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Combating Corruption

Combating Corruption
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, the Whistle Blowers Protection Act 2011, the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, and the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act; together they cover a number of areas of criminalisation 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, along with the "minimum government and maximum governance" ideology has resulted in the simplification of our governance model, in the recent years. Some of the steps included the abolition of the system of attestation or 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 demonetised high-value currency to eliminate black money and corruption. A special investigation team was constituted to fight black money. The government also conducted online auctions of coal blocks while seeking international cooperation in G-20 meetings on ending tax havens in Europe and other countries. In bilateral meetings with Swiss authorities, India has said, combating 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 to sakhi mandals (self-help groups) in the state and said that he was surprised by the answers he got from the villagers on 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 Jan Dhan Yojana provided universal and clear access to banking accounts with an overdraft facility. In 2016, the Aadhaar 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 Aadhaar 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 the National Payments Corporation of India. The BHIM application facilitates e-payments directly through banks and can be used across all mobile devices. Collectively, the Jan Dhan Yojana, the Aadhaar Act, and the BHIM Application have provided for a smart government where subsidy flows reach the beneficiary in a timely and effective manner. The same quantum of subsidy could now benefit and be far more effectively spent by a "smarter governance model" than in a manual system.
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 the youth, observance of vigilance awareness weeks, process simplification to reduce discretion and an interface with public servants, focused on training and skill development while also awarding exemplary punishment against all cases of proven misconduct that has created deterrence. The CVC has sought to create a people's movement against corruption through an e-pledge to be voluntarily taken up by the citizens and organisations.
Further, the Government has sought to strengthen the auditing and accounting processes. Some of the big changes introduced in financial governance are the 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 the Goods and Services Tax. Looking at the enormity of the flow of funds to urban and rural local bodies, the CAG has identified their audit as a critical area. The CAG has also focused on the large volumes of digital information emerging from an increased automation of tax filing, assessment, and recovery procedures.
There have been significant efforts made to promote transparency within the 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, citizens have become a part of the decision-making process, which leads to the creation of trust between individuals and the government. The Prevention of Corruption Act aims to consolidate a law relating to the prevention of corruption. The law provides for punishments for receiving gratification beyond legal remuneration in the respect of official acts. The investigative powers have been given to the CBI and State Police Authorities. The Government has said that accountability standards for public servants have to be rested at realistic levels so that officers do not hesitate in making honest decisions.
In order to give statutory protection to whistle blowers in the country, the 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 our 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 an offence in benami transactions by the competent court, s/he can be punished with rigorous imprisonment and shall also be liable to hefty fine. Several benami transactions have been identified since the amended law had come into effect.
It may be thus said that India continues the Fight against Corruption and Black Money. These efforts led by a comprehensive focus on smart governance are yielding positive results. PIB
(The author is Chairman, Rajasthan Tax Board and Board of Revenue for Rajasthan. The views are personal.)

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