Should bribery be legalised?
High office bearers, including former Chief Justice of India and Prime Minister had accepted that corruption is a part and parcel of every society.
The former Chief Justice Balakrishnan made an infamous statement during his tenure that it is time for the bribery to be legalised. Not only, the legal luminaries, but the people in general were surprised over his uncalled-for-statement. However, he made it clear to the public that he had come to the inevitable conclusion, after it was noticed that it is wellnigh-impossible to stop bribery and corruption charges at various levels, as it has started spreading like a cancer in the society. The ex-CJ had made a suggestion that bribes can be decided according to categories. For instance, a clerk in any government organisation or at the court is entitled to receive a particular sum as legal bribe. Will his suggestion augur well for a country like India? This is the question lingering in the minds of people, who firmly believe in adhering to the values associated with honesty and integrity in public life. Interestingly, will the bribe seekers accept the money doled out to them in the name of legality, or else will insist on additional amount on off-the-record basis with a belief that dishonesty is the best policy?
Balakrishnan’s utterances has proved beyond doubt that no government worth the salt in our country is able to stop the bribery/gambling right from the Independence Days. Under the circumstances, he was under the impression that the only remedy lies in making it legal, the illegal way of earning money by the wrong-doers. A section of people say that his opinion cannot be termed as entirely unreasonable, as the citizens find it difficult to get their work done without satisfying the concerned department in some or other way. They are perhaps right, as the practical problems being witnessed by them are galore. A trend had been created by a large-number of public sector employees, that they are hardly interested in serving their clients, unless they are assured of a sizeable return from them, albeit illegally to fill up their coffers. Not only the common people, even the business community, especially the small-scale industry have to suffer, when it was quite common for them to keep some money reserved exclusively for various government departments to run their business without any difficulty.
After an investigation
over betting in cricket, and the people, who were involved in it were nabbed by cops during the Indian Premier League tournament two-years ago, the lovers of the game were optimistic enough to hope that Board of Control for Cricket in India would leave no stone unturned to get-rid of the tainted sportspersons and administrators.
N. Srinivasa case
Though, the then BCCI president N. Srinivasan was forced to tender his resignation, considering the involvement of his son-inlaw, in the betting issue, it did not take much time for him to become a force-toreckon with in Tamil Nadu Cricket Association and to a larger extent in the BCCI. Though the Supreme Court has appointed Lodha Committee, which in turn, formed the Committee of Administrators(CoA) headed by the former justice Lodha to revamp the cricket administration, nothing tangible has emerged so far. It is crystal clear that the BCCI administrators, irrespective of their political affiliations and differences of opinion, are united in thwarting the attempts of the government to impose Right to Information (RTI) Act in the cricket board, Not to be left undone, the Board and the CoA are not sick and tired of trading barbs at each other every now and then.
Even the previous Congress government could not implement the RTI in BCCI, despite the best efforts by the then Cabinet Minister Ajay Makhan, as the Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar put his foot down by stating that “the BCCI is not coming under the purview of RTI”. The insiders in the political circle assert that the then Congress president and the United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and the present Congress chief Rahul Gandhi did not meddle in the BCCI imbroglio, in spite of the murky dealings in the Cricket Board, as they did not want to upset the political apple-cart by antagonising the stormypetrel Pawar.
When lottery banned
The AIADMK government, during the tenure of Jayalalithaa, made a wise-decision by abolishing the Lottery business in Tamil Nadu. Many small-time traders, hoarders and blackmarketers had become business magnets overtime, after indulging in gambling on Lottery, prior to the ban issued by the AIADMK government. N. Sugalchand Jain, a prominent Industrialist, based in Chennai, regretted that the lottery business had become obsolete in Tamil Nadu, and if the State Government, intends reviving it, he will not hesitate to go back to his favourite trade. A few other businessmen also share his opinion, and make no-holds-barred in admitting that trading in Lottery was like a sort of gambling, as it had provided them an opportunity to mint money.
