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Last Updated Friday April 28 2017 02:04 AM IST

Needed, a consensus on tackling graft

K Roy Paul
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Anti-corruption rally A scene from an anti-corruption march

Keralites of the older generation would certainly be remembering M.K.K. Nair, an exceptionally brilliant IAS officer. Modern Kochi owes much of its development to the great visionary.

As CMD of FACT, then the largest industrial undertaking in Kerala, he had a clear vision about the future of not only FACT but of the whole region and used all his resources and public relations abilities to encourage the people of Kochi to dream big. He did not live long enough to see all aspects of his vision becoming real but many of his dream projects did materialize in his lifetime.

Unfortunately the last few years of MKK Nair were tragic as he got dragged into a corruption case. He had to spend much of his hard earned money to fight these cases. His honourable acquittal came just a month before his death.

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Any person who takes decisions is bound to make some mistakes. Posterity would certainly judge some decisions as right and some others as wrong. It is, however, important to remember that all the wrong decisions are not taken with malafide intentions or for making wrongful gains.

Decisions taken with good intentions also can go wrong. Persecuting people who take decisions for some decision that went wrong and worshipping people who steadfastly refuse to take decisions in order to nurture an image of honesty can only produce administrative paralysis. Our TRP hungry electronic media that lap up baseless allegations demanding prosecution of persons in power without verifying facts can only create a polity that thrives on unproductive shouting that produces nothing but hot air.

In Delhi, the flood of corruption allegations that drowned the UPA Government and the multiple enquiries launched by a clueless CBI have created a sense of insecurity among senior officers and debilitated their decision making instincts. Officers have to look over their shoulders constantly as the spectre of the three “C”s, CBI, CVC and C&AG, looms large. It is always easy to sit in judgement with the benefit of hindsight and pronounce 'guilty' on the basis of an imaginary scenario of what could have been.

Taking decisions sitting in the hot seat on the basis of available information is not easy. What makes the situation worse is that the police officers who enquire into the allegations generally do not have any understanding of the intricacies of the factors to be taken into account before taking a decision on matters of economic policy. Modi Government has been talking of erecting a firewall to protect honest decision making, but little has been done so far in this regard.

While honest officers have been harassed and their families destroyed, rarely have political leaders been made to account for their corrupt activities.

I joined the Bihar cadre of IAS soon after the collapse of the first non-Congress government in that state.

The opposition parties, who had managed to sweep aside the Congress in the 1967 general elections on the wings of corruption allegations, set up an inquiry commission with Justice Iyer as chairman to look into these. Before Justice Iyer could complete his inquiry, the United Front Government was replaced by a ragtag minority government propped up by the Congress.

This new government set up another inquiry commission to look into the allegations of corruption levelled by the Congress against the United Front Government. Bihar had been placed under President’s Rule by the time the two inquiry reports were submitted and then the two reports were buried deep under the files in the Patna secretariat without any follow up. The experience of the two enquiry commissions opened the eyes of the political leaders to the reality that political corruption would never be punished in India and thereafter every succeeding government turned out to be more corrupt than its predecessor.

The Kerala scenario is no different. R. Balakrishna Pillai is the only political leader to have been convicted for corruption in Kerala until now. Not only was his jail term cut short by the government, but his son was made a minister and he himself was appointed chairman of a corporation with the rank of a minister. Why should any political leader hesitate to indulge in corruption in Kerala now? The picture of Achuthanandan embracing Balakrishna Pillai as soon as the latter walked out of the UDF exposed the hollowness of the former’s anti-corruption crusade.

We have only to look around us to see how politicians coming from economically poor background become multimillionaires overnight once they occupy positions of power. It will be difficult for them to account for the dramatic increase in their assets if all the properties accumulated by them, including benami, are unearthed. If the government that is going to rule Kerala for the next five years is serious about combating corruption, it should order a High Court monitored inquiry by an independent agency into the sources of assets of all those who have held official positions as ministers and chairmen/members of corporations/boards in the last ten years, thereby covering all the important leaders of both UDF and LDF.

The focus on corruption in the election manifesto of LDF is a step in the right direction. Apart from other things, the manifesto speaks of making vigilance an independent agency.

If we can ensure transparency in the selection of Lok Ayukta and place the investigating agency directly under the control of this institution, Kerala can become a model for the rest of India. The selection of Lok Ayukta should be preceded by a public hearing instead of a simple agreement between the ruling party and the opposition.

In the revamped set up, Lok Ayukta should be empowered to initiate enquiries about anyone in government without having to get government’s sanction and the government officers, police or civilian, once posted to this organization would be required to forgo the option of going back to the government at any point of time in future. The UDF and NDA should announce that this part of the LDF manifesto is acceptable to them too so that there could be a consensus on fighting corruption.

(The author is a former civil aviation secretary and former member, Union Public Service Commission. The views expressed are personal.)

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