Indian National Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi’s criticism of the controversial ordinance to protect convicted lawmakers is refreshing and gives us hope in putting the party on sound footing as it faces general election in 2014. Mr. Gandhi’s statement simply reflects the values and principles on which the party was founded upon. Mistakes are often made in the policymaking arena; however, realizing the ramifications of those decisions and rectifying the errors in a timely manner certainly takes courage. Mr. Rahul Gandhi has indeed risen to that challenge and for which he is widely applauded by the NRIs in USA. Corruption, the abuse of public office for private gain, is endemic in India and it transcends all sectors in every region. Though it is not limited to any political party, there is a general agreement to the fact that it is a cancer that is debilitating the soul of the nation. It is indeed a serious issue that is facing the nation; however, there is very little consensus as to how to deal with it or arrest its onslaught especially in the public arena.
The recent mass movements have not gotten any tracking because they were hijacked by vested interests for political gains. Corruption is likely to occur when there are restrictions and government interventions where there is potential for excessive profits. General evidence based on cross country comparisons suggests that corruption has large and adverse effects on private investment and economic growth. Corruption is also most prevalent where there are political instability, bureaucratic red tape and weakening of legislative and judicial systems. Government with the help of the legislatures needs to create laws that would seriously clamp down on these mushrooming activities that are having a detrimental effect on the development of the nation and the safety of its citizens. The UPA Government has taken a number of steps to fight corruption by introducing several bills before the parliament such as Public procurement Bill, whistle blower’s protection bill, foreign bribery bill and prevention of money laundering and so on. However, what is required is courageous leadership along with strong and unambiguous stand that would create an environment that would seriously discourage people from engaging in corrupt activities. It is a known fact that once a corrupt system is in place, majority of the people operate within that system.
What is required then is fundamental change to the very culture of corruption we tend to tolerate. Everyone in society might not have received a payoff; however, most folks may have paid here of there to get things done thereby contributing to the process. Mr. Rahul Gandhi has indeed taken a strong stand against ordinance prepared by India’s governing coalition to allow Indian lawmakers convicted of a crime to contest election while appeals against their conviction are pending in higher courts. He said the following at a press conference “My opinion of this ordinance is that it is a complete nonsense. It should be torn up and thrown out. This is the time to stop this nonsense. If we want to actually fight corruption in this country, whether it is my party or the B.J.P., we can’t continue making these small compromises,” Although the timing of his announcement when the Prime Minister was on a foreign trip may have received some criticism, people in general are impressed by the objective assessment of the issue and the courageous and principled stand he has taken. The time has come to define concrete results that might appear to be a tall order. Yet, this incident could well be a turning point in making a difference in fighting the corruption. I hope in the coming days, the Lokpal bill could become law and the Parliament will allow Lokpal to function as a constitutional body, as Mr. Rahul Gandhi has proposed.