While we contemplate on bringing about systemic change to our State and Society when it comes to tackling the problem of corruption, it would also be worthwhile to delve into how this can be addressed in a more meaningful manner. An action plan can be implemented to the extent possible within the State government’s jurisdiction. The Zero Tolerance Action Plan (see right column) can become the basis for evolving an effective strategy to implement and apply in reality the principle of zero tolerance to check corruption. This more then anything else requires a bold and able leadership having the political will to put talk into action.
There are several initiatives which have been taken up recently and this provides a window of opportunity. The enactment of the Nagaland Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act 2005 by the DAN government during the recently concluded Monsoon Session of the Assembly should be seen as one such opportunity. This legislation will hopefully become the cornerstone for a larger exercise in expenditure reform, which Nagaland now urgently requires. The Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) will enable transparency, stability and accountability in the use of government finances.
The Right to Information Act (RTI) which came into force recently, is another opportunity. The government will do well to put the necessary mechanism in place so that the public are truly empowered. The colonial hangover of the administration withholding information in the name of the Official Secrets Act has meant that transparency has been the first casualty. The RTI is aimed at removing this veil of secrecy and in the process would go a long way in discouraging corruption and abuse of power.
Another issue worth mentioning is to put in place necessary legal measures in order to encourage whistle blowing when a public servant and citizen plot to cheat the system. An honest officer or a citizen should not be afraid of disclosing any malpractice within an organization or office. The now infamous NPSC bribery case where a certain officer had taken upon himself to expose a wrongdoing but was in turn made to go through several inconveniences is a case in point. In such cases, there is a need to have a Whistle Blowers Act or Public Disclosures Act which will protect their right as is done in other countries.
The decision of the UPA Government to set up the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) to revamp the country’s public administrative system was long overdue coming as it does almost 40 years after the first such body was set up in 1966. The initiative of the Nagaland Government to constitute a five member committee to examine the resolution of the Second ARC will hopefully bring out some bold suggestions in order to ensure effective administration at the State, District, Local and Village levels in Nagaland.
There is also an urgent public need for completely revamping the machinery for vigilance and anti-corruption with emphasis on transparency, accountability, efficiency, effectiveness and speedy dispatch of investigation. The State Vigilance Commission must be completely insulated from all political and bureaucratic interference. Only an autonomous and completely independent vigilance body will help restore public confidence in the system itself, which at present is not the case. There has been enough talk on corruption. Now is the time to walk that talk.