Corrupt and bankrupt Tamil Nadu

corruptionTamil Nadu was in the forefront of clean politics and development once upon a time. Now the situation is topsy-turvy. Neither politics nor development is clean. Both have become notorious and denting the image of Tamil society. Corruption every where and development losing sight in the industrial sector are the twin assaults on Tamil Nadu.

Nevertheless Tamil Nadu is better in urbanisation and per capita increase in the country. Its health indicators are showing a good progress. Although government hospitals and schools are spruced up there are very few visitors to it. Agony is more in the schools.

Corruption is dancing happily from hospital to the very top of the administration. The worst scenario is the fixed bribe rate for each posting and transfers. Almighty Amma must crack the whip and eradicate the corrupt party men, women and officers. Unless this is done, the state will lose in the national race. If it is done, Almighty Amma will be revered forever.

Times of India writes on 10 March 2015

Rumblings against corruption in the state administration are getting louder after former agriculture minister SS Krishnamurthy’s unceremonious exit from the cabinet over the suicide of an agriculture department executive engineer S Muthukumarasamy in Tirunelveli last month. Krishnamurthy’s office had allegedly harassed the official to manipulate the selection process for recruitment of drivers in the department. Not able to bear the ordeal, the official jumped before a running train.

Muthukumarasamy’s suicide was not a one-off case, said CPM state secretary G Ramakrishnan. “There is corruption in appointments, promotions and transfers, largely at officers’ level, in every department. Straightforward officials suffer because of this,” said Ramakrishnan. Both AIADMK and DMK governments have nurtured corrupt practices and it has gained alarming proportions in the last 10 years, he said.

Every department has shocking tales to narrate about corruption. A powerful VIP convened regional meetings of aided college principals and secretaries about two years ago to raise money from appointments of assistant professors. One of the college secretaries, who attended one such meeting at Tirunelveli circuit house, said, “The VIP’s PA had summoned both principals and secretaries. The meeting started in the night and the VIP called us one by one into his room and said unless we paid money to him, appointments of new assistant professors would not be approved. He demanded Rs 5 lakh per post from minority institutions and Rs 7 lakh per post from non-minority institutions. If we could not collect money from the candidates, he said he himself would identify suitable candidates”. Since then, most college managements have been collecting extra money, over and above Rs 5-10 lakh they collect from candidates, for appointing assistant professors.
In the police department, deputy superintendents of police and inspectors pay money to middlemen to secure transfers to preferred locations. “While DSPs pay Rs 4-10 lakh depending on the district and city, inspectors pay Rs 2-3 lakh for transfers,” said an official. “A relative of a senior official in Chennai is a prominent collection agent. Anybody who gives money to that agent gets the posting of his choice,” the official said.

Corruption has pervaded all levels of the state administration that people now take it for granted, said MG Devasahayam, a retired bureaucrat. “It has destroyed the basic fabric of the administration, because people get into a position by bribing and also stay there by bribing. There is money in appointments, postings, transfers and stopping transfers. Only the level varies depending on the capacity of politicians to demand and officials to pay. When an official pays money to get a post, his or her effort is focused only on collecting several times more of that from the public,” said Devasahayam.

Everyone seems to be benefitting from corruption in Tamil Nadu, said a retired director general of police. “Since those sitting at the top take money, people below also have a field day,” he said. Ramakrishnan said CPM would hold a series of agitations to put an end to corruption in government administration.

CAG SHOULD BE POLITICS FREE

Ruling parties tend to control all levers of power. Congress party’s vibes at the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) is deeply wounding every genuine citizen of the country. CAG is doing his job. Reminding government about the losses and warning about the future losses. If CAG sings Government tunes then it is doing disservice to the constitution.

It is dangerous to infringe on the rights fo CAG. At the moment making CAG will dilute its new found energy. But what if all three members turn out to be genuine and take on the government? The Congress party must stop its evil designs and start putting the nation back on track. Otherwise it will face total rout in the coming parliamentary elections.

