How Can India Emerge as a Corruption-Free Country?

Image 2Corruption in India is a multi-headed monster, which has been shored up as much by greed and dishonesty as it is by illiteracy and lack of awareness. Making India a corruption-free country is no overnight project, because it has to be a war fought on many fronts and battlegrounds. However, it is undoubtedly a war that we need to win, because corruption distorts resource allocation and makes a mockery of India’s democracy and independence by denying equal rights to all and by diverting taxpayers’ money from public use into private pockets.

From increasing deterrence and cures for this malady by escalating transparency in transactions, to effecting social change through awareness campaigns and gradual social engineering, the war against corruption in India would be time-consuming and messy. But to enable the Indian citizens to truly claim their rights and make them feel inclined to carry out their duties, the disease of corruption has to be eliminated.

Corruption in its most pervasive form destroys the faith of citizens in the institutions of state and democracy and alienates them from the government. On the flip side, a government alienated from the grassroots becomes vulnerable to forces of corruption. Thus, corruption establishes a self-sustaining system, a Gordian knot, which is difficult to untangle and requires to be slashed through by drastic measures like demonetization.

Transparency International, the global anti-corruption coalition, defines corruption as “the misuse of public office for private gain.” In India, corruption flourishes via two routes – bribery, wherein private entities willingly make payments to derive unfair advantages and benefits; and extortion, wherein citizens do not get access to rights unless they pay up.

Again, corruption in India is most noticeable at three levels – petty, systemic and grand. At the level of petty corruption, we find government employees and public servants who depend on small bribes to supplement their income – for instance, a traffic police pulling up a truck for no reason.

Similarly, at the level of systemic corruption, we find petty corruption converging to create established channels that extend upwards from the bribe collection points – from check-posts to ministers and from liquor dens to police commissioners, with middlemen structured across a hierarchy. These are the cartels that back, propagate, and perpetuate the hafta system and the kind of corruption that attracts anti-social elements and worshippers of violence.

Then there’s the grand corruption where politicians and top administrative cadre take decisions involving large public contracts or projects with money or assets meant for development channeled to individual pockets – these range from municipal road contracts to helicopter scams.

There’s more, like passing rules or ordinances, or even laws to make it difficult for a targeted section to earn a livelihood or continue in their way of life or doing things – done in the name of public good – but actually to create opportunities for further systemic corruption. This is grand systemic corruption, a hallmark of corrupted political parties.

So, how to take care of all these? Thankfully, technological innovations provide us with some measures that may act together to form the sword to cut the Gordian knot of corruption in India. The current NDA government at the Centre is already acting, and opponents are foaming at the mouth. What is now needed is public support for the Centre’s demonetization move and other such initiatives, which may not be perfect in themselves, but will go a long way in slowly throttling corruption in the country.

Some more steps that India needs to take to emerge as a corruption-free country include the following:

