The unending succession of scams and scandals, which underlined the rot in all the organs and extensions of the state and took centre stage in public discourse during the annus horribilis that 2010 turned out to be, forced the powers that be to spell out their strategy to tackle the problem of corruption.
Breaking her long silence over the issue, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi delineated her prescription for combating corruption in her presidential address at the Congress Plenary Session at Burari (Delhi) on December 18, 2010. Welcoming this exhortation, Common Cause has addressed the following open letter to Mrs. Sonia Gandhi to urge her to translate Congress Party's declaration of intent into concrete action.
January 14, 2011
Dear Mrs. Gandhi,
I am addressing this open letter to you on behalf of Common Cause, an NGO campaigning for good governance and probity in public life.
Your speech at the last AICC session laid down five action points to tackle corruption. These are
i) State funding of political processes and parties,
ii) Fast-tracking of all cases of corruption by public servants, including politicians,
iii) Legislation, clear procedures and full transparency in public procurement and contracts and protection of whistle blowers.
iv) All discretionary powers, particularly in land allocation, breed corruption and should be reviewed and relinquished.
v) An open and competitive system for exploitation of mineral resources should be put in place.
The first action point calls for a political consensus. The National Advisory Council, which has in its ranks some eminent leaders of civil society, could initiate, lead and widen this debate and draft a legislation, a job that the first NAC did admirably in the case of the Right To Information Act and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
The other four action points are clearly in the domain of the government. Only a strong-willed government, which is sincere in its determination to roll back the seemingly inexorable march of corruption, can implement your prescription and thereby command the respect of "Aam Aadmi". Recent election results from Bihar unambiguously point to this trend.
The bureaucracy naturally resists attempts to hold it accountable for its deeds of omission and commission. It also tends to drag its feet when tasked to implement systemic reforms aimed at combating corruption. For example, The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act was passed by the Rajiv Gandhi Government in 1988. More than two decades later, it still remains a dead letter, because the rules required for implementation of the Act are yet to be framed. Similarly, progress in another significant initiative of the Rajiv Gandhi Government viz. computerization of land records, is so patchy that even the titles of government lands have not fully been computerized. The prevailing ambiguity facilitates alienation of government lands and spawns scams such as Adarsh Society, Sukhna Lake and may be thousands more as yet undiscovered.
No wonder that the bureaucracy is in an overdrive to undermine the landmark RTI Act, 2005 by abusing the process of subordinate legislation. Unless the bureaucracy is restructured and made accountable for its actions and inactions like ordinary citizens, your political initiatives would not amount to much.
We urge you, as Chairperson of UPA, to direct the UPA governments at the Centre and in the states urgently to initiate action on the lines indicated by you and also undertake reforms of the administrative structure as recommended by the Second Administrative Reforms Commission set up by the first UPA Government.
With warm regards,
(Kamal Kant Jaswal)
Mrs. Sonia Gandhi,
Indian National Congress,
10, Janpath, New Delhi 110011