Ramaswamy R Iyer writes in The Hindu on 16 November 2012

The intention behind the move to make the CAG a multimember body is not to activate the Shunglu Committee’s report but a desire to clip the auditor’s wings
During the last few days there have been many comments on the report that the government of India was considering a proposal to make the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) a multimember body. The move has been widely seen as a maladroit one. Most of the points that need to be made in this regard have been made succinctly in the excellent editorial in The Hindu on November 13, 2012 [“Controlling the auditor”]. This article will deal with some of the issues not covered in the comments that have appeared so far.

If one looks at Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) around the world, one will find both single-member SAIs (e.g., the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, etc) and multimember bodies such as Audit Commissions or Courts (France, Germany, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, etc). Both forms seem to be working well. There seems to have been no general or widespread debate on the form of the SAI. Single-member or multimember, whichever form a country starts with seems to stay unchanged. There seems to be hardly any basis for supposing that the SAI works better in countries with the multimember form than in countries with the single-member form.

Hypothetically speaking, if in India we had started with a multimember SAI, we would probably have stayed with it. As it happens, the U.K., the U.S., Canada, etc, have single-member SAIs, and we adopted that pattern. One has not heard that there has been dissatisfaction in England or America with the form of the SAI and a desire to change it. Why then should we depart from that well-established pattern? It cannot be said that the Indian Audit Department has not been functioning well. It is internationally well regarded, is a highly respected member of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) and its Asian counterpart, the Asian Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (ASOSAI), and is performing an important role as auditor of several United Nations bodies. What then is the need for a structural change?

Case of the Election Commission

If the idea of making a change has emerged in India from the feeling that there has been an “overreach” by the CAG, the critics should take a look at the subjects of the audit reports of the National Audit Office in the U.K. and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in the U.S. Their scope and range are breathtaking.

The important change in the history of the Election Commission (EC) was its greater public visibility after T.N. Seshan’s tenure. He made it fully aware of its own strength. This has nothing to do with its structural form. The EC has continued to function reasonably well after the change to a three-member body, but quite possibly, it would have done so even if it had continued as a single-member body. It is very difficult to say that the conversion into a three-member body has meant a marked improvement in its functioning. This is largely a question of the functioning of the individuals constituting the commission. On the other hand, there have been reports of dissensions within the commission from time to time. One can at the most make the negative claim that those dissensions, which must have made the functioning of the commission difficult, did not succeed in paralysing it. The history of the EC provides no clear answer as to the comparative merits of a single-member body and a multimember body.

Theoretically it could be argued that a collegiate form is better, but in practice there seems to be no compelling or urgent reason for a change. Assuming that there is a case for a collegiate form, that is not the most urgently needed reform, if it is a reform at all. What is more important and urgent is the need to respect the CAG as a constitutional functionary (the most important constitutional functionary according to Dr. Ambedkar); refrain from denigrating it in an unseemly fashion merely because its reports make the government uncomfortable; accept the accountability that it enforces as mandated by the Constitution; strengthen its hands in every way; take its reports seriously and respond with due corrective action; ensure that the selection of this high functionary is based on proper criteria and procedures; make the selection transparent and bipartisan; and so on. To ignore all this and advocate structural change is frivolous if not disingenuous.

It has been stated that the Shunglu Committee has recommended it. One wonders whether that committee had any business at all to recommend structural changes in the CAG’s organisation. Be that as it may, the fact that Mr. Shunglu made some recommendations is of no great consequence. (One recalls his controversial reports on IIM Ahmedabad and on the rehabilitation issue in the Sardar Sarovar Project.) The case for a multimember SAI needs to be examined carefully. As has been argued above, it is not established, and is far from being urgent.

It is clear that what lies behind this move is not the Shunglu Committee’s report but anger with the present CAG and a desire to clip his wings, just as it was the desire to hamper Seshan’s functioning that led to the conversion of the single-member Election Commission into a three-member body. This has been recognised by all, and need not be laboured.

The analogy with the Election Commission is imperfect. The Constitution provided for the possibility of a multimember Commission, and left the choice to the government. The EC started as a single-member body and continued so for many years, and then was made into a multimember body, under the existing constitutional provisions. There is no parallel enabling provision in the Constitution under which the CAG can be made into a multimember body. Such a conversion would require a constitutional amendment. With a hundred things on its hands, why should the government even think about undertaking a major constitutional amendment of this kind at this stage? This in itself is sufficient ground for suspecting the motivations behind this idea.

