By Joginder Singh
In October 2014, the Prime Minister said that the labour reforms aimed at ending ‘inspector raj’ would ensure that ‘Make in India’ becomes a success. He added, “Ease of business is the pre-requisite for the success of ‘Make in India’. Unfortunately, in our country, the Central Government and State Governments work on cross-purposes. The way the bureaucracy has been allowed to expand without any relation to the work assigned to it is beyond comprehension of our representatives.
In February 2015, Secretary, Tourism and Culture, Maharashtra Government admitted that to set up a hotel, one needed 146 permissions. He added that these decadent rules would be looked into promised that the Government would cut down the number of permissions from 146 to just 20 to boost the Tourism industry.
On the contrary, in July 10 2015, the Chief Secretary of New Delhi said that because many buildings in the capital are unequipped to handle earthquakes, the presence of structural engineers along with architects while getting permissions from the municipal corporations should be mandatory. Now, we have another set of permissions added to the list of permission required to approve construction plans.
Most bureaucrats go file by file to check what is written therein, without visiting and seeing the ground reality. According to an RTI inquiry related to Mumbai, a total of 1,489 illegal constructions were detected from 2008-13, 219 in 2012 and 91 in 2013. From Uday Niwas to Milan Subway, 60 new chawls have sprung up. As far as Delhi is concerned there have been 23,587 cases of illegal constructions. Delhi Police reported encroachments to civic agencies including New Delhi Municipal Council and three municipal corporations by November 2013. In 2012 alone, Delhi Police had intimated 29,203 cases of illegal constructions and encroachments to respective civic agencies. In 2010 and 2011 a total of 20,152 and 30,035 cases were reported, respectively.
The World Bank publishes a report on ‘Doing Business’, that measures regulations in 11 areas across 189 economies. According to this report, India is one amongst the low-performing countries. India’s ranking dropped in 8 out of the 11 areas, including: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, paying taxes, trading across borders and resolving insolvency. While, its position in ‘enforcing contracts’ remained unchanged from the previous year, the only area that has shown a significant rise in its ranking from the 21st position last year to 7th position this year is ‘protecting minorities’.
Doing Business 2015 Rankings
With the exception of Bangladesh (rank 173), India’s ranking has remained lower than those of its South-Asian neighbours including Sri Lanka (99), Nepal (108), Maldives (116), Bhutan (125) and Pakistan (128). Its ranking has also been reported as the lowest among BRICS nations, with South Africa positioned at 43; Russia at 62; China at 90 and Brazil at 120. No matter what the government or individuals may claim, the layman as well as the businessman, knows that there is no other alternative, except bribing, to get their work done.
A survey on fraud and corruption by Ernst & Young in May 2015 stated that around 80% of the population believes that corruption is still widespread, with 52% endorsing offering gifts to win businesses and 27% endorsing cash payments. Amusingly, 35% of the respondents also believe that conformity to their organization’s anti-bribery and anti-corruption policies would harm their competitiveness in the market. Further, 57% said that increased regulation is augmenting challenges for the growth or success of their business.
It is ironical that no study has been commissioned on corruption by the Indian Government, at the Centre or State level. In fact, for prosecuting a senior officer of the level of the Joint Secretary and above, permission of the Central Government is required. India is perhaps the only country where you need a Government sanction for catching the corrupt or questioning them on dubious transactions The Government apart from the final say for prosecution or non-prosecution has set up an advisory body called Central Vigilance Commission to advise whether there is a weak or a strong case against the corrupt.
Another justification given is that bureaucracy does not take the decision lest they be accused of corruption. Our politicians swallow such pretexts and let the deceitful carry on. In no annual report of either any State Government or the Central Government, irrespective of the incumbent party, has it been revealed as to how many corrupt or dishonest public servants have been removed or dismissed from service. In fact, there is no law or government order laying down that for corruption or possession of disproportionate assets the first punishment will be the immediate dismissal from service, followed by prosecution.
On the contrary, the latest amendment to Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, ensures that nobody is ever convicted, including those who have retired or resigned. Further, both the giver and receiver are guilty under the amended Prevention of Corruption Act. The question here is that if both are guilty, then who will give the evidence? Justice has been taken for a ride again with this amendment because it will make the corrupt free from the fears of all laws, as no confession made before the CBI or Police, the agencies investigating such cases, is admissible in Law.
The government should ask itself as to why Indians are investing billions of dollars abroad. It is for the simple reason that the price of starting a new business is too prohibitive. Voltaire rightly said “God save me from my friends. I can protect myself from my enemies”. Replace politicians with friends and enemies with the people who object to wrongdoing and you can still prove Voltaire right.
Joginder Singh is a retired IPS officer. He also served as Former Director, CBI, India.