Thursday, April 26, 2012


Corruption has robbed democracy from Indians!

Fundamental rights and human rights are two aspects of governance that goes into making the perfect blend for a democracy. On the hindsight, these two may look discreet but for all practical purposes they are the two side of the same coin. Obviously, a country can’t be called democratic if it fails to protect the fundamentals rights of its citizen. On the same lines, a country is said to have a flawed democracy if there is blatant abuse of human rights, in spite of the nation promising all fundamental rights.

The on-going protests against corruption and poor governance in India is nothing but a cry against ongoing abuse of fundamental and human rights. It goes without saying that corruption widens the income gap in the society thus pushing the poorest of the poor at the brink of life. So much so that money get accumulated at one end of the society (the top 20 per cent owns 80 per cent of nation’s wealth) thus marginalising millions who are at the bottom of the pyramid. As corruption leads to discrimination and biased-policy making, most of the promised fundamental rights become baseless. For instance, huge corporate subsidies (in exchange of election funding) leads to increase in social malaise and thus builds upon a criminalised society, which eventually breaks the right to equality and right to life and further takes the shape of human rights abuse in form of child labour, sex trade, extortions, murders and so on and so forth.

Recent incidents of murders of RTI activists are a case in point. The very fact that they were investigation projects that were webbed with corruption, echoes the fact that corruption invariably leads to human right abuse. A couple of months back, two RTI activists named Niyamat Ansari and Mangalaram were killed. Talking about basics of a dignified life, corruption in employment generation programs like NREGA, has led to deaths of millions and have also forced thousands of families to resort to criminal activities (ranging from robbery to child labour to sex trade) for survival. There has been myriad of cases where adulteration in food meant for poor and counterfeit and spurious medicines keeps killing the poor and vulnerable. And not to forget deaths caused by poisonous and adulterated country made liquor, which are almost like an everyday affair. Similarly, stocking of grains and not provisioning the same for the hungry, robs right to food and eventually right to life and right against exploitation.

Interestingly, countries with low corruption (as indicated by Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index) also features as nations who top the Human development Index (HDI measures the quality of life on different social and economical parameters). To comprehend the same, one does not need to browse and scan both these reports and compare India with other nation. A simple Google search is enough. Correlating this correlation, India ranks a pathetic 95 out of 183 countries in CPI and 134 out of 187 countries in HDI, thus hovering at the bottom of the list in both the parameters.

All in all, the tentacles of corruption has not only destroyed the fundamental right and human rights but has actually eroded the very concept of democracy ubiquitously. Tough to tell, whether bad democracy allowed corruption to prevail or was it vice-versa, but surely one lead to another. But whatever it is, what has sustained of all this is a blatant right of abuse of human life!


Thursday, April 19, 2012


Foreign assistance is mired with corruption

India has been receiving billions of dollars through foreign direct investments which have not only got invested in the Indian economy but have also added towards the growth of the same. But the same has not been true in case of foreign assistance specifically meant for social development. Foreign assistance aka foreign aid meant for social upliftment has rarely found itself fulfilling its very objective, for which it was meant. The aid has been often found redirected towards other causes and most of the time siphoned off into the bank accounts of corrupt officials. As per the latest Word Bank report, “aid programs are beset by corruption, bad administration and under-payments.” A huge amount has also been redirected from poverty alleviation to CWG construction which was again marred with corruption.

Corruption in aid has been ubiquitous and encompassing. So much so that UK based NGO – ActionAid found irregularities in aid that were meant for housing construction for Tsunami victims and reported that “across tsunami affected areas of India, just 28 percent of the total 98,447 required houses have been built. In the Andaman and Nicobar Island, where 9,174 homes are needed, reconstruction so far is less than one per cent.”

This is just not one discreet case. Every Indian is well versed with damages caused by monsoon (floods) every year. No one would have found a better use of disaster than our authorities. The administrators actually wait for such disasters to happen so that they could capitalize on the same. As per CAG’s findings more than Rs.1.40 crore were diverted for non-flood programs during the monsoon of 2005 and 2006 in Maharashtra. In the same lines, in Orissa, Public Works Department officers rampantly redirected funds (estimated to be around Rs.12 crore) for other purposes which were fundamentally allocated as cyclone relief fund. Similarly, funds meant for earthquake relief in J&K and Kerala saw the same fate.

