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India’s fight against corruption is led by a robust and time tested institutional and legislative framework including the Prevention of Corruption Act, an independent Central Vigilance Commission, the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Judges (Inquiry) Act, the Lok Pal and Lok Ayukta Act 2013, Whistle Blowers Protection Act 2011, Prevention of Money /Laundering Act, Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act which cover a number of areas of criminalization and bribery. All civil servants are mandatorily required to declare their assets on an annual basis. The Elected Representatives are required to declare their assets every election cycle.

 

India’s “zero tolerance to corruption” approach, as well as “minimum government and maximum governance” approach resulted in simplification of the governance model in recent years. Some of the steps included abolition of the system of attestation/ authentication by Government servants for submission of certificates, abolition of personal interviews for recruitments to lower level posts and weeding out inefficient public servants and those of doubtful integrity above the age of 50 years, prematurely. Further the Government demonetized high value currency to eliminate black money and corruption. A special investigation team was constituted to fight black money. Government also conducted online auctions of coal blocks. Government sought international cooperation in G-20 meetings on ending tax havens in Europe and other countries. In bilateral meetings with Swiss authorities India has saidcombating the menace of black money and tax evasion was a "shared priority" for both the countries.

 

In a recent visit to Jharkhand, the Prime Minister gave away a few smart phones tosakhi mandals(self help groups) in Jharkhand and said he was surprised by the answers he got from the villagers about the usages of smart phones. India’s focus on “making government smarter” has been at the forefront of the Nation’s Fight against Corruption. The same quantum of subsidy could benefit could be far more efficiently spent by a “Smarter Governance Model” than in a manual system.

 

The Jan Dhan Yojana provided universal and clear access to banking accounts with overdraft facility. In 2016, the Aadhar Act was promulgated to ensure targeted delivery of financial and other subsidies, benefits and services. The Act provided for an efficient, transparent and targeted delivery of subsidies to individuals, through assigning aadhar identification numbers. The third major step initiated by the Government was the introduction of BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money) which is a mobile application developed by National Payments Corporation of India. The BHIM application facilitates e-payments directly through banks and can be used on all mobile devices. Collectively the Jan Dhan Yojana–the Aadhar Act and the BHIM Application have provided for asmart governmentwhere subsidy flows reach the beneficiary in a timely and effective manner.

 

The Government has sought to promote preventive vigilance through the Central Vigilance Commission. Several preventive vigilance measures have been introduced by the CVC. Measures like Government E-Market (GEM) have helped improve the accountability and integrity in public procurement. The Commission has sought to promote ethics through education of students and youth, observance of vigilance awareness weeks, process simplification to reduce discretion and interface with public servants, focus on training and skill development and awarding exemplary punishment in all cases of proven misconduct to create deterrence. The CVC has sought to create a people’s movement against corruption through an e-pledge to be voluntarily taken by the citizens and organizations.

 

Further the Government has sought to strengthen the auditing and accounting processes. Some of the big changes introduced in financial governance are amalgamation of the Railways and General budgets, the merger of plan and non-plan expenditures, opening up of a number of sectors for foreign direct investment and the introduction of Goods and Services Tax. Looking at the enormity of the flow of funds to urban and rural local bodies, the C& AG has identified their audit as a critical area. The C& AG has also focused on the large volumes of digital information emerging from increasing automation of tax filing, assessment and recovery procedures.

 

There have been significant efforts made to promote transparency in Government. The Right to Information (RTI) Act is a rights based law that has created a durable stake for citizens in the administration of the Nation. The RTI Act has led to improvements in governance. By sharing information, the citizens have become part of the decision making process, which leads to creation of trust between citizens and Government. The Prevention of Corruption Act is an Act to consolidate the law relating to the prevention of corruption. The law provides for punishments for taking gratification other than legal remuneration in respect of official acts. The investigative powers have been given to the CBI and State Police Authorities. Government has said that accountability standards for public servants have to be kept at realistic levels so that officers do not hesitate in taking honest decisions.

 

In order to give statutory protection to whistle blowers in the country, Government made amendments to the Whistle Blowers Act in 2015. The amendments addressed concerns relating to national security and strengthened the safeguards against disclosures, which may prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of the country. Further the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988 was amended to empower the Income Tax authorities to attach and confiscate benami properties. Besides, if a person is found guilty of offence of benami transaction by the competent court, he shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment and shall also be liable to fine. Several benami transactions have been identified since the coming into effect of the amended law.

 

To conclude, it may be said that India continues the Fight against Corruption and Black Money. These efforts led by the focus on smart governance are yielding positive results.

*****

 

*V.Srinivas is an IAS officer of 1989 batch, and is currently posted as Chairman Rajasthan Tax Board with additional charge of Chairman Board of Revenue for Rajasthan. Views expressed in the article are authors’personal.

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Predicament in which Pakistan finds itself, one can trace its history back to country’s unprovoked attack on Jammu and Kashmir State on 22 October 1947. On 6 September 2017, the Army Chief of Pakistan, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, while paying tribute to martyrs of 1965 war said: "Let us create a Pakistan where the use of strength is in accordance with the law and Constitution and is in the hands of the state." 

