Interventions like the Lokpal Bill will only treat the “symptoms”, to weed out corruption it will require tackling the flawed policies and a nexus between the “ruling politicians and the beneficiaries”, concurred a panel debating corruption and corporate loot on Wednesday.
Speaking at the public meeting against Corruption and Corporate Loot organised by the Centre for Policy Analysis here, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat said two decades ago it was implied that liberalisation of the economy and freedom from the licence-raj will eradicate corruption, however the neo-liberalisation policies have opened the flood gates for high-level corruption.
He said successive governments, led by the United Progressive Alliance and the National Democratic Alliance have been marked by a series of scams and corrupt deals, ranging from 2G spectrum allocation to the KG basin. “A common feature has been the involvement of big businesses with the political parties and bureaucrats. Corruption is bound to happen where the State is seen to serve the interest of the corporates or big businesses. Policies and regulatory bodies are being made for big businesses,” he said.
Agreeing to the enactment of the Lokpal Bill, Mr. Karat said his party has been raising the demand for a Lokpal for years now and make a plea for covering all public servants, from the peon to the Prime Minister. “There is an equally strong case for starting with the high level of corruption, if the foundation is the head of neo-liberal regime, then we should strike at the source.”
He said for accountability of the judiciary, a separate legislation needs to be discussed; there should also be electoral reforms. Mr. Karat also frowned upon the tendency to have ministers who have business interests.
“A political system that directly impinges on democracy is serious. All this money being made has gone directly into the political system,” he said.
CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan said the Lokpal Bill should be introduced in the Monsoon Session of Parliament and after following the procedure should be enacted in the Winter Session. He however disapproved of Anna Hazare's call for going on fast on August 16.
“He has done well to bring it (Bill) in the public domain, but this decision to fast should not appear as if he is trying to interfere and press Parliament. That will complicate matters.”
Mr. Bardhan said the PM too should be in the ambit of the Bill, but it should be seen that there is no deliberate insinuation made or ulterior motive in suggesting action against the PM. “I won't say that corruption exists only in Capitalist countries, it is also in socialist ones, but we need to go for the root cause of it.”
Member of the Anna Hazare team and civil liberties lawyer Prashant Bhushan said though he believes that a majority of corporate houses would like to do business honestly, it has become impossible to do because of the “corrupt corporate-politician nexus”.
Transfer of assets to private companies at throw away prices, handing over of gas, oil fields worth thousands of crore and the government not benefitting from the profits generated from these businesses are the hallmarks of corruption and corporate loot in the country he said.
He was critical of the opposition to the judiciary being open to scrutiny and said the Lokpal will have multiple layers of scrutiny.
Economist Jayati Ghosh said that corruption is the symptom and cause is the growth strategy where the state is seen as a deliverer of profits to the private companies.
“Private capital is not the only source of economic growth. We need better polices and a market based system is not going to deliver economic development,” she argued.
Civil activist and member of the National Advisory Council Aruna Roy said laws are no longer made with the interest of the poor at the centre. She said corruption also stems from arbitrary imposition of laws and policies on people, the Special Economic Zone policy is one such example.
The process of making laws without the consent of the people needs to be addressed, she said, adding no single law can tackle corruption or abuse of power. “We cannot afford simplistic solutions and have to look at shades of opinion to defeat corruption.”
Senior journalist Seema Mustafa lamented the corruption that has seeped into journalism and the impact that it has on media houses and the quality of news.