This is how Telangana government aims to take corruption head-on

The new Municipal Act, which is in the making now, is expected to take head-on, the multi-headed hydra of corruption in the civic bodies. 

HYDERABAD: The new Municipal Act, which is in the making now, is expected to take head-on, the multi-headed hydra of corruption in the civic bodies. The intention is noble but the Act, however stringent its provisions might be, would not serve the purpose unless there is a political will to implement it.

Political bosses know the cancer of corruption could even affect their electoral prospects if no effort is made to tame the wily and wicked monster. This is because, when it comes to citizen services, the common man is affected, if a venal officer is at the delivery point. At the time of hustings, for the ruling party, the wrath of the common could be as savage and as cruel as God’s curse.

The government had sought suggestions from various sections of people as to how the new Municipal Act should be.

For one thing, CM K Chandrasekhar Rao appears determined to see the last of corruption in the State and has been making it very clear that the corrupt officers would have to face the music if they do not mend their ways.

Corruption in key services 

He had already indicated that there would be a new Revenue Act with more teeth in addressing issues in land administration and then, as civic bodies could make or mark the image of the ruling party, he wants them to deliver services to the people without harassing them for bribes.

But corruption is not only endemic in civic bodies but it has pandemic too, making one wonder if it is possible at all to drive the devil away.

It is as though corruption is part of the Indian psyche. Recently, the chief minister held marathon sessions with officers, sharing his thoughts on how the problem could be addressed and whether a State level apparatus should be created solely to ensure that the citizen services are delivered not only in time but also with a smile on the face of the person delivering them.

Several suggestions reportedly came up like reducing the human interface to cut the possibility of corruption and including in the Act a provision that any application for clearances should not take more than stipulated time period without compromising on adherence to rules.

There were also suggestions that once a service is delivered, designated officials should inquire with the person who availed the service whether his experience was satisfactory and if anyone had demanded bribes.

Usually, in departments like town planning, it is said there is a lot of room for corruption. When it comes to clearing applications for building permissions, the officials find a great opportunity to make a fast buck. If there are any violations, it would be like hitting a jackpot.

If corruption is allowed in key services like the issue of birth or death certificates, trade licenses and so on, the damage to the government would be quite high.

Then there are always complaints that building plans with violations are allowed by the people’s representatives like the corporators or the councillors on pecuniary consideration and when at a later date an inquiry is ordered, it is the officials who alone would have to take the rap.

Similarly, in the sanction of development works like laying roads, or in the upkeep of sanitation, or in the works relating to city beautification, it said that nothing moves unless a there is a cut for the councillor or the corporate concerned.

Make accountable

The urban planners believe that once corruption is minimised, then the quality of administration by various departments of the civic bodies would be better.

When the Act is drafted for the purpose of eliminating corruption, the people’s representatives — corporators and councillors — should be made accountable if any allegations of corruption are proved in a transaction at a later date.

Then there is also an opinion gaining ground that to end political corruption, the election of mayor or chairman should be made direct.

In the latest Cabinet meeting, though the issue has come up, the focus was more on conducting the polls to the civic bodies.

But it would be prudent for the government if it finalises the Act first and then goes for elections as this way the government’s claims to end corruption are taken seriously. Unless corruption by people’s representatives in civic bodies is addressed, the disease would continue to grow at lower levels. It is often said that fish always rots head down.

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The New Indian Express