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Monday, June 04, 2012

Apex court's anti-corruption move is praiseworthy but not enough

The Supreme Court creates sensation every time it comes up with a new judgment. History repeated itself when the Supreme Court upheld a judgment of the Kerala High Court about sports officials being public servants and hence liable under the Prevention of Corruption Act. This definitely marks a strong commitment on part of the Indian judiciary irrespective of whether it will guarantee the end of corruption in sports or not.

Such a judgment is relevant in today’s context when corruption is rampant not only in sports bodies but also in other streams of life. Sports body officials handle huge public funds. They can’t resist the temptation of misappropriating money. Kerala Cricket Association officials are alleged to have misappropriated Rs 28.42 crore received from BCCI in 2004-08 and Rs 1.88 lakh received from the state for promotion of cricket. There are massive corruption charges on Commonwealth Games officials.

Corruption has also spread its tentacles to other fields like social work and microfinance. Unfortunately, social work is a sector with little accountability but huge responsibility and has exceeded the $1 trillion mark globally. Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) in the developing world have recourse to over $15 billion. The number of NGOs in India is estimated to be over 3.3 million with over 19.4 million people engaged. There is evidence of rampant corruption worldwide. Transparency International ranks NGOs in Kenya as the second most corrupted body in terms of taking bribes. The Council for the Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology (CAPART) in India has blacklisted 400 NGOs while another 3,000 NGOs have been blacklisted by the Central Social and Welfare Board (CSWB) on the ground of irregularities of fund allocation and misconduct. India’s microfinance sector has reached the $7 billion mark, with over 120 million homes having no access to banking. About 70 million people have benefitted from microfinance. As per a CRISIL research, there are over 3,000 MFIs and NGO-MFIs, out of which, about 400 have active lending programmes. There are often news of misuse of funds.

NGOs and MFIs handle huge funds, often the same as sports bodies. Under the new SC verdict, if sports officials are public servants chargeable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, social workers and MFIs should be equally chargeable under the same corruption act. This will be another way to push the lazy Indian government to act. To reiterate again, it will not guarantee the end of corruption but will show the commitment of the existing Indian judiciary.

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