This embarrassment crossed the national borders when British government had to finally probe into the expenditure for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. The probe finally revealed (rather exposed) that “millions of pounds [sent as aid by UK’s government] of aid for education and the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan that has disappeared into the depths of corruption without any benefit to the poor children". The authorities shamelessly embezzled around £340 million and had spent a huge amount of money in purchases of luxurious commodities that had no distant connection with education. After the expose, the UK government decided to curtail down foreign aid to India. A couple of years back, World Bank found irregularities in five of its health schemes which were being implemented in Orissa and adjoining states.

Embezzlement of funds which are meant for poor in itself is a big crime and if it is to do with international aid then it is a huge erosion of trust at the global level. Moreover, since these aid/assistance are announced for a specific purpose and for specific time period, corruption at any level fundamentally defeats the very purpose. For instance, Tsunami funds that were poured in India from numerous sources, finally exposed in being misused which eventually killed millions of hopes and thousands of lives. Same goes for almost all developmental aid be it for education, health, AIDS or malaria. And above all, such act comes at a huge cost and for us it has been a bulwark of embarrassment at a global level.


Thursday, April 12, 2012


We still do not have centralised record keeping system for drugs

Lately, India has been witnessing quite a progress in its pharmaceutical sector, especially in production of generic drugs. Not only there has been increase in number of big pharma players but also the production capacity has been growing at a brisk pace. The unholy nexus between medical practitioners and pharmaceutical companies and rampant corruption in drugs control have had a direct impact as a whole on the pharma business, which stands at a staggering annual turnover of Rs.20,000 crore. The manufacturing of spurious drugs have increased by leaps and bounds in recent years with World Bank estimating 35 per cent of the global production of counterfeit drugs emanating from India! Almost Rs.4,000 crore of the drugs produced in India are estimated to be spurious, that’s causing a havoc on the international market too, where it is exported. US has already taken steps by putting India in 301-watch threat list.

The problem to counter the menace of counterfeit drugs is compounded by the fact that the country shamefully lacks authentic data regarding drug and its usage. The Mashelkar Committee report, one of the most comprehensive in the recent times, that was draft ed to study corruption that the drug trade faced, had to rely on unconfirmed media reports. It is deleterious that in spite of our government spending 4.8 per cent of the GDP on health, there is hardly any commissioning on data, be it records on confiscations, periodic research on generic drugs production or its distribution through dealers and retailers! What comes as a shock is the fact that industry associations despite incurring huge economic losses have not yet demanded a system of maintaining centralised records.

Delhi is one of the hubs of counterfeit drugs and availability of empty capsules and fake tablets are abundant and that too at a fraction of the prescribed cost. It is obvious that the entire trade thrives because of a strong nexus between the administrators and manufacturers. And this is the prime reason behind lack of data. In 2011, Delhi Pharmaceutical Trust agreed to conduct a survey as a major drive towards data obtainment with an overall cost of Rs.15-20 lakhs. However, its mere survey called on by some NGO recommendations and not a comprehensive one by a major statistical institute or a one backed by the ministry of health. Further, this was one time survey and is not carried out periodically. Moreover, less than 20 per cent of the drug manufacturing licensees are inspected.

Drug control not only suffers from loopholes and intentional reluctance at manufacturing level but also at retail level. At retail level, majority of the medical shops are not provided with a mandatory pharmacist! The Mashelkar Committee too, though did not charge the Drug Control Department directly, but made clear claims that there is substantial non-uniformity in existing legislations. To compound the problem further, the recommendation of providing one inspector per 25 manufacturing units never got materialised.

In order to curb this menace, the Health Ministry should setup an independent body. It’s imperative to centralise all records of drug production and issue licenses from a central system which needs to be renewed periodically post a couple of surprise checks and audits. Spurious drugs not only kill the domestic market but also kill the international market besides killing millions across the globe.