International Anti-Corruption Day – Way Ahead for India

This may come as a surprise to some that today it is “International Anti-Corruption Day.” With the prevailing corruption across the world, now the status of society is so pathetic that we need to have a day remind us to follow ethical practices.

One of India’s biggest problems is the high-level corruption in the society.  The Corruption Perception Index 2010 issued by Transparency International ranked India 87th of the 178 countries listed. The score is 3.3 which comes under highly corrupt countries. The problem is systemic and government alone cannot address it. The Indian public, business and government have equally important roles to play to remove corruption in India. Expecting one sector to hold the bastion while others bring it down will not help India get rid of this disease. Each person can take a few steps to remove corruption. Below are ideas for eradicating corruption in India.

1. Society : Build a morally conscious society

In India, corruption is at grass root level. Each member of the society is either paying or accepting bribes. The bribes are normally paid and received for doing regular work, not out of turn favors. . People pay bribes for fulfilling day-to-day needs. A citizen may need to pay a bribe for a water or electricity connection or school admission for their 4-year-old child. This clearly indicates that the malice is ruining the society. Indians have developed an attitude “chalta hai” or “what to do, it happens”. This level of apathy dangerously destroys the moral conscience of the society. As such, all citizens need to pull their weight and do their bit to improve the society. Here are some actions that everyone can commit to:

  • Continuously educate children and adults on morals and ethics. Developing a moral conscience is equally important as staying physically fit and mentally agile.
  • Refuse to pay bribes or accept bribes for any jobs. Report on people who are asking for bribes in various forums to damage their reputations and expose their wrong doings.
  • Support the people who are raising their voice against crime and corruption. Do not stay silent as in such cases silence amounts to supporting the crime.
  • Pay personal taxes and fulfill all your legal obligations. Do not beef up your expense recovery statements or fudge your business accounts to pay fewer taxes.
  • Last but not least, understand the true meaning of your religious texts. All religions preach about leading an ethical and moral life. Practice the wisdom given in the religious texts instead of just following rituals.

2. Government : Clean up the government

The spate of recent scams have exposed the high-level corruption in government. The public is disillusioned with the government. Politicians and senior bureaucrats have grabbed headlines for the wrong reasons. Military, judiciary, police and media have come in the limelight for following unethical practices. India to transition from a developing country to a global economic super power needs to clean up the corruption in government departments. A few suggestions for removing corruption at government level are:

  • Issue and implement whistleblower act for protecting whistleblowers. As seen last year, eleven whistleblowers lost their life for following a high moral ground. The police failed to protect them even when orders were given for 24-hour surveillance and security. Considering the events Indian cabinet cleared a bill to protect whistleblowers. The proposed legislation – “Public Interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making The Disclosure Bill, 2010” authorizes Central Vigilance Commission to punish those who disclose whistleblower’s identity. However, this is insufficient and stricter norms should be implemented to protect whistleblowers who disclose information of government and private companies’ wrong doings.
  • Issue and implement a prevention of bribery act which encompasses government, public sector and private sector. The Prevention of Corruption Act is not applicable to private sector, hence this allows corrupt officials to transfer bribe money in private enterprises.
  • Reduce corruption in judiciary and law enforcement agencies. Ensure that those suspected of involvement in corrupt dealings receive a swift fair trail. Presently, these cases drag for over a decade while the officer continues to receive promotions in his/her job.
  • The report from Global Financial Integrity states that Indians have stashed away over US$ 462 billion in foreign country bank accounts. Some estimate that the figure is nearly a trillion dollars. Government should ensure this money is returned to India and appropriately taxed and/ or confiscated.
  • Political leaders who have pending criminal cases should be barred from standing in elections. India is one of the few countries which allows a political leader with a murder and rape charge to represent the community and hold a position in the parliament. This sends an extremely negative message to the Indian public and governments of other countries.

3. Business : Adopt ethical business practices

With liberalization of economic policies in 1990’s India’s private sector witnessed accelerated growth. India today owes its global position to private sector enterprises that took the lead to compete in the global market. However, with economic growth the corruption level increased. As stated in the Global Financial Integrity report, illegal transfer of funds to foreign banks increased after liberalization.

