“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

The related stories – editorial on institutionalized corruption, corruption in stealing electricity by common citizens, and finally an award for top performance as a one of the most corrupt states

Tackling Corruption (Editorial in the Kashmir Images)

Few years back the Court of Special Judge Anti-Corruption Kashmir convicted a former Executive Engineer in a disproportionate assets case. The accused was convicted to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of three years with a fine of Rs 5 lakhs while Rs 6.92 lakhs seized during the search of his house, were also confiscated.

But what happened to the case then, nobody has heard anything since. This particular case is beyond the point here. What is, however, important is that this is the way to go about dealing with the corruption which has been so rampant here that Jammu and Kashmir is continuously maintaining itself among the top ranking corrupt states according to the Transparency International.

Taking the corrupt government officials to task under law and confiscating their ill-gotten wealth and other assets has certainly the potential to set a good precedent for others to understand that they can’t indulge in corrupt practices. Even as every now and then the State Vigilance Organization comes up with press statements about its action against the corrupt officials, but then the inordinate delay in settling these cases in courts, is not at all a very healthy and encouraging trend. Of course the Vigilance Organisation and other concerned agencies need to pull up their socks to expedite cases against the corrupt and come up with concrete evidence to nail them.

Governments in the state have all along been very loud and vocal about their so-called resolve to fight the corruption. But unfortunately, much of this resolve remains confined to verbal gymnastics alone while the actual action very rarely follows to affect any visible change in the situation on ground. The government has to catalyze its efforts by infusing the investigative agencies with more and more honest and sincere officers and of course they too need to be kept on heels as for the action against the corrupt officials and their practices is concerned. In the past several months since the new government took over, one wonders how many cases are wherein the government can claim of having initiated real action against the corrupt. Certainly the present government does not have a very satisfactory record on this front if the actions taken against the corrupt officials are weighed against the amount and extent of corruption that is prevalent.

As for as the fight against corruption is concerned, besides hunting for the corrupt officials, it’s of vital importance that the common people too are made aware about the rules and regulations, laws and norms they can bank on for reporting about the corruption. They must also be educated about their rights and privileges as consumers and users of various services. For instance, they need to be told that it is their right to seek redressal of their grievances from the various government agencies and officials and for this they need not to pay anyone anything.

The corruption has over the years been institutionalized here so much so that people are forced to pay at each and every step. Those who claim bribes do so not only with impunity but also with such an air of self-satisfaction as if it is their ‘birth-right’. Similarly, those who pay bribes too do so without feeling any regret and remorse. They do it because this is what they think they are supposed to do and the unfortunate reality is that if they don’t pay, nobody is going to do their work or address their grievances. There is a serious need to put an end to this kind of culture. By initiating action against the ‘big fish’ government will certainly encourage a better culture free of corruption in Jammu and Kashmir.

PDD fails to check power thefts

Rashid Paul (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: An impotent vigil on electricity misuse causes a daily loss of approximately Rs 1.20 Cr to the state, as the energy consumption has increased at an incredulous average of 20 percent sans revenue since October 15 this year.

With the onset of winter, the energy consumption has amplified by 20 percent since the middle of last month than the corresponding period in the preceding year.

An average of 25 lakh units (Lus) of energy is used additionally every day this year, accumulating a burden of Rs 1.25 Cr to the State. The credit goes to the ineffective vigil system to check energy abuse, especially in the domestic sector.

However, an increase in power use by five percent is considered normal, say the experts.

As per the data available from the Power Development Department (PDD), 122.40 Lus were used up on October 15, 2008 as against 147.57 Lus this year on the same day, an increase of 20.56 percent.

The surge was remarkable on October 23 when the consumption touched an alarming level of 170.90 Lus, which was 50.40 Lus more than the power used the same day of the previous year.

Furthermore, some 4056.73 Lus were used during October 2008 while as 4656.73 Lus were exploited by the consumers here during the last month this year. Similarly, 1714 Lus from November 1-12, 2008 and 1935.07 Lus during the same period in the current year were consumed.

Around 50-60 percent of the abuse occurs in Srinagar, especially in the domestic sector. “The indiscipline is rampant in the high society people who have developed meanest tricks of pilferage,” a PDD official said, adding in most of the areas consumers having an agreement of one kilowatt ingest five-10 kilowatts of energy. “Blowers, heaters, geysers and all types of electricity consuming appliances are wildly used by these people without the equivalent payments,” he said.

The revenue mismatches the swelled consumption. Rupees 36 Cr only were realized from domestic consumers till ending October, as against a total revenue of Rs 121 Cr recovered from the Valley during the same time.

Admitting an ineffective monitoring mechanism to avoid power misuse, an official of the PDD said, “Instead of an enforcement wing, the department has an eight-member squad operating with minimum facilities. They, despite realizing a fine of Rs 2.50 Cr, were never appreciated but had to take cudgels with the people and bear the brunt of bureaucrats,” the official said.

