strategy, we may have a system to present information in public forum about people who are investigated for corruption, or are convicted of corruption. Being present in such a list may become a big deterrent to being involved in corrupt practices.  
  5. Are all the Government services including the police force adequately paid? It is very critical and essential that Government should periodically review remuneration structures of all Government officials including sensitive departments like the police force. For instance, I have been given to understand that there are no adequate mediclaim policies that cover the police personnel and their families. In my experience, I think that our police forces including traffic police force have a very tough working life and they deserve to be paid well.
  6. Do we have enough reward and recognition programs in the Government offices? Do we have a recognition program if a particular flyover project is completed on time? Do we have a recognition program if a police officer does the maximum number of over-time shifts? I would not know how many such opportunities are there to reward and recognise people, but I do know that it works in terms of enhancing motivation and to continue to do good work.    
The moot point is that there are multiple ways to attack the root causes that create the need for corruption, and those that negates the conscious mind working against being corrupt. We can bring about 100 more such solutions if we organise a workshop of thinking minds.

The Lokpal Bill may become the deterrent, if it is drafted in the way Team Anna had drafted. The Lokpal bill which was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2011 was much weaker and it was not independent of the political class - Government and the Opposition. You may read the critical difference between the Lokpal Bill drafted by Team Anna and the Lokpal bill passed in the Lower house by clicking here.

Unless, the Lokpal bill is completely independent of the political class and the bureaucracy, it would serve no purpose, other than becoming one of the many existing machineries to fight corruption. Till I see the Jan Lokpal bill which is approved, my opinion is that the Lokpal Bill is an allopathic approach to fighting corruption. It is not addressing the root causes that define the mentality to get corrupt.


  1. Ameya Kapnadak on Facebook:
    Nicely written. Reflects some of my views:

  2. Anonymous7:45 PM

    well written, have to begin somewhere and don't agree on the 50 year time window. is it impossible to do in 500 days

  3. Some of things that I postulated of course can be done in 500 days, but most of the things are structural and therefore need a lot of gestation period till we fully realise the benefits.

    Thank you for the comment.


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