More than good intentions needed.
Fourteen eminent men and women of business, economics and public life have written a letter to our leaders bemoaning the widespread governance deficit and urging a concerted war against corruption.
This is welcome not in the sense that the missive offers any blinding new insight or a pathbreaking solution but because it shows the right concern. Only agglomeration of such concern in sufficiently large quantities can trigger some corrective action. It is worth noting that only one among the 14, Azim Premji, is an active businessman.
Either our captains of industry are not sufficiently moved to voice their concern or they are chary of offending those in power, whether at the Centre, the state or the local panchayat. Industry is corruption's victim, true. But it is corruption's benefactor as well. Corruption is not a solo venture by the politician. It is the food, sustenance and extruded remains of a symbiotic relationship between industry and politics. It is not enough to appeal to politicians to change.
The audience that is addressed must include our captains of industry as well. But this is not the primary shortcoming of this appeal by eminent citizens.
What it fails to do is to prioritise the steps to cleanse the system, and, here, it is imperative to focus on political funding. In the absence of institutionalised, transparent, accountable funding of politics, Indian democracy has come to finance itself out of corruption. Political activity is funded by loot of the exchequer, sale of patronage and extortion. All three forms of political resource mobilisation call for collusion of the civil service, suborning and subverting the entire administrative apparatus as well.
In the name of collecting money for politics, individual politicians grow rich and bureaucrats ride the same gravy train. Cleaning up political funding is the place to begin. Cleanly funded politicians in power can take action against corruption in the bureaucracy as well.The rot in the system has reached critical mass that makes life-saving surgery imperative.
We call upon more concerned eminent citizens to speak up, and say so. Only politics and politicians can wield the scalpel. But for them to act, they need a world of encouragement.
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