Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar has repeatedly declared eradication of corruption as his sole aim. His chief secretary DS Dhesi had suggested a strategy to the state bureaucracy to fight graft in administration.
But the government departments, boards and corporations have been lukewarm in their response to the new government’s “preventive and participatory strategy” to root out corruption. Dhesi had, in one of his first letters on January 1 this year a day after he took over as chief secretary, directed them to identify officials of doubtful integrity (ODIs) and top five points and places of corruption, create a dedicated vigilance wing and appoint a chief vigilance officer (CVO), nodal officer for all vigilance-related matters, in their respective departments.
While instructions were issued to all administrative secretaries, heads of departments, divisional commissioners and managing directors of all boards and corporations, only a few have taken action on the initiatives suggested by the chief secretary. The nine-point strategy that marks a shift from “punitive approach” to a “more holistic preventive and participatory approach” appears to have more or less remained on paper even though five months have passed. Dhesi could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.
LACK OF CLARITY
The state government had also suggested identification of “undesirable contact men” (UCM), uploading of names of officers of doubtful integrity on official websites and surprise check at corruption points in departments. HT spoke to senior officials of about a dozen departments and corporations and found that though some departments had designated their officials as CVOs or started the process of establishing vigilance wings, most of them were still to initiate any action or did not have adequate clarity. A few of them could not even recall whether their departments had taken the initiatives or not.
While several departments said that the lists of ODIs containing names of convicted and chargesheeted officials had been submitted, these lists were not put on the departments’ websites. There is also total confusion among the administrative secretaries and heads of departments spoken to by this newspaper on “undesirable contact men” (euphemism for middlemen) and watch to be kept on them to understand their modus operandi. The officers denied that any middlemen were visiting their departments or said that they had no way of knowing anything about the activities of such persons.
An IAS officer said the governments in their enthusiasm were known to suggest strange strategies. “We are talking about public offices. Any person could visit them. How can anyone be declared an undesirable person? This is character assassination and defamatory,” he remarked.
TECH-TONIC TO CURB GRAFT
The state government is now focusing on use of information technology to bring transparency and tackle corruption. Besides e-delivery of services, it is keen on Aadhaar-linked direct cash transfers. “The only way to curb graft is to break the cycle of dependence, minimize interaction between the government staff and the citizens and cut out intermediaries. The answer lies in new technologies,” said an aide of the chief minister. The state authorities are targeting implementation of 150-odd electronic citizen services (eServices), which would be accessible through the common service centres, by March 2016.