The Satyam fraud indicated that one of the leaders in ITES sector compromised business ethics. Recent micro-finance industry scandal showed that the companies are adopting unethical practices for recovery of loans from customers. Presently, the airlines industry is in news for charging astronomical prices to customers. These incidents show that some Indian companies are pursuing profits without adhering to business ethics and fulfilling their corporate social responsibility. The financial crises in US showed that pursuing profits without evaluating risks and being socially responsible could cause significant damage to the country. India cannot afford to make the same mistakes. Here are a few suggestions which private sector enterprises should adopt to remove corruption:

  • Indian institutes that have responsibility for maintaining adherence to ethical business practices should walk the talk. For example, Institute of Chartered Accountants of India and Stock Exchange Board of India should take tough stance on ethical issues to ensure compliance from companies. For instance, Kroll Global Fraud report 2010 indicates that while foreign direct investment in India is increasing, corruption remains at a high level. This sends an incorrect message to foreign investors, hence measures should be put in place to curb it.
  • Finance and audit professionals should follow their code of conduct in true spirit. They should highlight to appropriate authorities all cases where the senior management suggests to them to hide frauds and/or prepare false financial statements. Kroll Global Fraud Report 2010 states that 88% of the companies surveyed suffered at least one fraud and in 48%, perpetrators were their employees.
  • Empower audit committees and risk committees to take a more active role in business strategy and decisions. Encourage an environment of accepting audit observations even if contrary to business heads views and objectives.
  • Establish and implement a code of business ethics with clear policies regarding accepting or giving bribes. Secondly, add whistle-blower hotlines and policies to protect employees from retaliation. Investigate the cases and take strict action for non-adherence to policies. Empower the ethics department to drive and build an ethical organization culture.
  • Organizations should focus on fulfilling corporate social responsibility. They long-term benefit to society and stakeholders, including customers. A happy customer is a repeat customer, and will continuously add to profits. If a customer feels exploited or society questions an organization’s integrity, there will be negative impact on the organization

The reason corruption is so high in India is because Indian public adulates personalities on the basis of wealth without questioning the source of obtaining wealth. As people do not suffer any social or legal penalties for acquiring wealth by wrong means, corruption continues to be unabated. The apathy of Indian public has resulted in such a dismal situation.

Indians need to change their attitude towards corruption. Eradicating corruption is a battle worth fighting, as each Indian citizen will benefit from it. So let us join hands and collectively fight this battle. This is not an exhaustive list, however does enable us to take a few steps towards removing corruption.

Share your stories here about the incidents you experienced and the actions you took to remove corruption.

About these ads

10 comments on “International Anti-Corruption Day – Way Ahead for India

  1. Pingback: Central Vigilance Commission Launches Project VIGEYE « Sonia Jaspal's RiskBoard

  2. Sonia, This is a great post. Your analysis and suggestions need not be limited to India. Much of what you write can be applied to other countries as well. While corruption plays a much smaller role in business in the US, it exists and erodes public trust in both business and government. I especially like what you said about corporate social responsibility. One thing I might add, or expalnd on, would be on embracing greater transparency to stakeholders.

    Steve

  3. Most of the communities in India (such as Bengali), are succumbed in ‘Culture of Poverty’(a theory introduced by an American anthropologist Oscar Lewis), irrespective of class or economic strata, lives in pavement or apartment. Nobody is at all ashamed of the deep-rooted corruption, decaying general quality of life, worst Politico-administrative system, weak mother language, continuous absorption of common space (mental as well as physical, both). We are becoming fathers & mothers only by self-procreation, mindlessly & blindfold. Simply depriving their(the children) fundamental rights of a decent, caring society, fearless & dignified living. Do not ever look for any other positive alternative behaviour (values) to perform human way of parenthood, i.e. deliberately co-parenting of those children those are born out of ignorance, real poverty. All of us are being driven only by the very animal instinct. If the Bengali people ever be able to bring that genuine freedom (from vicious cycle of ‘poverty’) in their own life/attitude, involve themselves in ‘Production of Space’(Henri Lefebvre), at least initiate a movement by heart, decent & dedicated Politics will definitely come up.
    - Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay, 16/4, Girish Banerjee lane, Howrah-711101, India.

    • Siddhartha,

      Thanks for reading the blog. Yes, I would agree with you that Indian poulation has succumbed to a culture of poverty. We have got so used to corruption that we sleep walk through it in most cases.

      Kind regards,

      Sonia

  4. Pingback: Weekly Roundup – 10 April 2011 – Anna Hazare, An Ambassador of Anti-Corruption Movement in India « Sonia Jaspal's RiskBoard

  5. The Lokpal bill perhaps demands some major constitutional reforms which makes it impractical in current situations. A comprehensive long term plan which empowers the present government machinery i.e. C.V.C, C.A.G and Tribunals etc., to fight corruption in a full proof manner is presented here. Ethical education being an important part of character building can build a strong anti-corruption immune power among those who wish to be a part of government. The proposal plans the establishment of a National University which would impart righteous education on politics and ethical practices. An outline of the proposal has been stated below.

    Please Follow and forward it to as many as you can:

    http://stopcorruptionthrougheducationinindia.blogspot.com/2011/08/stop-corruption-through-education-in.html

    • Pragnan,

      Thanks for sharing the links, definitely we need to collectively fight this disease to ensure a better future for ourselves and the next generation.

      Sonia

  6. Pingback: 2011 Kroll Global Fraud Survey Report- An India Perspective « Sonia Jaspal's RiskBoard

Comments are closed.