International Anti-Corruption Day: Transparency, technology key pillars of Delhi govt's cleanup push; citizens must join in

Gopal Mohan and Mansha Vij

The Aam Aadmi Party rose to prominence as the epicenter of the 'India against corruption movement'. The anti-corruption movement against the endemic of political and government corruption garnered attention from all corners of the country, with people from all walks of life joining the movement to eradicate corruption.

The Corruption Perceptions Index released by Transparency International in January ranks India 78th of 180 countries. The India Corruption Survey 2019 by Transparency International in November also revealed that 51 percent of Indians paid bribes in the preceding 12 months, but Delhi remained one of the least corrupt states in the nation.

Since coming to power in 2015, the Delhi government under the leadership of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been at the forefront of establishing strong legislation and enforcement against corruption. The first and foremost thing the AAP has pursued is constructing channels of a multi-tier system of transparent governance.

During the first 49 days, several officials were suspended on account of corruption. Experts say there are two types of corruption: Extortionist corruption, and mutual corruption. As far as mutual corruption is concerned, people at different levels are involved. Delhi government made efforts, both technical and physical, to increase the reporting of such instances with a purview to take stringent actions against erring officials.

This anti-corruption approach was aimed towards a corruption-free execution of work in each governmental and non-governmental department. A 2017 report by the Central Vigilance Commission states that the corruption complaints against officials of the Delhi government have gone down by 81 percent. The audit report by CAG for the year ended March 2018 noted that tax revenue and non-tax revenue also registered an increase of 14.70 percent and 101.05 percent respectively over the previous year.

The government brought in the best minds and strategised ways to minimize cases of corruption in Delhi. Transparency and integration of technology were highlighted as the key pillars to address this issue. It was felt that the more human involvement was reduced in the service delivery mechanism, the better the chances of reducing corruption in the system.

With this aim, we launched our ambitious 'Doorstep Delivery of Services' programme, a scheme under which around 80 services, including door-step ration delivery and other public services of the Delhi government, have gone online. The scheme was launched in September 2018, and within just one year, the government has handled 2.25 lakh doorstep delivery cases.

The doorstep delivery of public services aims to extend government services to the citizens of Delhi. The citizens have to call on 1076 to conveniently avail the services at a nominal fee of Rs 50. Services such as issuing marriage licenses, driving licenses, pension schemes, can be done at the convenience of the home without the hassle of spending hours in a queue on government premises or negotiating with touts and middlemen.

The process has been further simplified by reducing the number of documents required for availing the services, thereby making the process more user friendly. Citizens are now able to easily use technology and upload self-attested documents in a hassle-free manner.

In addition to this, a dedicated helpline to report cases of corruption was launched in 2015 with an aim to strengthen vigilance on bribery in government and administrative departments. The chief minister himself keenly monitors each case reported on the helpline and has devised various advancements in the system based on the feedback received through the helpline.

Even on the policy level, in a sector like power, the AAP-led government has attempted to introduce equitable and open market for discom competition to cut out lobbying. Thanks to parallel licensing, which entails more than one distribution license in a particular area, a consumer would now not be required to pay cross subsidy surcharge or additional surcharge to any of the distribution licensees. Owing to single-window clearances, people are now interested in investing in Delhi and hosting events in Delhi which ultimately benefits the state's economy. Aside from this, a transparent payment mechanism and the end of license raj has changed the way business is done in the National Capital.

Technology and such structural changes has reduced human interaction and interference in the processes, thereby reducing the instances of bribery and corruption in departments. A single-window system has been developed and the role of middlemen has been abolished for a corruption-free system.

The pervasive corruption in the country is the result of this failure to address issues. Pervasive corruption is a consequence of bad governance and policies, and not bad polity. Lack of proper vigilance systems and lack of administrative reforms should be identified. Citizens must introspect as to how corruption is rotting the system, instead of accepting it as a norm.

On International Anti-Corruption Day, we must pledge to make Delhi a model state by demonstrating transparent and accountable governance. This requires each individual to come forward and join hands with the government to fix loopholes and make our city corruption-free.

Gopal Mohan is an advisor to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Mansha Vij is a New Delhi-based media researcher

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