Efforts to dodge regulations and policies that characterized the now defunct ‘License Raj’ have rendered India susceptible to widespread corruption.
According to the EY Global Fraud Survey 2014, 68% of respondents agreed that bribery and corruption are rampant in Indian companies. The public interest in changing the status quo around corruption has increased significantly. The perception of inclusiveness from the government has been replaced by desire for direct involvement. Individuals are becoming assertive of their rights to monitor and are holding the elected candidates and the government accountable.
Fighting bribery and corruption has become a key priority for all. From the ‘India Shining Story’, there is a shift toward the ‘Ache Din Aane Wale Hain’ motto. A growing proactive populace, coupled by a digitally savvy government is encouraging advanced technology, building transparency and fueling positive economic growth. Recently, our Primer Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi enthralled the Indian diaspora at Madison Square to join his motto of ‘minimum government, maximum governance’. He encouraged the audience to embrace ‘a red carpet and not red tape’ approach to foster business growth in both countries. Prominent online initiatives like the Passport Seva Kendra, Motor Vehicle Department, E-seva center in Andhra Pradesh steer positive changes by the government to promote transparency and make India a corruption free country.
Stronger rules, greater transparency
The government has strengthened its regulatory and legal framework.
- The Lokpal Act and Right to Information Act are noteworthy laws implemented by the government, recently. The Lokpal Act, an anti-corruption law is making headway for all sectors, especially where cases of corruption and bribery are widespread.
- The Right to Information (RTI) Act is an empowering and effective anti-corruption tool which is being used to redress individual grievances, investigate policies and decisions and expose corruption and notify any misuse of resources.
Both these Acts are reference points for other nations who are fighting the bribery and corruption in their country.
The federal structure has also been giving powers to state and local authorities. States such as Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have proved that they can reduce corruption to a significant extent, and initiate programs that produce tangible benefits and services for people. These states have shown that the country’s leaders can work transparently to improve economic efficiency and growth.
Putting information technology to use
As a country, India has harnessed technology to enable transparency in the government procedures and systems. From digitized service-delivery to computerized administration, India has been using information & communication technology to redefine the government and taking ‘bureaucrats’ out of the picture. The railway booking system is a perfect example for this. This portal has eliminated the use of middlemen and reduced opportunities of bribery and corruption amongst travel agents.
Use of social media platforms has also been increased. The government has started interacted with public through these channels. Authorities are using websites to post names of offenders. The government has also approved the Digital India project worth INR 1 trillion. This project aims to increase e-governance and transform the country into a digitally empowered knowledge economy. There are indeed a number of initiatives that have been implemented to promote transparency and reduce bribery and corruption.
It is becoming increasingly evident that technology is an important enabler for effecting governance. The growth in the number of young, educated people augurs well for promoting a new set of ideas that might have appeared impossible or unconceivable a few years ago.
The long road ahead
Efforts made or under way are heartening indicators of a change and commitment from the government to tackle this quandary with greater urgency and determination. However, there is a dire need to acknowledge that the Government alone cannot address this challenge and legislation in isolation is not a panacea for the ecosystem. There is a need to include a wider set of stakeholders in formulating and deciding policy and laws.
Stakeholders across the entire gamut have an important role to play in ensuring that the benefits of better governance reach all citizens. The full potential of all these measures undertaken by the government can bear fruit only with the active engagement of all them. Given the optimism in the air, and the opportunities lying before us, there is no scepticism of seeing a new age of greater transparency for inclusive governance that will benefit everyone.
(The above post is the first in the series on how Government initiatives around digitization and e-Governance are fueling a stronger sentiment of anti-bribery and anti-corruption among the masses)