I commend the General for saying this. However, it is sad to note that throughout chequered history of Pakistan, State either directly or through use of jihadi warriors have advanced militant policies and called it a national interest.

In this regard, they did not respect Pakistani constitution, international covenants, obligations to the UN or bilateral agreements. I just want to remind the General (because Pakistani text books and distorted history omit many bitter facts) that despite the Standstill Agreement with State of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistani officers in name of Jihad attacked a vulnerable neighbour, in which tens of thousands of innocent people were killed and women raped.

This attack, known as tribal invasion, also culminated in to the first India Pakistan war to capture Jammu and Kashmir. It forced the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir to seek help and accede to India. Thankfully, the accession was made conditional; and people of Jammu and Kashmir had to take the final decision on it. Furthermore, it internalised the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, made it part of the Cold War; and forcibly divided between India and Pakistan.

This jihad Pakistan started in October 1947, as a foreign policy tool, has not ended in Jammu and Kashmir; and we are still suffering on both sides of the divide since 1947. Encouraged by this achievement, Pakistani statecraft started exporting jihad in other countries, which even include China, a country with which Pakistan has a friendship higher than Himalayas and sweeter than honey.

It was also music to my ears that the learned General, while referring to the Jihadi forces, said:

"I would like to tell misguided people that whatever you are doing is not jihad but fasaad. Your country and your people are being hurt the most by your actions…Not only is the entire country paying the price of the fire you have set, but our enemies are also taking advantage of the situation."

I say with respect that when I and many other people with vision and understanding challenged what these private armies were doing; and how they were harassing citizens and harming cause of Jammu and Kashmir, we were called: anti -Pakistan, anti - Islam, anti - Jihad and pro India.

I know, no one will dare say to you what they said to us, but doesn’t this establish that we were correct in our analyses. Those who castigated us and victimised us were wrong and out of step with geo political situation. Is it not time that they should change their hitherto policy and rectify all wrong doings?

Once again, while referring to the jihadi warriors, the General very daringly and realistically said: “... A monopoly over violence should only be the prerogative of the state."

Respectable General, this is extremely important. You are hundred percent correct on this. However, is it not bit late in the day to say this? In any case, who has set up these private armies which are used as proxies of the state to bleed Pakistan’s neighbours and advance the Pakistani agenda.

May be, I am wrong. Perhaps, it is still not too late to rectify blunders of the past. State has power and ability to properly dismantle these jihadi or militant infrastructures. For the sake of peace and stability of Pakistan and peace and cordial relationship in South Asia, it is imperative that Pakistan root out militancy, block sources that promote extremism, militancy and religious intolerance.

What Pakistani statecraft, religious groups, political parties and ‘foot soldiers’ have been denying is known to nearly all the countries and international organisations. A Pakistani writer Khurram Husain, in his article, ‘The wall of Brics’ wrote:

 ‘Our state has come to be virtually held hostage by a reality that we have been denying in almost every forum around the world. This reality is that within Pakistan, as a matter of official policy, violent militant groups have been nurtured, trained, supported and nestled within the general population for use as assets in an underground geopolitical game that we have tried to play in the region.  

Pointing out the wrong doings is the first step to rectify things. However, it is sad that in Pakistan those who dare to challenge the status quo, or point out wrong doings of those who are perceived as a state within a state, they are castigated as ‘anti – Pakistan’ and ‘traitors’.

Besides this, in view of some of the indications and explanations that have come of out of Islamabad make me rather apprehensive that perhaps powers that be are still not prepared to dismantle the militant infrastructure. I recall statements and promises made by the then Army Chief and President of Pakistan, General Musharaf. He also declared that militant infrastructure has been dismantled; and that Pakistani soil and areas under their control will not be used against any neighbour.

What we have witnessed since that statement is known to the world. Not only the infrastructure was intact, militants appeared to be more resourceful, more powerful and more effective in their missions.

After the BRICS declaration, there was some restlessness in Islamabad. However, to say that some countries are ‘biased against us’ indicates that they are still not understanding the severity of the situation; and not accepting that there is a situation in Pakistan that concerns the world community, especially neighbours.

Also, to point out that this declaration is only echoing the UN Security Councils statement made many years ago; and that these organisations are already ‘proscribed’ in Pakistan, is to say to these countries, what more do you want?

However, in my opinion, it is a tacit admission that despite ‘proscription’, in Pakistan, business will continue as usual. These groups will be allowed to move freely, collect funds, print literature and disseminate the messages they like, use print and electronic media to advance their ideology and cause. Furthermore, they are allowed to set up various institutions, rename organisations and operate mega projects which has great social, political and economic ramifications.

My apprehension is that after some cosmetic changes, business as usual may continue. Have we forgotten what happened in Lal Masjid? Apart from death of innumerable civilians and militants; many army men were also killed in that operation? Still cleric of that Masjid is calling the shots in the same Masjid and openly preaching what he preached at that time.