  1. Ensuring universal literacy, without which citizens will never understand their rights or be able to assert them by making informed choices – for instance, booth captures and vote banks will continue and the corrupt will continue to rule and flourish in India unless voters assert their rights. Furthermore, as long as illiteracy plagues the country, digitization will also fail with middlemen assuming charge.
  2. Creating anti-corruption awareness and educating people about how corruption works, and what they should do when faced with instances of corruption. These must also be taken to classroom textbooks so that even children know when wrongs are being committed.
  3. Eradicating licence raj, and providing speedy alternatives to entrepreneurs so that the corrupted become unable to block honest growth. This calls for transparency in system that can be infused only through digitization of all processes.
  4. Continuously monitor efforts of foreign countries trying to export their corruption to India, like setting up chemical units here, which they are not allowed in their countries, or while making arms deals, etc. Indian laws, especially those that have become obsolete and do not match with present needs, must be amended/ repealed.
  5. Extensive use of digital technology to ensure transparency – the Centre is already on the right track, by trying to reduce the share of cash in the country’s pool of liquid capital (M1). Infrastructure for this digitization needs to be robust and capable to withstand hacking and other malicious attacks.
  6. Installation of CCTV in all police stations as well as at check-posts, banks, public offices as well as courts of law. Although at many places they are in place, there is no accountability of those responsible for their round-the-clock functioning and scrutiny of data captured.
  7. Creating a National Integrity Plan or Anti-Corruption Plan that is transparent and its speedy implementation. Public officials are to be sensitized and fear instilled in them so that they do not fall prey to bribes and kickbacks in kind.
  8. Increasing the number of judges and courts and strengthening judiciary to expedite access to justice, reduce delays happening in trial procedures, and cut down time for undertrials lodged in prison based on unproven suspicions. This will help in eliminating the pall of fear that the corrupt people capitalize on to extract bribes from honest citizens.
  9. Overhaul the corrupted police force, increase the number of personnel and police stations in proportion to the number of people so that the laws can be strictly enforced, and powers of individual police officers diluted without affecting the efficacy or power of the force. States need to be a part in this exercise, and effective implementation of centre’s Modernisation of State Police Forces Scheme is called for. Police reforms and true execution of Supreme Court’s judgment of 2006 on setting up of three institutions for police at state level are pending.
  10. Create strong punitive measures for corruption – Denmark, which is the least corrupt country today, had prescribed the death penalty for taking bribes way back in 1676. In 1690, Denmark had passed a law where civil servants embezzling state funds were punished with life imprisonment and hard labour. Though these harsh penalties have been relaxed or done away with, they successfully paved Denmark’s path to becoming the world’s least corrupt country. Not to forget, corruption is the genesis of all evils we face, from poverty to malnutrition, hence penalties deserve to be harsh.
  11. Create high incentives and high reward systems, including promotions and salaries for honest public officials and whistleblowers, along with adequate measures to safeguard them from wreath of influential people.
  12. Overhaul British-era laws to reduce loopholes and increase transparency and promote conformity with the Indian conditions. India’s criminal law and penal code needs extensive overhaul, something that has been overlooked for long.
  13. Remove superfluous laws and regulations that set unrealistic targets for common people and burden them with compliance requirements that the honest majority wouldn’t be able to meet. This includes simplified tax laws and their bare acts drafted in a manner that common man can easily understand all provisions of law.
  14. Donations to political parties is so opaque that any registered party that doesn’t even field contestants in polls can accept any amount of money and prevent any repercussions by declaring same as receipt from anonymous sources in less than Rs. 20,000 denomination, thus steering clear of need to declare details of donor. The Election Commission has advocated reducing this threshold to Rs. 2,000 so as to infuse transparency but political will is lacking. Amend the law with immediate effect so that political parties are ceased from being partner in income tax evasion and laundering.
  15. Automate taxation, do away with the filing of income tax returns for low-income groups, eliminate unnecessary compliance burdens on individuals, and reduce the army of corrupt income-tax officials. In this context, it is also to be noted that many income tax officials recruited through civil service exams are so clueless that powers in their hands to adjudicate tax cases means a mockery of system.
  16. Make taxation laws and rates as well as poverty level indices more realistic. Bring more and more people under tax net while rationalizing tax rates at the same time.
  17. Strictly monitor development efforts and keep a constant watch on authorities and bodies associated with them to ensure that funds are not diverted to corrupt elements. Monitoring by drones and satellites like in case of PM Fasal Bima Yojana is to be made a reality.
  18. Create mechanisms to eliminate corruption in private entities and non-government sector. This includes bringing private executives under the purview of Prevention of Corruption Act, at least in case of listed companies.
  19. Digitize public services and address roots of corruption in local government, urban municipal bodies, corporations, and panchayats, as well as local police stations as these are places having maximum interaction with the public. The wrong behavior of officials there may strengthen perceptions of corruption and loss of democratic rights much more than what a helicopter scam does.
  20. Enforce Aadhaar and link it with more benefits. Create Central lockers for holding digital data of citizens so that they do not have to submit them time and again to different officials. Biometric identification is the way to go and not signatures, which may vary with time, or may become difficult in arthritic hands. Furthermore, biometric identification used at all levels significantly reduces chances of fraud and forgeries.

Such a list of measures can be endless because the corrupt will always strive to find a way around. But the measures and principles mentioned here, if they can be implemented would significantly reduce corruption. The good news is that the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre is already working on some of these fronts. The bad news is of inept people opposing their implementation and a corrupt Opposition trying to block every positive move that can reduce burdens of multiple compliances and neutralized corruption across a broad swath.

