Five things for Mrs Gandhi to do

…if she is serious to fight corruption in the system


Prasanna Mohanty | December 20, 2010

UPA chairman Sonia Gandhi presented her five-point charter to fight corruption in her address to the Congress plenary in New Delhi on Sunday. These are high on rhetoric, low on practical use, except for the last one – state funding of elections.

Her five suggestions are: a) Fast-tracking all cases of corruption involving public servants; b) Full transparency in public procurements and contracts; c) Congress CMs and ministers to give up their discretionary powers, especially in land allotment; d) Open, competitive system of exploiting natural resources and e) State-funding of elections.

If she is serious, she should get her government to take the following five steps for better result:

1. Institute the Lokpal. Since 1969, ten Lokpal Bills have lapsed. The 2010 bill has flaws like seeking prior clearance of presiding officers of the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha to investigate prime minister, ministers and members of parliament.

Amend it to give Lokpal suo motu powers to (i) register criminal and corruption cases (ii) investigate and (iii) prosecute. No clearance from anyone at any stage. Lokpal should be the apex body controlling all other investigating and prosecuting agencies like CVC and CBI, with its own prosecuting wing and complete functional and financial autonomy to act against political and administrative executives.

2. Withdraw the single directive that requires government’s permission to prosecute bureaucrats of joint secretary level and above. Also remove all such provisions in other laws.

3. No appointment to sensitive posts like the CVC, CAG, CEC and various regulatory bodies without open and wide public participation and consultation. We have seen how presence of the leader of opposition, Sushma Swaraj, in the selection committee couldn’t prevent tainted PJ Thomas to become the CVC.

Bar bureaucrats from taking up sensitive government jobs or private sector for five years post-retirement. Also ban bureaucrats like Pradeep Baijal to get into the sector he was dealing with at the secretary-level to become a stooge of lobbyist Niira Radia.

4. No policy or legislative move without prior public participation. No policy decisions, tax concessions, changes in rules etc in the budget. Strike down all legal provisions that allow “first-come-first-served”, the latest one being the one in the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill of 2010 which was recently cleared by the GoM in case of prospecting mining licenses.

5. Legislate state-funding of elections. During the United Front government of Deve Gowda, the then home minister Indrajit Gupta had dealt with the subject in detail. Dust it off and go all the way. Prohibitive election expense is one of the root causes of systemic corruption as the legislators get down to recover the money. Sonia Gandhi got that right.




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