Friday, December 23, 2011

Corruption, Lokpal and Kautilya’s observations on officers embezzling funds

Kautilya's statue at an I-T office
CAN the current lot of Indian Parliamentarians bring about an effective Lokpal to eradicate corruption which prevailed since the days of Kautilya, also known by the name Chanakya or Vishnugupta. Kautilya alias Chanakya who was the prime minister of India’s first great emperor Chandragupta Maurya, wrote Arthashastra, a treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy.
Interestingly, the standing committee on Lokpal Bill chaired by Abhishek Manu Singhvi had a reference to Kautilya’s observation on corruption. Kautilya in Arthasastra, gave a detailed list at least 40 ways of embezzlement of funds by treasury officers during his time. The most common ways of corrupt practices as adopted by officers of his time included pratibandha or obstruction, prayoga or loan, vyavahara or trading, avastara or fabrication of accounts, pariahapana or causing less revenue and thereby affecting the treasury, upabhoga or embezzling funds for self enjoyment, and apahara or defalcation.
Kautilya who was known for pragmatism, did not however want people to be hundred percent honest. “Just as straight trees are chopped-down first, honest people are taken advantage of first,” he believed. This may not be the right preaching in today’s context as Parliamentarians have begun the debate of bringing an effective ombudsman. Yet, some of his quotes may be of use even today. He was highly critical of a weak administration. “Prostitutes don’t live in company of poor men, birds don’t build nests on a tree that doesn’t bear fruits and citizens never support a weak administration.” Maybe it’s still a lesson for the government of the day!

248 Independent Directors’ posts lying vacant in PSUs
There are 72 board level positions and 248 posts of Independent Directors in Schedule A and B Public Sector Undertaking (PSUs) lying vacant. A software has been developed to monitor vacancies in CPSUs. The administrative ministries have been issued instructions to ensure filling up of the vacancies in PSUs in a time-bound manner, and these are being monitored by holding regular meetings. In case of Independent Directors, the Central government has recently revised the procedure for selection and appointment of non-official directors on the boards of CPSEs in order to ensure timely appointment.

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