PM Modi can become one of the most outstanding political icons of all time the world over if he rids the politics of corruption systemically.
Many reforms are talked about, some of them game-changers: financial reforms, agricultural reforms, judicial reforms, labour reforms, land reforms, educational reforms, administrative reforms, electoral reforms, and the list goes on.
But there’s one reform, which in my view could be the mother of all reforms: it has the potential to lead to the best of reforms in future. If not done, all other reforms will continue to produce only suboptimal results.
It’s centred around government funding of political parties (not just elections) and making political corruption almost impossible. Let me explain.
What’s the biggest challenge the nation faces?
Political parties and individuals should not be allowed to bring in their own money into politics, except for new parties or independent politicians.
We grossly underestimate the cost of corruption. Let’s see it with an example.
If there’s an end-to-end bribe of 15% in laying a road, the cost of corruption is NOT the mere 15% bribe money.
- Less money is available for laying the road which makes the road bad.
- Since there’s political patronage, there’s inadequate oversight. So, the money that goes into laying the road is even less, making the road worse.
- The road slows down traffic due to poor laying and the people who travel suffer delays. Add the value of time lost due to poor road conditions for travellers, and the nation suffers so much of time loss, in business, office work, Government work, time with family, medical emergencies, etc.
- The road develops potholes that cause short term and long term physical damages to the travellers, and some even die as a result.
- The road has to be repaired and re-laid frequently, which takes away the valuable time of the Government officials which could have been used for better purposes, and also costs several times the cost of laying it once right.
- Poor roads damage the vehicles, adding to their cost of maintenance.
- Frequent repair of roads damages other underground infrastructure.
- Rainwater doesn’t reach storm water drains (not to speak of the fact that it doesn’t get stored for later reuse), prolonging the agony of road users.
- And more…
This is just one example.
In the financial sector, we see major frauds, and its magnitude has only been growing since Independence. But for the connivance of the politicians, bureaucrats and bank officials, it’s very unlikely that these frauds would take place. What’s the cost of these frauds? The obvious accounting cost runs into lakhs of crores of Rupees, but the hidden costs, again, are several times this.
One can give lots and lots of such examples from just about every realm.
Suffice it to say, the monetary and non-monetary cost of corruption is humongous; several times the actual swindling by way of corruption.
Unless we strongly believe that corruption should be completely rooted out of our society, come what may, we’re likely to keep complaining about it forever, without any solution. Homoeopathic doses of medicines we’re administering won’t work. Major surgery is called for.
Given the huge Governments spend every year at stake, it is but natural that corrupt enter politics and take control of the money. When you add up what all politicians (not just those in power, but even ruling party-men outside the Government and opposition party-men, up to the village level) earn through corrupt ways, using their political power, it would run to tens of lakhs of crores of Rupees, equivalent to a high % of the GDP (not just GDP growth). If we plug just corruption substantially, with no other reforms, our GDP will be automatically above 10%!
Money helps the corrupt come to power and stay there. Competent & honest can’t spend that kind of money, and so they can almost never come to power. This is a vicious cycle.
Though we blame the politicians, the problem is also systemic. Even well-meaning people may behave no differently if they taste power. AAP which entered politics promising to clean it up is an example.
How do we change this system?
We need a political reform by which most of the wrong people would find it unviable to be in politics and many competent and well-meaning people would enter politics.
If this were to happen, politics would become a true battlefield of ideologies, between liberalism and conservatism, between left and right, between value systems and beliefs, etc. The role of black money power in politics would diminish substantially.
How can we address this problem?
We have been talking about Government funding election expenses. I think this would be grossly inadequate. Political parties don’t come into existence at election time and vanish after elections. They need grassroots level leaders and workers to work for them all through the electoral term. Unless their livelihood is also taken care, corruption will continue.
Since the cost of corruption is several times the bribe money (which itself should average around 10% at least), we can allocate a small % of the national, state and local body budgets (say 1%?, but can be debated and arrived at) in funding political parties, not just for elections, but also all their costs all through the year. It can be based on a combination of factors like % of votes polled in previous elections, the number of seats won, etc.
In fact, this move will save a lot of money for the Government, as it will plug the larger bribe holes.
Once this is done, political parties and individuals should not be allowed to bring in their own money into politics, except for new parties or independent politicians; if any party/ individual violates it, the punishment should be so stringent that they dare not even think of doing it.
Now comes the important judicial reform that should go with this electoral reform.
The position would typically help PMs make financial and non-financial gains only if they indulge in corruption (or permit others to indulge in corruption as it happened in the case of Dr MMS).
Corruption should be enacted as a crime worse than murder, and punishment should be life imprisonment. It is justified because it’s a crime against the State and all its people.
Once the prima facie case is established, the onus should be on the accused in such cases to prove one’s innocence. SC, in the case against Sasikala, has already set the precedent that in DA cases, the onus of proof is on the accused.
False complaints should also be treated as equally grave offences, discouraging anyone from making false allegations against honest politicians.
Corruption in the judiciary and bureaucracy should also attract similar stringent punishment.
