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Fighting Corruption

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Former Chief Minister Harish Rawat of the Congress has targeted BJP MP Tirath Singh Rawat’s comment that corruption in Uttarakhand after its formation as a separate state continues at past levels, with ‘cuts’ amounting to as much as twenty percent. The Congress leader has chosen to present it as signs of dissidence within the ruling party. To be more accurate, the BJP MP has blamed it not on any party or person, but on a culture inherited from past UP-era practices.

Everybody wants corruption to be curbed, but few have workable remedies for the disease. The truth is that the security of tenure in government jobs is what encourages officials to indulge in corrupt practices. Compare this to what happens in capitalist systems such as in the US, where Elon Musk is busy firing employees in the thousands, some merely for criticising him. Can something like that happen in India? Quite obviously, what’s happening in Twitter (and also Amazon) is somewhat extreme, but there has to be something that puts the fear of God in the termites that eat away unremittingly at the system.

Every organisation usually has a certain percentage of employees that are efficient and suited to the job, who end up carrying a disproportionately large share of the burden. There are an equal number of slackers that hide their inefficiencies in various ways, taking advantage of their positions for their own benefit. The rest just do what they are told to do, not taking initiative or even being bothered about why they are in the job. The more the corruption, the larger number of employees is compromised, paralysing the system.

In the context of government service, if the situation is to be corrected, modern management practices need to be introduced so that outcomes at the individual level can be assessed. If there are clearly defined targets to be met and one’s job security dependent on quality of one’s work, the space for corruption will be reduced. The next, more difficult step would be corrective action so that the inefficient are punished and the achievers incentivised. And as Tirath Singh Rawat has suggested, it is for the people – as the ultimate employers and final beneficiaries of good governance – to send a clear signal on the targets to be achieved. Failing which, the less capable should be weeded out come election time. So, do keep an eye on your local MLA’s performance – it is also good economics.