Before ending this article, I would like to emphasize that every corrupt transaction requires a ‘buyer’ and a ‘seller’. Furthermore, it might be the responsibility of the government to deal with corrupt civil servants, but we as individuals and businesspersons have the responsibility to expose such corrupt officials.

Furthermore, we should all strive to ensure that we don’t participate or promote corruption willingly or unwillingly, directly or indirectly. While such a statement may seem too lofty and idealistic, the fact is that only social peer pressure can help to change things. The power of social media cannot be underrated and the way stings have exposed the guilty is something unprecedented in the country.

As long as communities, villages, towns and cities bestow respect on those wallowing in ill-gotten wealth, no changes in law or system can make India a corruption-free country. Mind you, involvement of voters is essential, because, despite effective measures put in place to battle corruption, the lack of political commitment and resources, whether of a ruling party or its Opposition can seriously undermine all anti-corruption efforts.

When a move or measure is clearly against corruption and for the common good, political parties need to set aside their differences and join hands – or be exposed, and the electorate needs to take away the power of political miscreants. People are to shed their lust for pity perks offered by corrupt politicians during elections as they cripple the society and economy in the long-run. Finally, the corrupt have to be voted out from all levels, because without the electorate’s mandate against pro-corruption forces, removal of corruption will always remain beyond our reach.

After the positive response to demonetisation of high currency notes, backed by a thought that the PM is out to eradicate corruption and black money no matter how influential may be the person at the receiving end of this move, the public awaits amendment to law that allows anonymous donations to political parties if the amount is more than Rs. 20,000. Once debated, the opposition will have no other option than to clear this amendment since public sentiments are highly in favour of measures that cleanse the economy.

Finally, we should always remember that no party in power or no individual in authority can fight corruption without the help and support of the citizenry. To contain, curb, or eradicate corruption, we Indians should assert our rights. We should neither keep ourselves aloof nor fear the powers of systemic corruption. Furthermore, we should never assume the role of a neutral party in any fight against corruption as that would only empower the corrupt elements and may help corruption win the day.

86 thoughts on “How Can India Emerge as a Corruption-Free Country?

  1. Ratnakar B.N.S

    What an exhaustive commentary on the subject. All suggestions are implementable and mandatory, if we aim to make the country corruption free.
    Ratnakar

    Reply
  2. Thrineshwara M R

    Just like the technological advancements that help us along with the terrorists, any measure taken by the governments to eradicate corruption may not help in eradicating it because people develop immunity to them slowly. The corruption is rampant in all government offices, politicians and business men. Unless the entire system is cleansed there is no solace from all these half hearted measures. It is just beating about the bush.

    Reply
  3. Shankar Mandapaka

    When everyone recognizes their job (we don’t do job expecting some favor) is most revered and has accountability and responsibility 110%, we can become less corrupt nation

    Reply
  4. Radhakrishnan Ramachandra

    India cannot become a corrupt free country as all the states are not ruled or controlled by Narendra Modi. Each State has their independence over which centre has little or no control.

    Reply
  5. Sivakumar S R

    When govt starts spending tax money responsibly and show tangible benefits for tax payers especially health and pension, corruption will automatically reduce substantially.

    Reply
  6. Kedar S

    efficient governance and strong government with equal and strict implementation of law and order will make India corruption free

    Reply
  7. Prakash Bvs

    Too many people chasing too few resources ! ” Accepting what comes ” is an attitude people have to develop. If you do not ask for a favor, one does not need to consider corruption. It is a slow and time taking process to eliminate corruption totally. In 16th century it must have worked in Denmark, but cannot work in India today – remember India has over a billion people. Vote bank politics give scope for populist schemes draining state funds and cannot be easily ignored

    Reply
  8. Ajay Patwardhan

    A remarkable comprehensive article by you. Shows what needs to be done frankly.

