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Editorial

Laws to curb a corrupt bureaucracy

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By EMN Updated: Mar 11, 2014 12:39 am
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We, as citizens of India, need to understand and appreciate that two forms of corruption pervades our public discourse — public and private corruption. The discourse on corruption is itself getting shriller, murkier, more annoying and personally scathing with every passing day. We are focusing too much on corruption at the level of politicians and not focusing enough on how the bureaucracy functions, supports and connives to make it all possible.
Public corruption is the illicit use of political influence (sale of political influence, political extortion, industry capture, strategic investment decisions, etc.), whereas private corruption arises when the either the private player curtails competition (thus, compromising consumer interests) or when there is a case of industry capture with regulators getting too close to the industry and promoting its interest at the expense of broader societal interest.
The adage “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” fits exceptionally well here. The absolute corruption that we see within the bureaucracy is reflected in their attitude towards learning, their limited perspective, narrow views, their inability to think and unwillingness to appreciate a different perspective -causing grievous harm to individuals who disagree with the bureaucrats.
The fight today is between social welfare and pursuing self-interest. The self-interest of the politician is to get re-elected and he/she performs keeping their political agendas in mind, whereas the bureaucrat has no reason to fear the law, perform, be reasoned and maybe well-meaning.Non-performance of the bureaucracy (which is a form of individual corruption) or performance that only keeps in mind the protection of their individual interests is the gravest danger to the country. The adverse effects of corruption are already visible in the lower acceptance of established institutions, deficient counter-systems, etc. This could not have happened without the explicit support of the bureaucracy — and not only the politicians we tend to blame.
The best way to curb corruption is to reduce the opportunities for intervention by the government and bureaucracy. Corruption, without doubt, can be looked at as a resource allocation problem in most of the developing world, which is executed by its bureaucracy. Let’s not forget what Mahatma Gandhi said -that we are not simply interested in exchanging the rule by white sahibs for rule by brown sahibs. Unfortunately, this is exactly what has happened. What we need, more than anything else, is a revolution to free us from the clutches of bureaucracy.

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By EMN Updated: Mar 11, 2014 12:39:21 am