Srinagar: VIGILANCE Awareness Week is observed every year between October 31st to November 6th. The aim of observing vigilance week is to encourage all stakeholders like Govt institutions , citizens and private sector to collectively participate in the fight against corruption and to raise public awareness on it. The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) spearheads the anti corruption campaign and under its orders anti corruption seminars and conferences are organised across India for the last several years. The Central Vigilance Commission has the mandate under the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003 to fight corruption and to ensure transparency in public authorities. The CVC has powers to monitor all vigilance activities in public authorities working under the Central Government. In addition, CVC also advises public authorities under control of Govt of India on planning, executing and reviewing their vigilance work in order to bring out systemic improvement in governance. This year’s Vigilance Week has a great significance with regard to Jammu & Kashmir as the same corresponds with Back to Village season 4 (BTV4) .
CS for open discussion on corruption
Chief Secretary, Dr Arun Kumar Mehta during his virtual inspection of several panchayats during the ongoing Back to Village (B2V-4) programme encouraged the people living in villages to hold open discussions on corruption during Gram Sabhas. In an official statement carried by several local newspapers, the Chief Secretary said that the Government has taken numerous measures to introduce transparency and eliminate corruption in the system. “Public participation and scrutiny will ensure corruption-free delivery of governance”, Chief Secretary also said while addressing several panchayats of Mahanpur, Majalta, Panassa, Plahi in Jammu through virtual mode. He also spoke to the members of these panchayats to get their feedback about the B2V season 4 programme and impressed upon them to take forward the sanitation works being carried out under Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin phase II.
Vigilance week background
Every year Vigilance Awareness Week (VAW) coincides with the birthday of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s first Home Minister who is known for his honesty and integrity. The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) which is the apex integrity institution at national level endeavours to promote integrity, transparency and accountability in public life. The Vigilance Awareness Week every year is part of the multifaceted and comprehensive approach of the CVC to eradicate corruption by encouraging citizens , Govt officials and private sector players to fight against the corruption and to create awareness about it so that society is protected from getting affected with corruption. This year’s theme for Vigilance Awareness Week (VAW) is “Corruption free India for a developed Nation”.
Several reports of the World Bank reveal that corruption hampers the development of nations and the infant mortality rate in such countries with high levels of corruption. Infant mortality is about three times higher and the literacy rate is 25% lower in countries with higher degrees of corruption. No nation has been able to completely eliminate corruption, but studies show that the level of corruption in countries with emerging market economies is much higher than it is in developed nations. Conflict hit countries like Syria , Somalia , South Sudan , Congo have highest levels of corruption and developed nations like Denmark , New Zealand , Finland , Sweden and Singapore have lowest levels of corruption in the world as per the studies carried out by Transparency International a Berlin based NGO.
Corruption in J&K
Corruption in India is a matter of serious concern. This is affecting the growth and economy of the country not only at national level but its impact is quite visible in states and even at local level as well. From Gram Panchayat to offices of various Ministries in New Delhi , corruption is prevalent. A study conducted by Transparency International in 2005 said that more than 62% of Indians had at some point or another paid a bribe to a public official to get a job done. In 2008, another report revealed that about 50% of Indians had first-hand experience of paying bribes or using contacts to get services performed by public offices, however, in 2019 the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International ranked India 80th place out of 180, reflecting a little decline in the perception of corruption among people.
In Jammu & Kashmir the LG Administration headed by Manoj Sinha is also trying its level best to eradicate corruption. Infact the Jammu & Kashmir Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) is trapping public servants red handed accepting bribes but still the level of corruption isn’t coming down. From allotment of houses under PMAY , Free LPG under PM’s Ujjwala Yojna and payment of MG-NREGA wages people are being forced to pay bribes in rural areas. Similarly in urban areas municipal officials fleece people while giving them building permissions. In Govt jobs also bribes are demanded and accepted. LG Manoj Sinha had to cancel the selected list of Police Sub Inspectors early this year and the case has been given to CBI now as there were clear cases of corruption and paper leak. India’s trucking industry is forced to pay billions of rupees in bribes every year to various regulatory and police officials on state and national highways. The Corruption undermines political development, democracy, economic development, the environment, people’s health and much more. It is, therefore, imperative that the public be sensitized and motivated towards efforts for weeding out corruption.
Integrity Pledge for Citizens
An integrity pledge is taken by Govt officials during the Vigilance Awareness Week ( Oct 31st to Nov 6th) every year. The integrity pledge reads as :
I believe corruption has been the major obstacle to economic , political and social progress of our country. I believe that all stakeholders such as the Government , citizens and the private sector need to work together to eradicate corruption. I realise that every citizen should be vigilant and commit to the highest standards of honesty and integrity at all times and support the fight against corruption. I therefore pledge
To follow probity and rule of law in all walks of life
To neither take nor offer bribe
To perform all tasks in an honest and transparent manner
To act in public interest
To lead by example exhibiting integrity in personal behaviour
To report any incident of corruption to the appropriate agency
Taking this pledge by Govt officers in Govt of India offices , Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) has become a routine exercise now. Very few Govt officers act upon this and the same officers who make people , Govt officials to take the pledge are involved in corrupt practices. Infact J&K Govt through an order issued by General Administration Department (GAD) on 30.10.2022 has directed that pledge against corruption be taken during B2V4 meetings in every village. Let us hope that all the Panchayat Secretaries , Sarpanches , Panches and other officials including the Visiting Officers will abide by the Pledge they will be taking.
As the Vigilance Awareness Week (VAW) coincides with the Back to Village season 4 in Jammu & Kashmir , I believe, this is the right time to highlight the issues of corruption at panchayat level and local school students, religious and social leaders be asked to speak on the subject during BTV4 meetings. I would request all the Chairpersons of District Development Councils (DDCs) and Deputy Commissioners to hold discussion and debate on corruption and its negative impact on society during Back to Village meetings and Gram Sabha as suggested by the Chief Secretary . In addition to Integrity Pledge ceremonies, seminars and conferences should be held to celebrate Vigilance Awareness Week at district , tehsil and block level and people be made aware about laws that help reduce corruption like RTI Act , PSGA etc. I also request the Director Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) J&K and ACB SSPs to hold debates in colleges and schools during the Vigilance Week.