    The only problem is that digital data is erasable, modifiable and access deniable and hence puts people at disadvantage ; so it is not the magic solution panacea. Just because it is digital and modern. Those who have experienced digital data incidents either as those who control it or those who are its user clients know what is possible and not possible with digital data. This is not about social media digital data. This is about people’ s money in banks. Your coverage and analysis of corruption and its eradication is very incisive. However digital payments can transfer money cashless and rapidly from phone to phone and though that leaves a trail it also permits quicker money transfer for non corrupt and corrupt transactions. So does that solve the problem

    Reply
  9. Dharmendra Daukia

    The question is based on assumption that it can. In next 100 years it cannot. Because it took more than 1000 years to come so far.
    The starting point of reversal is education (and I would add further “for community living, valuing community more than individual “). Time frame……well !!

    Reply
  10. Minhaj Quazi

    Of course, unless we change the mind set of people of the greater Indian continent that corruption or greedy richness has no real value except quality education and dignified thoughts. Unfortunately, we are unaware what is dignified thinking based on illiteracy and back dated culture—really, sorry!

    Reply
  11. Cardiyan HIS

    Very difficult to eradicate corruption because corruption is deeply rooted and very widespread, especially among police, politicians, prosecutors and judges. People are not afraid anymore to do corruption because no deterrent effect when the judges gave the verdict to the corruptors very light. But the anti-corruption efforts should be done in the system and require the most patience and support of the people

    Reply
  12. Sudhir.C. Jain

    This is a trillion of trillion dollar question. But I suppose this could be controlled to minimal or invisible by : i) taxing each & every one purchase above certain cost and not income. Presently hard earnings of only few who are earning above certain limit are being taxed and distributed to non earning voters to favour them which is mother of corruption. Charity and donations should be utilised sensibly with real deserving ones. ii) use of monitoring systems which are visible not only on demand, but by default. When all decisions / purchases/ admissions /recruitments etc. are to be based on merits only, this should all be visible why only on demand.Even school/ college examinations answer books should be made open on CCTV and web site etc. Why this should be secret. And many similar actions need to be taken.
    Only strategic decisions of government should be in closed rooms. Even school/ college results are secretly maintained , why?
    Education should be serious, clean & corruption free at first. Corruption enters in mind from very child hood. Child’s observation is very sharp and with deep impressions

    Reply
  13. JC Suman

    If you try there is a 50% chance you will win. But with negative attitude of “NEVER” without even trying you have already faled!

    Reply
  14. Anurag K

    Its a nice move and hope to improve things from here. Corruption is directly linked with law n Order. Until there is a good governance and strong law n Order is in place, Wrong doing people continue their move with various loop holes in system, eg Plenty of long pending Legal cases where Judges are just giving dates than justice that leads the entire eco system corrupt. Innocent one has to shell out bribe at every level just to prove him right which Illegal people thrash and try to buy all with money power ( full corruption)

    Reply
  15. Ramnarayan Kompella

    I do not think the list of 20+ ideas made is something unknown. Everyone knows it. Its all about execution where everybody lags. My firm belief is if India is corrupt it is first the citizens who need to change. Corruption is in the mind of every Indian. Indian always works towards his own cause. This is something very difficult to change. We do not live in a family oriented environment against society oriented……..

    Reply
  16. Ramnarayan Kompella

    Just to take an example everybody violates traffic rules just because we are indiscipline and do not respect others time and life; We pay bribes because we do not want to follow laws of the country; We do not stand in queues, do not keep mobiles in silent modes in public, do not use dust bins, and so on all because we are impatient…. Lastly we do not vote and those who vote during elections are biased towards their caste, religion, loyalty, sentiments, arithematic and so on but never really try to find out if there is a good candidate in foray. So it is very important for people to change their mindset

    Reply
  17. Gary Maxwell

    Push all politicians and elected officials out of their jobs and start over by electing people who work for a living.

    Reply
  18. DR SATYANARAYANA DASH

    Society should look down upon corruption and corrupt individuals. Stringent anti corruption measures must be taken and corrupt people should be thrown behind bars, however high he or she might be. Corrupt should be treated as parasites on the Society and should be pursued till they get punished. Notifications under Benami Property Act should be published and acted upon at the earliest. Income tax laws must be simplified and made reasonable to widen tax base.

    Reply
  19. Debu K Dasgupta

    Why do we need 200 political parties , the non discipline comes from having no fear of the law by hiding behind such local political parties who pull clout over the enforcement agencies .
    Everybody gets away with corruption and breaking rules without any tension, every one is aligned to a neta

    Reply
  20. Vikrant Shedge

    Its not just because of few handful politicians or bureaucrats. Everyone does corruption at his own level. We as ordinary citizens dont follow traffic rules, evade taxes on different occasions, take rules and regulations casually etc.
    We believe in hoarding valuables for our future generations rather than enjoying the moments of life. Thats where the problem lies.

