Carry it beyond the Integrity Pledge!

The ongoing Vigilance Week has a great significance with regard to Jammu & Kashmir  as the same corresponds with Back to Village Programme (BTV4)
Carry it beyond the Integrity Pledge!
Representational Pic

J&K Chief Secretary, Dr A K Mehta recently advised the PRI members of different panchayats in Jammu to hold Open Discussion on corruption during the Gram Sabha (Deh Majlis) meetings. He was addressing several Sarpaches and Panchayat members of Majalta, Mahanpur, Plahi, Panassa panchayat villages of Jammu through virtual mode as part of the Back to Village 4 (B2V4) programme.  As per newspaper reports, 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” he said.

The Chief Secretary was addressing the PRI members to get their updates and feedback about the B2V season 4 programme. CS also impressed upon the panchayat members to take forward the sanitation works being carried out under Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (ODF Plus).

            The Vigilance Awareness Week is observed every year across the country between Oct 31st to Nov 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. By asking the PRI members to discuss and debate corruption at grassroots level , the Chief Secretary gave an indirect message that corruption in various centrally sponsored schemes like MG-NREGA, Swach Bharat Mission , PM Ujjwala , PM Awas Yojna won’t be tolerated. It is a known fact that Panchayat Secretaries (VLWs)  Panchayat Inspectors , Junior Engineers , GRS, Assistant Accounts Officers  (AAO) Block Development Officers (BDOs), Assistant Commissioners Development (ACD’s) and staff of ACD offices are involved in corruption along with PRI members. Ironically the PRI members have become the touts for these officers to collect the bribe. The ongoing Vigilance Week has a great significance with regard to Jammu & Kashmir as the same corresponds with Back to Village programme  (BTV4) , but unfortunately this was not discussed at all. The focus of Govt officials has only been on making their staff to take the pledge and this would also not have been taken in Govt offices had LG Manoj Sinha or Chief Secretary not spoken about it.  

Vigilance week background

Vigilance Awareness Week (VAW) is  celebrated every year from Oct 31st to Nov 6th. This 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”.

Beyond the Integrity Pledge

 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 Integrity pledge by Govt officers has become a routine exercise. Very few Govt officers act upon this. Ironically several senior officers who make people or Govt officials to take the Integrity Pledge are themselves corrupt and continue with their corrupt practices. This has become a mockery now. J&K Govt also issued an official circular to commemorate Vigilance Awareness Week. The Secretary General Administration Department (GAD) on 30.10.2022 issued an order directing Govt officers that pledge against corruption be taken during B2V4 meetings in every village. The pledge was taken during the Back to Village programme but the discussion on corruption and making people understand the meaning of the pledge was not done ? I wish Panchayat Secretaries , Sarpanches , Panches and other officials including the Visiting Officers would  abide by the Pledge they took in the last 6 days. Our Mining  , Revenue, Police , Rural Development , Public Works Departments  are the most corrupt Govt institutions along with Municipalities.  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. Debating corruption in Gram Sabha is a valid suggestion put forward by the Chief Secretary. I am hopeful that the Govt must issue a formal order in this regard and Vigilance Awareness Week celebrations should move beyond the Integrity Pledge. The Anti Corruption Bureau and Govt intuitions must also celebrate International Anti- Corruption Day (December 9th) with the same zeal and hold programmes and functions in every Govt institution across J&K.

Beyond the Integrity Pledge

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 Integrity pledge by Govt officers has become a routine exercise. Very few Govt officers act upon this. Ironically several senior officers who make people or Govt officials to take the Integrity Pledge are themselves corrupt and continue with their corrupt practices. This has become a mockery now. J&K Govt also issued an official circular to commemorate Vigilance Awareness Week. The Secretary General Administration Department (GAD) on 30.10.2022 issued an order directing Govt officers that pledge against corruption be taken during B2V4 meetings in every village. The pledge was taken during the Back to Village programme but the discussion on corruption and making people understand the meaning of the pledge was not done. I wish Panchayat Secretaries, Sarpanches, Panches and other officials including the Visiting Officers would  abide by the Pledge they took in the last 6 days.

Conclusion

 While addressing at a function organised by Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) on Thursday  Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the officers of the CVC to march ahead to do their duty honestly and not be defensive while making the country corruption-free.

Lt Governor Manoj Sinha is also trying his level best to eradicate corruption. He has made the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) vibrant, but the Govt officers are still involved in heinous acts of corruption.  We brought the corruption case in PM Ujjwala Yojna into notice of LG Sinha , he spoke about it in his monthly  radio programme Awam ki Aawaz last year in November. Lt Governor  hailed the efforts of our activist Mushtaq Ahmad Lone from Bonen Budgam. His office also contacted Mushtaq when he filed a formal complaint. The Raj Bhavan wrote to the Govt to act and take action against the LPG dealers who looted people , but unfortunately even after a year the action has not been taken against them. Corruption needs to be dealt with by Iron Fist.

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow. He is Founder & Chairman of Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement

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