India remains affected by corruption, survey finds

96% respondents feel anti-corruption agencies are dishonest: India Corruption Research Report 2023

geetanjali

Geetanjali Minhas | October 6, 2023 | Mumbai


#Corruption  
(Illustration: Ashish Asthana)
(Illustration: Ashish Asthana)

As many as 88% of the people who participated in a survey believe India is a corrupt country. Corruption has adversely affected 82% of the respondents, according to the India Corruption Research Report 2023.  
The report found that 55% people feel bureaucrats are responsible for corruption while 37% believe that politicians are committing corruption crimes. 8% of those surveyed said that private companies which bribe government functionaries are responsible for corruption. 29% people believe that corruption has destroyed the democratic systems in India and 22% say corruption is causing unemployment in the country. Almost 96% of those surveyed said that the anti-corruption agencies in India are not working honestly and a similar number of respondents felt that corrupt officials and political leaders are not being punished suitably due to which corruption in India rapidly.

The report also says that 97% respondents feel there is a criminal nexus between business oligarchs and top politicians. The same number of respondents said that Indian courts are not handling corruption cases effectively. As many as 91% respondents in the survey felt crimes of corruption should be prosecuted in international courts because Indian courts tend to grant bail to the jailed criminals who are accused of serious financial crimes. 89% respondents said that imprisonment is not a sufficient punishment for corruption crimes because affluent criminals including politicians, bureaucrats, and businessmen are secretly provided luxurious facilities in Indian jails and courts often release them without any punishment.

The findings of The India Corruption Research Report 2023 were recorded till September 2023 and 150 respondents participated in the online survey. The report includes information on the extent of corruption in India, corruption-prevention laws, findings of a perception survey, case studies of major scandals, flawed investigation processes, weak government-to-citizen (G2C) interfaces, limitations of the anti-corruption authorities among other factors.
 
The research report by Rakesh Raman, a national award-winning journalist and founder of the humanitarian organisation RMN Foundation includes information from his primary as well as secondary sources and his own experiences as an anti-corruption activist.
 
The report says that flawed electoral processes, political and bureaucratic illiteracy, lack of domain expertise among government officials, inefficient and obsolete administrative systems, lack of transparency, and weak policy implementation mechanisms are some of the factors that contribute to increased corruption. “You have to file your complaints frequently in India because of the brutal bureaucracy, courts’ complicity, police’s delinquency, and political criminality that have caused extreme lawlessness across the country. Government functionaries either ignore or keep tossing public complaints from one desk to another without taking any decisive remedial action to redress citizens’ grievances,” it notes.

Additionally, lack of opportunities for public to participate in the administrative reform process, archaic school and college education systems, centralised administration, limited technology usage, low or no press freedom, poverty, and government’s attacks on civil society organizations also contribute to corruption. Despite political leaders claiming they will weed out corruption from the country, it has always been increasing rapidly.

To combat corruption, the research report recommends that the government should develop, design, and deploy a new complaints management system to replace the defunct CPGRAMS, use flowcharts, videos, and other multimedia instructional content to describe end-to-end process of dealing with a corruption complaint from a citizen. Government functionaries who receive complaints should not merely forward letters to concerned departments but understand nature of complaints, write comments and instructions for the investigating officers. It says officials against whom complaints are filed should be directed to respond within 15 days, complainant should be allowed to participate in investigation hearings with the accused so that they could argue the case, leading to their prosecution and conviction. Cases should not be closed arbitrarily and complainant should be kept informed at every step of the investigation and prosecution so that they could provide their inputs for a fair investigation.

It says that every state government must have a dedicated, fully computerised complaints monitoring department to handle corruption complaints, eliminating the need for complainants to meet the government officials who harass them during physical interactions in order to extort bribes from them. The online interface or “help desk” of the complaints monitoring system should be made available in such a way that the complainants should be able to view the progress of their cases remotely on their computers or mobile devices.

Those who file complaints against corruption should not be harassed by asking them to furnish documentary evidence as no documentary evidence is required in white-collar crimes like fraud or corruption. Only circumstantial evidence in terms of non-compliance of statutory procedures should be enough to prosecute and punish the wrongdoers.

As it is not possible for most complainants to approach conventional courts, there should be speedy justice by administration to suffering people. Communications exchanged between accused and inquiry officers should be made available on state and central government websites with on camera and live streaming of public hearings.

“Despite political leaders claiming they will weed out corruption from the country, it has always been increasing rapidly. One of the main reasons for increasing corruption in India is the lack of skills among the investigating officers. In the past few years, I have filed more than 100 complaints with the government’s anti-corruption agencies against the corrupt government functionaries,” says Raman.

"While the anti-corruption laws are good in the country, the law-enforcement officials can’t even read or properly interpret those laws. Most officials think that bribery is the only form of corruption and they force the complainants to prove the transaction of bribe money. However, in the white-collar crimes such as corruption and fraud, the bribe money is not quite visible. After getting prima facie evidence, anti-corruption agencies should ask the accused to prove their innocence instead of harassing the complainants," he adds.  

The report aims to help central, state governments as well as anti-corruption agencies in the country make actionable strategies to combat corruption.
 

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