    Reply
  21. Dr.Chith Aravind

    Every body and every nation changes to good. Now it is India’s turn to change and it is happening now. Soon India will change to a more developed and less corrupt country. The people will be like the King who rule them. Now India has a good King. Accordingly people will have to change

    Reply
  22. Nilanjan Bhattacharya

    India can be corruption free when Indian citizens realize that elected officials and administrators are accountable to them (the citizens). Indian citizens need to understand the political process at the local and state level (not just national). Actions taken by lawmakers (at the state and local level) need to be transparent to the public. Citizens should be able to report graft without repercussions. Citizens should have faith in law enforcement. Make democracy function like it should. Other things can come later

    Reply
  23. Krishna Mohan A

    India is the 76 least corrupt nation out of 175 countries, according to the 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International. Definitely positive change will come soon.

    Reply
  24. Bilal Eliat

    Indian Administrative Service, enough for entire developments and safe leading of this country. Those respected personals are educated and well mentored. But……………….. Yeah, India is a democratic country!

    Reply
  25. rajni venketesh

    India can emerge free from corruption, only when good people are given respect, and when people get in there this concept that we are not to take anything with us , the only thing that counts is our good deeds

    Reply
  26. Vaishali Patange

    Not all the ways given in the post will lead to the desired result. Education, awareness at all levels – even at schools – is the key to bring about behavioural change. Since the entire socio-politico system is trapped in corrupt practices, the nation needs to address the issue at all levels – the ones who are running the nation, the ones who have entered or will be entering the arena of leading the nation in 10 year’s time, and also the ones who will be the next generation (10 year olds now) and the ones after that (4-5 year olds). As they say, catch them young. The change will come about when a pledge taken is imbibed in depths of heart and implemented in all areas. It will come about when transparency is not dreamt of, but is considered the norm. Awareness programs for eradicating corruption would require extensive reach across all age groups and classes, to an extent when following right practices is the only preferred choice

    Reply
  27. Chandrasekaran Ayyasamy

    Indian needs to have only one action : Cultural Transformation / Social behavior Transformation against corruption, rest will automatically fall in place

    Reply
  28. Sunil G. Nair

    What one lacks and aspires for……the “tamasic” tendency is to aquire by all means fair or unfair. It is a self sustaining eco-system where the smart and powerful loot, their cronies get bread crumbs and bark to ensure their lords get away with impunity and the rest of the crowd either envies the ones plundering or become mute spectators.

    The mute spectators and the ones envying cannot be expected to transform. They have unfortunately been conditioned by decades of passive indifference ….to look the other way if someone is strangled to death next to them.

    Change has to happen at those levels that are the influencers. Like common sense emanating from SpiderMan tells us “with great power comes great responsibility”

    Reply
  29. suleman sumra

    Strict observance of rule of law. Provide justice fairly and quickly to avoid rich and powerful to avoid penalties for their actions. Malya, Modi (former IPL boss), Salman Khan (several cases pending for years), Lalu Prasad – the list is endless have all defied the system.

    Reply
  30. Nikhil Deshpande

    The easiest way to make Bharat corruption free is to somehow make the goddess of (conscience/ morality/ integrity) magically ignite a flame of the same qualities in the minds of Indians who love hoarding anything which is not righteous, it starts with an individual & his outlook towards life (not first rules & policies)

    Reply
  31. Ajay Patwardhan

    Here is a suggestion for someone with your background. To make income tax system in India fully inclusive of all people with any and whatever incomes. The lowest income tax rate should be 1% which can be paid by those who earn lower than per capita incomes in India. The income tax rate should be gradually proportionately , but not necessarily linearly, rise with incomes reaching a maximum rate of 40% income tax of all incomes of an individual. Then there should be no exemptions, deductions, tax slabs and loopholes. This tax should be paid once a year in banks by each income earner by filling a one page form stating income tax and transfer tax amount to income tax cell of each bank. That will greatly simplify the tax process for all and improve compliance and hence revenues for government. A large part of the corruption and black money issues associated to income tax will drastically reduce. Then there will be a systemic change in functioning of government at all levels which together with businesses and individuals creates the corruption. The declared earned taxed and spent incomes of people will be correlated. GST is another complication as the value chains and taxes in its stages is being sectorally and regionally negotiated

