Monday, August 29, 2011

War on Corruption- Strategic Impact

Dear All,
I am appending below an advance copy of an article titled "War on Corruption - Strategic Impact" that has been sent to a magazine for publication. It is too long to be published in a newspaper, for which a shorter version has been sent, but has not yet been published. If you have the time, do peruse it.
Vijay Oberoi

By Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi and Ashish Puntambekar

Corruption is undoubtedly the hottest subject in India today. The credit for bringing it in focus must naturally go to Anna Hazare and the team that had the brilliance of making him the leader of the movement. Today, Anna is drawing crowds because the populace is fed up of mounting corruption in all fields of official and private interaction in our country. While a strong Lokpal Bill will help in prosecuting many corrupt leaders and officials, it is just one action that will rid the country of massive corruption. It will undoubtedly help, but much more effort would be needed at many levels. Besides enactment of the Lok Pal Bill, the government will have to carry out a major exercise on simplification of rules and procedures in all ministries and departments, especially relating to permissions/sanctions and to prepare clear and precise guidelines relating to business activity. In army parlance, corruption is being currently tackled at the tactical level. For much higher dividends, we need to upgrade it to the strategic level and fight a war against corruption, consisting of many battles. Besides benefits at the individual levels, India would reap major strategic gains by eradicating corruption or at least bringing it down substantially.

Corruption Status
Corruption in our country has now reached every nook and cranny of our daily living. It is not just the political leaders; senior bureaucrats; judiciary; and the hierarchy of the police; that are manifestly corrupt, but most if not all government servants, at all levels are as corrupt to a lesser or greater degree. Similarly, the corrupt include revenue officials; lower judiciary including their subordinates; the rank and file of the police, besides the hierarchy; and railway officials at every level. While the Lokpal Bill focuses on the big fish, the huge shoals of smaller fish in every walk of life, amounting to nearly 95%, will also need to be tackled simultaneously. The Media debate has not highlighted this, though it is included in the Jan Lokpal bill
We must also not forget the private sector. Here too corruption prevails at all levels, from corporate houses to the fields of education, medical practice, law, chartered accountancy and especially the entire entertainment industry. Even the media has its share of corruption. It manifests itself as biased news, paid news, suppressing of facts; manipulating statistics and facts and even actively working for influencing decisions of the government, as it was clear from the Radia Tapes episode.

Multi-faceted Approach
The aim of listing out the above is to emphasize that corruption has to be attacked at all levels and not just at the Lokpal or Lokayukt levels. In military terms, what is being attempted by Anna’s Team is to fight just one battle in the big war against corruption and that many battles of varying intensities need to be fought at successive levels of governance as well as in the private sector. Only then will we be able to make a substantial dent in achieving a relatively corruption-free society in our country. Let us now reflect on how widespread corruption has adversely impacted and continues to impact at the strategic level. Since Independence, we grew at the so-called Hindu rate of growth of 2.5 to 3 per cent for decades, on account of the ‘command economy’ and the overbearing controls of the government, better known as the ‘licence – permit raj’. That was the start of corruption. In the early Nineties, we opened the economy somewhat and the results were spectacular, but now on account of rampant corruption that has increased exponentially, the Growth Rate is slowing down. The reason is that no attempt was made to change the system of governance, as it suited the corrupt leaders and officials eminently!

Impact at Strategic Level
Now, we can come to the main purpose of this article, which is to show how widespread corruption has adversely impacted and continues to impact at the strategic level. Our economy is currently stagnating on account of slow decision making; bureaucratic red tape; lack of transparency; and widespread corruption. The military is hollow on account of no modernization and its downgrading in society, which is both misguided and intentional. A powerful and prosperous nation needs a vibrant economy and a strong military. One complements the other. The following paragraphs will highlight the economic and security benefits that eradication of corruption at all levels will deliver to the nation. A substantive dilution of corruption will bring about a major change in the investment climate through transparent decision making at all levels of the government and the reduction of money being sucked away by the corrupt, which finds its way in non-productive assets or is whisked away abroad. This transparency will then macro impact on both the economy and the military.
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