The bureaucratic bungling and red-tapism had also proved to be a dampener for the citizens in getting their task fulfiled. The bribery in the form of gambling prevails everywhere with widenetwork in almost every profession. There is a saying that even in any civil court; a person cannot expect a simple form to be filled-in without favouring its clerk or a typist. It will be a herculean task to by-pass a record-clerk in a registration office, whether it is marriage or for realestate purposes, without catering to their greed. It was a customary trend, and the people have resigned to their fate and accepted it as part-and-parcel of their life. The chronic problem, however, is that, bribery percolates deep down the corridor in the cesspool of politics, as well as at the corporate sector, apart from educational institutions and tinsel world.
It has virtually not left any profession untouched. In the melee, the sharks escape and only the smallfries get noticed when the gambling takes place. Moreover, the political parties are not shy of adopting and defending unfair means, by advocating time and again that in a democratic set-up like
India, corruptions, scandals and gambling are inevitable.
The former Chief Justice of India’s view is nothing new, as even Indira Gandhi during her tenure as the Prime Minister, had mentioned, albeit indirectly, that the prevalence of small-level corruption is part and parcel of every society. Not
It has virtually not left any profession untouched. In the melee, the sharks escape and only the small-fries get noticed when the gambling takes place. Moreover, the political parties are not shy of adopting and defending unfair means, by advocating time and again that in a democratic set-up like India, corruptions, scandals and gambling are inevitable.
for nothing, she had not bothered to raise an alarm over corruption and gambling, as the centre of attraction then was the comic statement made by the then Defence Minister J. Jagjivan Ram, “I have forgotten to pay” on his failure to declare the income-tax return worth Rs ten lakhs( a huge amount in 1970s). The harried Prime Minister had hastened to defend him on this sensitive issue. When the former CPI(M) MP, Jyotirmoy
Basu pointed out the ulterior motivation behind the State Bank of India cashier Nagarwala, handing over Rs 60 lakhs to a messenger for merely mentioning the name of the then Prime Minister in early 1970s, the people sensed that there was something fishy somewhere. The opposition parties raised a hue and cry in Parliament over the unsavoury episode, but the grave issue died a slow death after some time. Gone were the days when the first Prime Minister of the nation, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, had asked his Finance Minister T.T. Krishnamachari to submit his resignation, even though Mundra, who was accused by the late Feroze Gandhi in the scandal revealed that he had only paid money to a cashier in State Bank and T.T.K. was in no way connected with it. In spite of the fact, Nehru had asked the then Union Finance Minister to put in his papers on moral grounds. The then Railway Minister Lal Bahaduri Shastri, too, resigned on taking moral responsibility for the in-famous rail accident at Dhaunshkodi, near Rameswaram, instead of manipulating to save his position. However, such instances are at the barest minimum.
“Plunder without detection”
The elderly statesman and former Swatantara Party chief, C. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) once described the Public Works Department as “Plunder without Detection”. There was much uproar over his bashing of the government department then, but the reality was glaringly evident, when the DMK Government led by M. Karunanidhi in early 1970s, found it difficult to weather the stringent criticism over ‘Shakti Pipes’ and
‘Veeranam Scandals’. When the former state chief minister M.G. Ramachandran had asked for accounting detail, he was unceremoniously expelled from the party by topbrasses in 1972. Interestingly, it was MGR, as the Treasurer of the DMK earlier, had defended the party with a constant query to the public during his political meetings, “Thimukavil oozhal irukkiratha?” (Do you find corruption charges in
DMK?) He will, in turn, elicit reply from the huge gathering, “Illai, Illai” (No, no) Ironically, it was MGR, who exposed the corruption scandals and gambling in the DMK government, after he floated the Anna Dravida
Munnetra Kazhagam (ADMK) and subsequently rechristened it as ‘All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’. (AIADMK). The people in general, then viewed the rampant corruption in the state government as nothing else than gambling essayed by politicians in connivance with the unscrupulous traders and educationists. A section of DMK supporters were quick enough to defend their party and reasoned that the government led by M. Karunanidhi, had initiated meaningful measures for the growth and welfare of people in the long-run, and it was quite natural for any government to indulge in corruption.