    Reply
  32. Anand Prasad Chattopadhyay

    for this, people should have educated society and social security and new generation should be taught the values old generation had which is gradually becoming extinct

    Reply
  33. Mohamed Gani Ibrahim Jailani

    People has to come out of Facebook and twitter and talk in real world. That’s the best way for eradicating all the issues

    Reply
  34. Rajkumar Pugalia

    Excellent article and very timely. While one can always remain skeptical and cynical to say that eradication of corruption looks like an impossible task, we need to think positive and its not the zero corruption but the level of corruption tending towards zero which needs to be the objective. Also, we are at the right tipping point in this journey. We have a bold and committed PM, the digital era is percolating now at rapid pace, social media is becoming omnipresent, transparency and automation is scaling rapidly. This is not a momentary project but a project that can take a generation here from to bring the revolutionary change. Transparency through cameras, internet bids and auctions, RTI etc. on one side, removing delays in justice aided with education will go a long way. Yes, we need to transform our thoughts and create the possibility and live by it. Thanks

    Reply
  35. Susan Thomas

    Political system of our country is so rotten today that no politician will allow a corruption free environment. Legislators themselves are soaked in dirty water of bribes and kickbacks.

    Reply
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    Reply
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    Reply
  39. NITIN Bhardwaj

    Financial literacy to all indians is needed to weed out the menace of corruption. When people will know how financial landscape works there will be more accountability of government.

    Reply
  40. Hiren Dave

    Corruption happened in bank branches and post office after November 8. If the government will not bring offenders to justice, it will spread a wrong message in the public and BJP will lose support.

    Reply
  41. Nitigya golait

    Demonetisation will be nail in the coffin of those who accumulated black money. Now people will be scared to hoard money. Benami properties should also be targeted soon.

    Reply
  42. Jomy Joseph

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    Reply
  44. Guru Choubey

    Central government of country is itself shielding corrupts by allowing foreign funding to political parties. Election Commission urges for reforms but they are busy making wealth.

    Reply
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    Reply
  46. Manjith Mothiram

    At grassroot level there is such bad corruption that Modi will have to give at least 20 years to clean this. It will be better that we should take an initiative by stop paying illicit money at government offices.

    Reply
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    Reply
  48. Srinivasan Sankar

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    Reply
  49. Rishabh Solanki

    Digital India will be an answer to India’s corrupt government babus. When money will go only through digital means there will be holes from where money could leak.

    Reply
  50. Saket Kumar Jain

    While India needs to work towards eliminate corruption, however, survey seems completely tilted towards western world and not as real as it is shown

    Reply
  51. Suryansh Tripathi

    It is sad that India ranks so high in corruption index. If there is one evil that Narendra Modi should end by 2019 then it has to be corruption and bribes in government offices.

    Reply
  52. Vikas Apte

    The real issue is that we Indians are in so hurry and are so careless that we leave no other options than to bribe officials. We are never ready to wait in queue or fulfill procedures involved in government offices.

    Reply
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    Reply
  54. Kshama dongre

    India has slided on ease of doing business report on many counts. Why doesn’t the PM ease the circumstances for business owners and entrepreneurs is a question on his credibility.

    Reply
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  57. Arvind Malik

    Excellent article. With the current situation, making judiciary system efficient and transparent with time bound results seems to be the most effective solution. Other measures to eradicate corruption goes with bottoms up approach (cleansing from petty to systemic to grand corrupt practices), which may take ages. It is understood that majority of money siphoning (which cripples development and uplift of poor) is through grand and systematic corruption nexus. In order to achieve fast results we need to take care of big fishes. Government needs to see how high profile and high office bearing offenders could be booked in short period of time – leading to heavy penalties, seizure of all their assets, earnings, etc. Such repercussions will automatically curtail petty offenders. In recent past there had been so many scams but outcome of such detection is not scary for the defaulters. This needs to change…

    Reply

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