Dealing with corruption

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Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on Sunday reiterated that his administration has zero tolerance for corruption and thanked the citizens and civil society members for their participation in “Bhrashtachar-Mukt J&K” campaign to make the Union territory free of corruption. He asserted that the J&K administration has a strict policy of zero tolerance against corruption. It is heartening to see collective efforts to get rid of the scourge of corruption and integrated approach to strengthen transparency and accountability in the system to build a progressive, prosperous Jammu and Kashmir.

Corruption has all along been a major issue in J&K. All the administrations, that be, have been publicly vocal about it but fact of the matter is that the menace is so deep-rooted that it needs a comprehensive policy to eradicate corruption from the society. Addressing corruption requires a comprehensive approach that involves government institutions, civil society, and citizens. The administration need to review and update existing anti-corruption laws to make them more stringent and effective and ensure that these laws are consistently enforced, and those found guilty of corruption face severe penalties. While the administration has established independent anti-corruption agencies with the authority to investigate and prosecute corrupt officials, it should ensure that these agencies all well-funded, have adequate manpower and the power to investigate high-ranking government officials without interference.

One of the potent tools to curb corruption in government offices is that the Right to Information (RTI) Act is used in letter and spirit. This Act has the potential to promote transparency in government operations. Besides, the administration should encourage government agencies to regularly publish financial and operational data, making it accessible to the public. The administration should come up with a policy that ensures protectionof whistleblowers and thus encourages individuals to report corruption without fear of reprisal. Unfortunately, what has been happening here that if some one dares to volunteer to expose corrupt practices of some officials, he or she is targeted and the influential officers ensure that instead of the corrupt, one who is trying to expose corruption, is punished. The administration, if serious to tackle the issue, need to ensure that such things don’t happen.

That said, there are actually some black sheep who, while taking undue advantage of RTI, pursue their own personal money-minting agendas. They portray to be the anti-corruption brigade but in fact are cheap blackmailers. The administrations needs to have them under watch.

The UT administration is working whole time to ensure e-governance initiatives. These initiatives would reduce the need for physical interactions with government officials, thereby minimizing opportunities for corruption. It has been also promoting digitalization of government records and processes to reduce manual handling and enhance transparency. These are great steps but need is to check whether these are people friendly or not.

Basically, corruption can’t be dealt with the administration alone, it needs public support and for that the administration need to engage with the civil society and citizenry. They are the ones who can name and shame the corrupt people and end the menace but are reluctant to do so because the big the officer, against who they report, the bigger is the threat to their own self. The administration should ensure people that their genuine complaints would be probed into and no one from the administration will be allowed to mess up with them.

The administrations should encourage investigative journalism and citizen-led initiatives that highlight corrupt practices.It should encourage citizen participation in governance through mechanisms like town hall meetings, public consultations, and feedback platforms.Curtailing corruption is a long-term process that requires a sustained effort from both the government and civil society. Combining legal measures with cultural and societal changes is essential to make significant progress in the fight against corruption in Jammu and Kashmir or any other region.

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