India ranks 85th in corruption, J&K retains its second slot

Jammu: While India has attained a dubious distinction with a step up in the ranking of most corrupt countries as it figured at 85th spot in a survey of 180 countries by Transparency International, J&K continues to maintain its position of being the second most corrupt state in the country following Bihar.

Transparency International, the Berlin based watchdog, threw up few surprises in its annual Corruption Perception Index released yesterday. The usual suspects were in more or less their usual places, though New Zealand overtook last year’s leader Denmark for the top post, the latter slipping to second position.

India languished at number 84 in a survey of 180 countries carried out by 13 independent organisations. India’s ‘integrity score’ stands at 3.4, an indication that in terms of public sector corruption, the country continues to be perceived as highly corrupt by experts and business surveys. The integrity score is on a scale of 0-10, with 0 being the most corrupt and 10 the least.

India’s ranking was a step up from last year, when it was 85th. But still it was considerably lower than its 72nd ranking in 2007. Scams like the Madhu Koda case have not helped India’s cause – in five years as chief minister of the neglected but mineral-rich state of Jharkhand, Koda is said to have siphoned off Rs3,000 crore for himself and his cronies.

Transparency says the situation is worsening, with other corporate and political frauds coming to light recently. Its report said, “Corruption in India is due to many factors, most important being the activities of politicians.”

“It is commonly perceived that politicians are spending too much on elections and that corruption prevails. India’s performance for this year is not a flattering one and one can only draw comfort from the fact that it has not fared worse than last year,” Transparency International India chairman R H Tahliani said.

Out of the various departments analysed, India’s police department fares the worst in terms of corruption. The most corrupt state is Bihar, followed by Jammu and Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh Politicians and other optimists can continue to take heart from the fact that India is still the ‘best’ among its South Asian neighbours – apart of course from Bhutan, which famously measures its progress in terms of ‘gross domestic happiness’ rather than gross domestic production or GDP.

But India should be more worried by the fact that while its credibility has slipped a notch, Bangladesh, its ‘beggarly’ neighbour, has improved its standing by eight places, from 147th to 139th. According to the report, Bangladesh has made a significant progress in curbing corruption, raising its score to 2.4 compared to last year’s 2.1.

“However, with the score remaining below the threshold of 3, the country continues to be in the league of those where corruption continues to be pervasive,” said Transparency International Bangladesh executive director Iftekharuzzaman while presenting the CPI in Dhaka.

Bangladesh is one of the nine countries that performed the best. The other countries are Belarus, Guatemala, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Syria and Tonga. The worst performers are Bahrain, Greece, Iran, Malaysia, Malta and Slovakia.

China too has stormed ahead by seven places. Ranked a joint 72nd with India in 2007, it has improved its corruption perception. It is now ranked 79th and its integrity score is 3.6. However, with China’s tight control on information, it is hard to know how Transparency arrived at this score. Bloggers say it is usual for the organisation to give it a median score.

Sadly Nepal, the mountain state with which India has many cultural affinities, has slipped 22 notches from last year to 143rd. Although this year was relatively peaceful in Nepal, corruption has increased as the law implementing agency has become weaker due to various issues related to government transitions, says Transparency.

Nepal had ranked 121st in the anti-corruption scale last year. According to the scale, Nepal is the second-most corrupt country in South Asia, only after Afghanistan which itself is the second-most corrupt country in the world.

Sri Lanka has slipped, as might be expected after its recent activities over the separatist Tamil Tigers. It has been ranked 97th, with a score of at a low 3.1 as against 3.2 last year. Its score has continuously declined since 2002 when it was at 3.7.

Transparency International mainly measures corruption in government, bureaucracy and public institutions. It has always found a strong correlation between corruption and poverty.

Countries at the bottom of the table were those which are unstable or impacted by war and ongoing conflicts that have affected the public sector and torn apart governance infrastructure.

“Stemming corruption requires strong oversight by parliaments, a well-performing judiciary, independent and properly resourced audit and anti-corruption agencies, vigorous law enforcement, transparency in public budgets, revenue and aid flows, as well as space for independent media and a vibrant civil society,” said Huguette Labelle, chairwoman of Transparency International.

Pakistan accordingly slumped five places from 47th last year to number 42 in the 2009 list. Pakistan’s 2009 CPI score is 2.4. Transparency’s Pakistan chairman Syed Adil Gilani said terrorism was the direct result of poverty, which had resulted from corruption – especially the illegal direct or indirect rule of armed forces in
Pakistan from 1951 to 2007.

A fact worth noting is that some of the worst-performing countries – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan – are those that have received massive US aid over the years.

Transparency International defines corruption as being the “abuse of entrusted power for private gain”. The organisation believes that if corruption is successfully fought, it will help in the larger fight against global poverty.

The report points out that the lowest scoring countries are those which have ongoing internal conflicts, which negate the rule of law. Sadly for humanity, this covers half the countries surveyed.