Further, the danger of initiating fundamental structural changes in this hoary institution is the opportunity and the temptation that it would provide to wipe the slate clean and rewrite the CAG’s charter, downgrading and diminishing the institution. One suspects that that is not just a “danger” but is in fact the intention. If that suspicion were true, what a travesty it would be of the noble vision of this institution entertained by Dr. Ambedkar, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dr. Radhakrishnan, C. Rajagopalachari, T.T. Krishnamachari and others.

Questions

Finally, three questions for constitutional experts:

1. It was surely not through inadvertence or forgetfulness that the Constitution provided an option of a multimember Election Commission but did not do so in the case of the CAG. We must presume that this was a deliberate distinction. If so, would it be right to obliterate that distinction by an amendment?

2. A constitutional amendment that would convert the single Comptroller and Auditor General of India into the head of a multimember body (whatever the name) will be a major structural change. If so, presumably it can only be brought into effect for future appointments and cannot be made applicable to the present incumbent appointed under the existing provisions. If so, would the government still be interested in the amendment?

3. The sections relating to the CAG are not specifically mentioned in Article 368(2) of the Constitution which requires ratification of amendments by not less than half the State legislatures, presumably because the Constitution-makers did not expect those provisions to be amended. However, would not any constitutional amendment affecting the institution of the CAG (who is CAG for the States as well as the Centre) require consultation with the States, even if 368(2) does not apply?

Clean up Mr.P.M!

Being loyal is different from being a Prime Minister of a billion plus population. Dr. Manmohan Singh has got unfortunately the dummy P.M tag from every corner of the society. On the one hand, powerful leader starved world looks Indian P.M as the powerful among the powerless alot on the other hand, Indian public feels betrayed by his experience and eminence. Running a puppet government for the past 7 years, Manmohan has alot of clean up job. First is to clean up his polluted image as the puppet prime minister. Second to get his act together and reform the economy. Third walk away from the sycophants and lead an independent decision maker life. Unless and untill these are done, India will continue to watch helplessly the helpless P.M.

 