Some of the ancient kings used to treat corruption as worse than murder and those found guilty, whether ministers, or officials, were punished severely, and some were even hanged.
This will disincentivise corruption so much that corrupt will stay away from politics. And honest and competent will have nothing to fear.
Once this reform is done, it will be almost impossible to set the clock back.
And the competent and committed politicians who come on stage will bring in the best of reforms, and make them work without leaks. GDP growth is most likely to go beyond double figures, with most holes plugged.
Imagine an India where there’s almost zero corruption, all public infrastructure well built and maintained, people’s interests taken care, foreign investment coming in, industries growing, making India look and feel like Singapore! That’s possible with this reform. This is why I consider this the ‘Mother of All Reforms’.
There can’t be a better time to make this reform than today.
The one major reason why almost no PM would dare do this is because, they would typically be affected too. PMs remain in power because of the support of their party members and allies; surely most politicians won’t like this. The position would typically help PMs make financial and non-financial gains only if they indulge in corruption (or permit others to indulge in corruption as it happened in the case of Dr MMS).
Modi got a massive mandate recently mostly due to the faith people reposed in him personally. So, MPs, MLAs, party members and allies can’t dictate terms to him.
He’s one of the few PMs who have no family or friends to take care of while in office. He’s dedicated his life for public service. He also wants to leave an indelible impression about his contribution to building a modern India. If there’s one major impediment in accomplishing this, it is corruption.
Modi 1.0 was substantially successful. Modi 2.0 can transform politics in India forever, and even set a gold standard for politics the world over. He can become one of the most outstanding political icons of all time the world over if he rids the politics of corruption systemically.
Will he do it? Let’s hope he will!
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
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We need a revolution to erase this menace called corruption. Society at large will need to be empowered to root out this evil. Inspectors will be elected across all wards in India to broadcast this threat. A command center will bring immediate justice to these wards. These actions will need goodwill ambassdors and para military support. We need a freedom from corruption movement to be rolled our soon.
In Indian politics corruption already spread like cancer. It is not an easy task to eradicate . Modi Slept coolly for 5 years not even filing a FIR on branded corrupt gang. Once it was top business men were funding the both the ruling & opposition parties to run business efficiently. After globalisation all business ethics gone into the dust bin , every body wanted to kill their competitor first this enables the ruling party to grab enormous funds from them. This we had seen during 10 years of NDA rule. Now the corrupt money is being circulated to the current ruling party & hence everybody is escaping from charge sheet . I have a doubt that Modi will break this chain ?
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Corruption has been studied in detail by academics. Some universities have a separate department or a group to study just corruption. The author doesn’t seem to have studied much before writing this article. I could be wrong. I would like to know more about author’s background study.
The corruption is rampant in all walks of life, as every individual wants to gain with out much labour and procedural troubles. So reducing human intervention in all approvals is first step, second stop cash purchases above Rs. 5000, and all on line transaction recorded for individual, Third no election rallies allowed, so no man power wastage, all political parties shall be given one channel on TV and radio by government to tell their views and promises, muscle and corrupted power shall be stopped in politics, fourth and most important stop all types of taxes and start bank transaction tax for all deposits and withdrawals by all individuals as well as all companies. India will be corruption less.
Without finishing vvip,vip culture in all forms, corruption could not be abolished from the country. Political funding now a days is becoming another device of corruption in the country. Mr PM can dare to prevent these along with his responsible cabinet colleague.
This thoughts has to even my mind, before 2 month. Root of all corruption is financial stability for politicians. It’s common sense, think how a politician would earn money to sustain his family , . If he isn’t in power ( MLA / MP). this is the root of all corruption.
corruption has become only way to earn living because no body is paying him for his work.
School boyish perfect nonsense. Another attempt to dip into pockets and tax more directly or indirectly.
Rajaji warned that India would be flooded with corruption because of license permit Raj.
Free Market Capitalism is way forward.
There are enough of lawa to fight against the mence of corruption-only their implementation os very minimal. The political will is missing.
I really like what the writer daus: “Homoeopathic doses of medicines we’re administering won’t work. Major surgery is called for.”
For the major surgery, a dedicated team of officers–known for their honesty and integrity–needs to be identified and engaged, provided the political masters and Lawmakers work in tandem to support the officers. Unfortunately, only the most corrupt in the govt (and politics too) always win in all spheres of life and truly honest ones suffer in all ways and are looked down upon and ignored. As an ex bureaucrat, I can give several examples from my life of how only the honest are insulted by the govt. The article not only excellent but thought provoking too. No one in the bureaucracy and the govt is interested in a real fight for corruption. The example is the dilution of the PCA.
You only takes into consideration political parties and its workers which you assume to be given a fund from government for their activities.The problem is,the bribery is a system mainly in the goverment offices because salaries do not allow an ordinary man to live like a boss.An ordinary man remains an ordinary,middle class remains middleclass….and they agree to share bribe with politicalparties,because of this greed and it also gives them an edge of getting the same deal in fiture till both of them were happy about it……i think the best is to enact a law which helds the top 2 govt.officials of any govt. work held accountable for the sub par quality or unreasonable time delay they produce on completion of their work.And the compensation for the same must be recovered from them asap by any means or else imprisonment for a quantum of years so that these top grade officials must work diligently to ensure that their subordinates are doing things fairly well to keep his/her neck out of trouble………..