The bureaucrats were also blamed for the mushrooming corruption, especially at the political level. Some suspected IAS and IPS officers were either suspended or transferred to inconsequential places. The former Union Minister Sukh Ram blamed his Personal Assistant for stealing part of his property by using his signature, as he did not go through the context of the letter by relying on the version of his PA. Sources close to the AIADMK opine that during the tenure of MGR, some of the party members, and more so, his trusted lieutenants, had purchased lands, much below the normal rate and converted them as schools, colleges and universities.
Attempt to curb corruption
The former AIADMK minister, H.V. Hande, rued that despite MGR’s attempts to curb corruption in the party and in the government, he had to remain immune to it, when some party members were interested in making money by granting affiliations to colleges and universities in early 1980s, without properly assessing their merits and de-merits.
Even the former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had threatened to resign, when the Opposition parties traded corruption charges against his foster son-in-law for the investment of some Mutual Funds-related shares in companies that have no credible standing. It was left to the then Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani to persuade the irrepressible Vajpayee to change his decision.
A few political experts inform that the Directorate of Anti Vigilance Bureau often roll-out the figures of corruption-charges, involving small-time fringe elements for a paltry-sum. For instance, a seizure of Rs 100 to Rs 500 would be publicised by the department concerned to the fore, whereas it is hard to find in their list, the traplaid by them to catch redhanded the big-time offenders with huge sums in their kitty.
It is often the case of leaving the elephant go scotfree to make the mouse as a victim, as the old-adage would remind us. Some banks, especially, the public sector, are not willing to encourage savings bank account holders, as they do not fetch them enough deposits. On the contrary, they go out of the way to entertain the current account holders, even if they come to know about their fictitious dealings later.
Sources close to the banking sector point out that, when the company managements are willing to park the monthly salaries and other allowances of their employees in their bank accounts, the bank managers are aware that their clients are not spoon-
The former AIADMK minister H.V. Hande rued that despite MGR’s attempts to curb corruption in the party and in the government, he had to remain immune to it, when some party members were interested in making money by granting affiliations to colleges and universities in early 1980s, without properly assessing their merits and de-merits.
feeding them. It is a clear indication that the banks are expected to go out of the way to favour their clients, whenever the situation warranted.
No wonder, the nonperforming assets and the reserve-for-doubtful debts, if not bad debts, confront the bankers. If the sharemarket broker Harshad Mehta scandal, involving State Bank of India, rocked the Narasimha Rao government in early 1990s, the industrialist Nirav Modi, displayed another Houdini Act, through Punjab National Bank fiasco in the recent bank scandal.
An official of a private bank disclosed that they do not entertain the opening of accounts from lawyers, journalists and cops, as they will make the life of the bank miserable. When the official concerned was asked, as to why the people from legal, media and police professions create problem for them, as long as the banks dealings with their clients are perfectly alright, the official evaded the answer.
His stoic silence made it clear that his bank should not be targeted, even when their shoddy dealings are exposed to the public. Obviously, the concerned bank wanted to have the best of both the summer and winter under one-roof. A retired bank officer, who preferred to speak on a condition of anonymity, said that during the demonetisation exercise, some banks had indulged in virtual gambling by extending the favour in the form of huge money to their long-term clients in an unauthorised manner.
In a right direction
The Prime Minister Narendra Modi is perhaps right in urging the Chartered Accountants to work for the nation and not for their clients. There is no disputing the fact, but as an auditor would like us to know, how it is possible for him to work for the country only, without looking into the interests of his or her client. After, it is the question of survival first and the acceleration comes next. A renowned auditor Ramaswamy has said that it is difficult for any auditor or the audit firm to unravel the under-writing dealings of his client, as the Chartered Accountant is expected to finish off the duty assigned to him and not to question the business interests of any organisation.
Like in any other profession, if a company thinks that the auditor or the audit firm exceeds their limit, it does not take much time for the organisation to replace them with some other audit firm. In this mushrooming competition, the audit firms are not ready to sacrifice their clients.