Bharat  Karnad writes in The Deccan Chronicle on 18 August 2011

It is curious that India and the United States — the two most important democracies in the world today, have in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Barack Obama, chief executives who, it turns out, share traits that the Washington Post columnist, E.J. Dionne, Jr., identified as Mr Obama’s hallmark, namely, being at once risk-averse and competitive. In the three weeks this writer recently spent in America, it was impossible to escape the incessant drumbeat in the media about the economy on the skids, raising of the national debt ceiling amidst rancorous partisanship, the loss of “Triple A” credit rating, and an ascendant China, fearing its huge investment in some 13 per cent of the US Treasury bonds issued being reduced to waste paper, furiously wagging a finger at Washington, demanding Americans live within their means. (In all this gloom, amusement was afforded visiting Indians and NRIs, at least, by the website of a major Indian newspaper heralding an Indian as having “downgraded the United States”!) Meanwhile, at the centre of the hubbub, Mr Obama stayed on the sidelines, mostly disengaged, even as Republican Party Right-wingers called him names. It felt like home. With scams and scandals of all kinds coming home to roost within the Congress Party portals, bad economic news dogging his every step, Dr Singh, other than sleep-talking through much the same Red Fort speech he has made the last seven years on Independence Day, has stayed mum, barricading himself in 7 Race Course Road, a mute spectator to things going horribly wrong for his government and for him personally. Except, unlike Mr Obama, the Indian Prime Minister is no mass leader nor a political visionary; even less is he an orator able to turn around a disbelieving public. His public speeches actually set many a teeth on edge. Dr Singh hopes to keep warbling the same old song without taking any of the follow-up actions he has been promising these many years to implement the second-generation economic reforms desperately needed to shift the economy to a higher plane. But transforming India into a powerful growth engine, at a minimum, requires overhauling archaic labour laws and instituting new land acquisition norms in order to give fillip to industry, and boosting the rural economy by freeing the agricultural sector from export and other restrictions, none of which is being done because of fear of the faux socialists — Messrs Mulayam Singh, Amar Singh, Lalu Prasad Yadav, and Company, and the unpredictable politics of Mayawati. It is another matter that these worthies have, so far, been held in check by the ruling party manipulating the CBI corruption cases against them. But general economic up-gearing and CBI threats nevertheless entail risks because, overdone, these measures may persuade these leaders to join with the BJP-led Opposition to bring down the Congress-led coalition government. And risk-taking of any kind, especially with so much at stake, goes against Dr Singh’s over-cautious nature and party chief Sonia Gandhi’s plans. After all he is a career bureaucrat hoisted, for reasons of zero-threat to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and his personal malleability, to the top post in government, an arrangement that permits Mrs Gandhi to keep her hand on the steering wheel, a control now reinforced by her chosen civil servant, Pulok Chatterji, replacing T.K.A Nair as principal secretary to the Prime Minister. The corporate bosses’ understanding of the turgid pace of economic reforms is limited by the automotive metaphor they have used. Y.C. Deveshwar of Indian Tobacco Company in the August 2 meeting with finance minister Pranab Mukherjee reportedly ventured that the problem lay with two drivers — one pressing the accelerator, the other the brake. It’s a view similar to the Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy’s that the government’s “culture of taking slow decisions” is attributable to “two leaders in the set-up”. While such takes on reality seem reasonable at first glance, they are wrong in their essentials, in the main, because they assume that Dr Singh is driven by the desire for systemic change. The fact is he never had his foot on the accelerator, even as Mrs Gandhi never lifted hers from the brake pedal for fear that any forward movement would undermine the ruling party’s pseudo-Leftist moorings. Indira Gandhi’s Garibi Hatao-brand of crude populism masquerading as socialism is the true ideological lodestar of the Congress Party, not the quaint Fabian socialist tenets that animated Jawaharlal Nehru’s policies. Dr Singh, the ultimate apparatchik and beneficiary of the system, in the event, has a disincentive to burnish his reformist credentials, such as they are, if that involves crossing the party line. Mrs Gandhi, on her part, may understand little about socialism other than that it has kept her family in the clover for a very long time. But it is sufficient reason for her to stay with the socialist rhetoric, statist solutions, and a horrendous state apparatus, which together have turned corrupt practices and mis-governance into a thriving cottage industry. Where corruption is concerned, Dr Singh and Mr Obama are somewhat similarly placed. Personally clean, Mr Obama owes his meteoric rise from a grassroots organiser in Chicago to the corrupt Democratic Party political machine ruthlessly run, gangster style, first by mayor Richard J. Daley, who bequeathed the machine to his son, the even longer serving Richard Michael Daley, whose brother, William J. Daley, incidentally, is Mr Obama’s White House Chief of Staff. Dr Singh may not be corrupt himself, but that is small consolation considering he is presiding over a government that, going by the sheer extent, scale and magnitude of the loot indulged in by his party members and Cabinet colleagues, is patently the most corrupt in independent India’s history, and one that may be headed for a downfall. The muck has long ago stuck to the Prime Minister’s escutcheon. So, when he repeatedly declares that the corrupt will face punishment, who takes him seriously?

Freedom from dysfuctional Indian system

No field of public significance is free from corruption, chaos and dysfunction. Indian system is so systemically rotten beyond any repair. Who is responsible? How to be eradicated this menace? These searching questions may not produce any substantial change from the present mess. But one cannot allow the current rotten situation to continue. From entrepreneurship to education, from governance to gambling, every aspect of the Indian system is bought and sold for a price. Ironicialy those who were responsible to change the system for the past six decades are chest thumping this problem for the past six decades. When we are going to find some credible action?

