Termites and un-ease of doing business

Times of India, February 05, 2021

By Pradeep S. Mehta 

Corruption in India has grown to gargantuan proportions, in spite of the fact that in high places it is not so visible. It saps the economy and causes delays and discomfort in everything that we do, or try to do. Accountability is absent, with the result that corruption and non-performance expands exponentially. Our CM, Ashok Gehlot did say that corruption and indiscipline will not be tolerated. Undoubtedly, Gehlot is sincere but the ecosystem has already got so corrupted that little will happen to improve it, unless he takes some drastic measures.

Let me give you an example where corruption is systematically built in so that without the illegal gratification nothing moves. Some of these stories are heartening that there is some vigilance which exists in our system and it acts as a disincentive, but not always.

The other day, two Rajasthan Administrative Services (RAS) officers in Dausa District were caught red handed by the Anti Corruption Bureau. They were Pushkar Mittal of Dausa and Pinki Meena of Bandikui sub divisions. They were demanding hefty bribes from a contractor of an approved highway to start the project. Pushkar was happy with Rs. 5 lakhs but dear Pinki demanded Rs. 10 lakhs. Their deal was that they will ensure that no obstacles are placed in the way to carry out the approved project. Mind you, they were cashing on their nuisance value which meant that even during construction they could stop it. What does this tell us?

The state government should review this as a case study and find a good solution which should include disincentives for officials who hinder projects. Firstly, the Ease of Doing or Running Business is a farce when faced with such situations. Secondly, so much discretionary powers are given to officials that they can stop or hinder even legal acts by finding faults, which is so easy.

In late December, an Indian Administrative Officer, Inder Singh Rao, Collector of Baran was arrested after his personal assistant was caught red handed collecting a bribe of Rs. 1.40 lakhs on his behalf. If one looks at the history of Rao, he had joined RAS in 1989 and got promoted into IAS later. This meant that he must have been good to get such a push in his career and get posting as a Collector, usually reserved for directly recruited IAS officers. Nowadays even they are not reliable as told to me by a senior officer.

Newspapers report that Rao had a history of corruption for which he received ‘awaiting posting orders’ eight times and was suspended twice for charges of corruption and irregularities. It was also reported that he owned eight properties in Jaipur, Ajmer, Gurugram and Saharanpur. In 2004, his case of being caught and ready for termination, but Rao could manage to stay on.

In the instant case, the complainant was awaiting an NOC for his proposed petrol pump for nearly one and half month, while the State government had already given a nod to the proposal. Once again, we see how difficult it is do business while the government is desperately trying to promote so that our economy does better and more jobs are created.

Alas, it is the termites in the system like Rao, Mittal and Meena who will ensure that our economy is mortgaged to their selfish interest, let the nation go to hell.

(The writer is secretary general of CUTS International)