For instance, even if the auditors have the right to ask the entrepreneurs to produce their personal check books, they are wary of asking them, says an auditor Ramalingam, before adding, when it has been decided to replace “certified
Like in any other profession, if a company thinks that the auditor or the audit firm exceeds their limit, it does not take much time for the organisation to replace them with some other audit firm. In this mushrooming competition, the audit firms are not ready to sacrifice their clients. For instance, even if the auditors have the right to ask the entrepreneurs to produce their personal check books, they are wary of asking them, says an auditor Ramalingam.
to the best of my knowledge and information with the mere one-liner, “certified”, it is an accepted fact that everything is fine with the client. Importantly, the auditing has been done to streamline the accounting process, and to inform the management, if any staff member adopts unscrupulous method.
They too, are in a similar predicament like the auditors, as they also cannot afford to lose their clients. In the olden days, the flagship company was easily identifiable. But, in this globalised and computerized-era, the closely-held companies are ruling the roost, says an observer of the industrial scenario. For instance, a proprietor of an organisation is not directly connected with his other umpteen companies, called as subsidiaries in the past, but he is the overall supremo.
Moreover, he might also be holding the benami properties of a politician or some other renowned personality. The scenario is much worse in education sector. With the capitation fee, conspicuous by its presence, it gives enough scope for indulging in horsetrading and gambling for the people, who are in no way connected with the academic scenario. It has become a regular feature now for most of the employers to float their charitable trusts to avoid payment of income tax. Constant touch with government officials also help the owners of companies and educational institutions, as the common interest necessitates them to brush up their pretending activities in the world surrounded by parallel education, parallel governance, if not parallel economy.
With constant elections doing rounds, it helps out the vested interests in almost all professions to go for a hand-in-glove deal with the government. With the rapid increase in the number of political outfits after the demonetisation, it becomes easier for the people with black money to pump in their resources at these outfits, without worrying about their tax problem. Under the circumstances, the people, who are involved in petty crime, feel that, if corrupt industrialists like Mallya and Nirav Modi, could have their way, after indulging in massive gambling-likecorruption, their offences are only peanuts. They are seldom aware that small drop makes an ocean and their petty offences would be equated on a massive scale, indulged in by some vested interests. The filmworld is no different, as like the politicians and industrialists, their money is also parked in banks at Switzerland and various other places. The paid-news in Media has been doing the round for some time, with un-truth and exaggerated news version of the ‘Face Book’ and ‘Twitter’, keep the readers in quandary.
Under the circumstances, it is worthwhile to ponder about the suggestions of the former Justice
Balakrishnan to facilitate the process for legalised corruption. It is imperative to gauge his frustration, although not expressed candidly, as when the filmgoers are ready to buy their tickets in black-market; there is no point in apportioning the blame on the touts, who take the advantage to make extramoney. Similar is the problem enmeshing in other fields. As long as the people ready to dish out extra money voluntarily for the service rendered to them, the temptation is bound to go up.
It is a never-ending menace, as once a person believes that he or she is capable of earning more than what they deserve in an unworthy manner, the value for money becomes irrelevant. There is a saying that charity begins at home, but when the entire country is afflicted with gambling and bribery charges and do not feel accountable or responsible to their assigned job, it is time for the government to address the problem crippling the have-nots.
Is it not time to remind the people about the famous line from the late Tamil lyricist Pattukottai Kalyana Sundaram, in the song, “Thirudanai Parthu Thirundavittal Thiruttai Ozhikkamudiyathu”. (Unless the thief realises the folly of stealing, it is difficult to stop robbery). What he implied in his assertion was that, is it not high time to indulge in self-introspection, instead of ensconcing in selfcheating?
Bribery persists at every level of dealing in India!
C. Rajagopalachary once described Public Works Departmentas “plunder without detection.”
In the beginning, MGR and Karunanidhi were the close associates in DMK.
The head of two consecutive governments in India with the political alliance of UPA and NDA.
Corruption is illegal and a crime.