 

Jayant writes in The Deccan Chronicle on 16 February 2011

 

The following story from a particular edition of the Ramayana sets the tone of this article. In the aftermath of the destruction of Ravan, Ram returned to Ayodhya to set up his rule. Ram Rajya, as his rule was called, became synonymous with good and just rule. Anyone demanding justice had full access to the king. So one day a dog with a ferocious appearance entered Ram’s court asking for justice. Ram asked him to state the details of his complaint. “Sire,” said the dog, “I was following a sanyasi as he went around begging for alms and with no provocation on my part, he kicked me. He is standing outside and I demand that he be suitably punished.” Ram called the sanyasi who readily admitted to the act. But he gave a reason. He said: “Sire, I was begging for food to eat and wherever I went, the housewife who opened the door immediately shut it on seeing this ferocious dog. As a result I went hungry. Since it was all because of this dog, I took my anger out on him by kicking him. I agree that it was an unjust act on my part and the dog cannot be held responsible for how he looks. So I am willing to accept any just punishment.” Then Ram turned to the dog and asked him what he thought would be a just punishment. The dog thought for a while and then said: “Sire, I suggest that you create a vidyapeeth, and make him its kulapati”. “But that is an honour, not a punishment!” said Ram. “I beg to differ, Sire!” said the dog. “The responsibility of running a vidyapeeth will cause him enough mental anguish which would be a good punishment for what he did to me.”

The situation prevailing today in the Indian universities is no different. The atmosphere in which a vice-chancellor (VC) has to function is volatile with pressures coming from students, faculty, the non-teaching staff, outside threats to him and to the security of the university et cetera. Although the university is autonomous, there is enough political interference from outside and the last word often rests not with the VC but with the babus in the secretariat. The days when VCs, like Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan or Acharya Narendra Dev, were towering personalities commanding respect are long past. The post itself has been seriously devalued by the procedure of selection. Would you have expected the personalities just named applying for the post, being short-listed and interviewed?

It could be argued that this procedure followed in Maharashtra, a supposedly progressive state, is a necessity today because no other action involving selection for such an important post is credible enough. The procedure whereby the chancellor (or the appointing authority), after receiving expert advice, invites a distinguished academician to accept the post, would be viewed with suspicion. The fact that the system worked well in the old days of pre-Independence (and even for a few years post-Independence), speaks for the steep decline in moral values in our public life. For example, I was shocked to read about a VC of a very old university publicly thanking the state education minister for keeping his word by making him the VC.

The situation at the other end of the spectrum — in school education — is equally dismal. Government-aided schools are asked to admit more than 80 children per class because there is a shortage of schools. What can a teacher do with such a large number of pupils? Naturally, because of bad or no teaching in the school, students seek the help of coaching classes outside. In addition, there are government missives: fail no student until Class 8. If student is really weak in a particular subject, it is the responsibility of the teacher to stay after school hours and teach the student to the required level. Which teacher — who is already overworked and underpaid — is going to accept this extra responsibility? So all students are declared passed. The parents are blissful and satisfied that their wards are doing well, until they reach Class 8 when they discover with a shock that the kids cannot even add, subtract or read and write.

In 1980, when I was on a sabbatical visit to the University College, Cardiff, the headmaster of the primary school in our neighbourhood sent circulars to all the houses in the neighbourhood urging parents to send their children to his school stating that in order to increase the number of students the entry age had been reduced by six months to five years. He had done so because reduced birth rate had decreased the school student population and the government was threatening to close down schools with a low number of students. This example illustrates the economics of supply and demand for available schools versus students seeking admission.

Logic dictates that in India, where there is a grave shortage of schools, we reduce the number of students per class to half, and double the number of schools. The number of teachers needs to be increased even more since the present numbers are already inadequate and teachers are being hired on a contract basis at shamefully low “daily wages”, barely above the legal lower limits. This will require huge increases in the budgetary provisions of the ministry of human resource and development. But whichever political party is in power, this department is always kept on the backburner. There may be innumerable discussions and reports on education but when it comes to the implementation of any recommendation the result can be summarised by the four letter word, “zero”.

The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, himself a distinguished academic, and our Nobel laureate, Mr Amartya Sen, have stressed the need to empower our youth through education. If India aspires to be a developed nation by 2020, it needs to develop huge human resources and education is the most crucial qualification that adds value to the human being. Despite many declarations from the pulpit, politicians of all parties do not seem to appreciate the truth behind this dictum. Or, perhaps, they do, and see in the educated electorate a threat to their continuation in power!