What does this say to the thinking people? Do I need to explain? 

Writer is a political analyst, TV anchor and author of many books and booklets. Also, he is Chairman South Asia Watch, London and Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">Email:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

References:

1.   Speech of Army Chief, Dawn 7 September 2017

2.   Dawn, September 7th, 2017

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At the time of independence in 1947, India had just five central public sector enterprises with an investment of mere Rs 29 crore. Besides, perhaps India had fairly reasonable network of railways and extensive Posts and Telegraph covering the entire country to serve the British masters. Today India has 320 central public enterprises with investment of around Rs 12 lakh crore. As many as 165 CPSEs earned a net profit of about Rs 1.5 lakh crore and 78 CPSEs, a net loss of Rs 29,000 crore. There is, perhaps, double the number of state public enterprises. The statistics is sketchy with regard to total number of state public enterprises and their investments. But indication is that there are at least 1000 state public enterprises with investment of Rs 4-5 lakh crore. That apart there are central and state corporations, particularly, by way of railways, state road corporations, posts and so on. Investments in them run in to several lakh crores of rupees.

 So it is clear that Public Sector Enterprises formed the backbone of industrial development of the country in Independent India.  Of course, its role has been changing with the changing time. Initially its role was to help create the much needed industrial base and infrastructure apart from bringing about price stabilization and socio-economic development. They were also engine of growth in true sense of the term. PSEs contributed greatly to job creation by adopting labou-intensive techniques in the early part of independence, nationalization of sick textile units and setting up ancillary industries around major units subsequently. With the economic liberalization in 1991, its role changed to take on competition including global. This included reduction in jobs as a result of modernization and to improve efficiency. SAIL for example, which employed over two lakh workers to produce less than 10 million tonnes of steel in the past, employs just 80,000 workers today and produces much more. But even today it has surplu employees. It has seven times more employees than Tata steel for per tonne of steel production. This is one of the major reasons for some of the public enterprises still being inefficient. Some other companies like Life Insurance of India, which enjoyed monopoly status after nationalization in the 1950s, took on competition well after Insurance sector was opened up to private players in the late 1990s.

Public sector Enterprises are now slowly trying to exit areas where it is not competitive and drain on resources and public exchequer. Air India is a very good example. Civil aviation was nationalized in the 1950s. Only government was allowed operate airlines particularly for security reasons and to serve social goals like operating in routes which are not profitable but important from social point of view.  With opening up of the aviation sector to private players, Air India is just not able take on competition partly because of over-staffing, inefficiency and mounting debt burden due to which government is forced to bail out from public exchequer.

But none can deny the fact the Public sector played a key role all along in nation building. In the early years of independence, Public sector got into areas of basic and heavy industries where private sector would not venture into as they did not have the financial muscle or wherewithal. In fact 1948 industrial policy encouraged private sector more. But when private sector was not forthcoming in adequate number and in areas where investments are needed, the government modified the industrial policy in 1956 to give more prominence to public sector in the industrial development of the country. This ensured that there was balanced growth. Public sector also helped in removing regional imbalances, development of infrastructure, townships and remote areas. Subsequently Government was forced to nationalized some sick unites particularly in textiles industry to protect the interest of worker. It even had to start manufacturing bread to bring about price stabilization in an era of shortages. Food Corporation of India was set up to improve storage facilities and create buffer stock due to which India is surplus in food production. But the organization has now outlived its utility and it is time it was dismantled as was done in Mexico and perhaps continue only in eastern India where procurement is still a problem as green revolution has not spread far and wide there.

In fact it is time for government to exit in several areas, particularly in services sector excepting in railways and telecom where privatization has not worked in many countries. Also there is some strategic interestinvolved in these two sectors. In case of Hotel industry, Public sector came into being when private sector was not forthcoming in an era of controls. Today it should exit totally has private sector does better in this sector.  So also Air India as private airlines have shown the way how airlines can be run efficiently. Rightly government has taken a call to go for strategic sale of Air India. Modi government has adopted right philosophy with public sector enterprises. Divest government stake in many areas including banking to the extent of 49 per cent and retain control to fulfill social, economic and strategic considerations.

Secondly, it had decided to carry out strategic sale like Air India to improve efficiency and save taxpayers money in bailing them out year-after-year. Thirdly it has decided to exit from areas where private sector can do a better job. In case of sick undertakings, it will try to go for outright sale if attempts to revive failed. The government has also chalked out plans to utilize the huge land available with public sector companies for setting up more units, utilizing huge cash of over Rs 6 lakh crore piled up with profit-making public sector enterprises. In the oil sector in particular, public enterprises are doing extremely well earning profits even in an era of falling global oil prices.

 

In sum, it is clear there no one-size-fit-all solution to the woes of public sector enterprises and rightly Modi government has adopted multi-pronged strategy to deal with the issue.

*****

*K. R. Sudhaman, who has over 40 years experience in journalism, has been Editor in Press Trust of India, Economics Editor in TickerNews and Financial Chronicle.

Views expressed in the article are author’s personal.