Mr Iyer can you give your assessment of how the Roys of NDTV are walking around unscathed despite all that you have written about them. Have they bought immunity?
Should this not be asked to your representative of Lok Sabha? The parliament is in session… Beyond that, should you not be asking this question of this government? PGurus is a thermometer – we can’t cure.
Modi has already explained about radical reforms way back in 2013 in Gandhinager.
Arun Bokil of Arthkranti prathishthan had given presatation.
The three point praposal of arthkranti is all about making India economically sound and almost corruption free.
1.Withdraw all direct and indirect taxes including income tax and GST.
2. Withdraw 2000 & 500 currency notes in two steps .
3.Only one tax in country I.e. BTT bank transaction tax @2% omn all bank transactions on credit side only .
4.govt will take care of election expenditure on the basic of percentage of votes gained.
By 2% tax on transactions government’s budget will became surplus .GDP to tax revenue will reach to 35% from present 24%. govt will receive extra 15 lac Cr revenue . Unless high currency notes and tax system r reformed nothig is going to happen in this country.
Excellant argumrnt! But mostly theoretical. The lack of righteousness and will power in common Indian to stand by values is the route cause of all the corruption. The citizens are so addicted to corruption that they do not recognise it as evil. That’s why corrupt people are getting elected to offices again and again. The correct way to get rid of corruption is to build a system which will impart highest values deep into the minds of people, at least the younger generation. With such trained people coming up in the, the society, the corrupt will be checkmated in every place, stage etc., thus realizing the goal of prosperous India.
The Government should pass strict laws to stop corruption. At present the law is same for a bribe of Rs. 1.00 or for many crores. So let us differentiate corruption according to the type and money involved.
In any corruption involving bribe of Rs 1 to 10,000 the straight forward sentencing should be one year rigorous punishment.
For corruption where a common man gives bribe because of his personal need such as Pension or any approval where no law is broken then the bribe giver should be allowed to become an approver in case he has enough evidence to prove it.
For any corruption involving bribe of above Rs. 10,000, the sentence should be 5 years up to life imprisonment up to 40 years. The convected person should not be shown any leniency. And in case of politicians and government officials in case of reasonable evidence, the accused should be jailed immediately pending final judgement. For high value cases the bribe giver and taker both should be harshly punished. We should never allow the likes of Chidu, Raja and the UPA’s types to stay outside the jail even for a minute.
Most of the corruption cases are thrown out by the Judges who are themselves corrupt. The law should accept all types of evidences including wire taps and those collected by private agencies or common citizen. The evidence act should be changed and any form of video, audio or physical evidence should be accepted. This shall allow the bribe giver to prove that the bribe was given and in case he himself puts forward the evidence he can be shown leniency.
In all such cases, the guys, who provide evidences, the prosecution lawyers, police and agencies involved should be awarded from the bribe money so that they too take extra effort to dig out and stop corruption.
However in cases where the prosecution lawyer, police etc. are found to be involved in helping the corrupt then they too should be put behind bars as accomplices. Presently we see that in many cases the evidence is diluted and many cases fall apart as evidence is suppressed by police and prosecution. The judges should be allowed to jail such officials of start investigation against them.
Most cases fall as they involve high and mighty, so the SIT teams and prosecution should be brought from there states (not even neighbouring) and should have members from general public.
All states and districts should have high powered independent elected prosecutors teams who are elected directly by public and not by political parties (they should be independent). These tenure should be fixes (1 to 2 years). these prosecutors should have power over police force and investigation.
The effort to catch the corrupt is not easy and can not be bound by a fixed operating manual. The anti corruption manual should be written and changed every year till we perfect it. The best possible way is to find the honest and intelligent men and women who want to fight the corruption, who are compassionate and who can differentiate between green and genuine mistakes. But remember repetitive mistake and inaction can also be counted as corruption and should not go unpunished.
What a utopian idea. Corruption is not just one man being corrupt. It is his family and friends joining the party to help in the disbursement of the money. With all politicans having their hand in the till you really expect a law and compliance? Farfetched beyond compare…
This requires considerable political will. BJP is portrayed as a corruption free party, but is it really so ? There would be stiff opposition to this reform surely and it is only wishful to think that this reform would be implemented in Modi 2.0 regime. End of the day, there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics. No one burns bridges especially in politics.
Bold & energetic thinker….. every Indian has strong views…..
Sir , your suggestion is like asking wolf to stop eating sheep …Seems remotely possible
Dear SB Maratur
Our netas are so good that they can convince the people that the sheep are out to eat wolves – and we the people believe them and will gladly vote for them too.
Gandhiji said ” Parliamentary system will not do , as it’s slavery to parliament, cronies and Bureaucrats