Strengthen the system of accountability

The recent statement of Governor of Jammu and Kashmir on the sidelines of a function organized for ambitious plantation drive may not go well with several quarters. While saying, “See the bungalows in Vasant Vihar or Maharani Bagh in Delhi of those who worked in the Forest Department. I know several families who have made millions as they had the charge of the Forest Department. The forests of Jammu and Kashmir have been destroyed painfully. They are our lungs, and we are alive because of them.”  Mr. Malik has taken the bull [the corrupt] by the horns. His statement if read in the right perspective is a loud and clear message regarding ongoing corruption in the state.  Politicians and some other influential people will positively brand it a sweeping statement as it may hit them harder. The common man is least bothered about the consequences of such statements, but he finds himself vindicated as he has been crying foul for last several decades regarding his fate in more than seven decades of egalitarianism and empowerment. A man on the street has no idea of political complexities and administrative intricacies so he or she will take this statement on its face value, expecting miracles from the present dispensation. High hopes will be ascribed to this vital statement against dishonest practices going on for decades. Whatever the intentions and motives, but if the writ of accountability is established in the state decisively half the battle of authorizing people and providing them fair administration is won.

Brushing aside the negativities, we should welcome the present and earlier statements of the Governor and his team regarding cleansing the system of unscrupulous elements and establishing the highest order of accountability. However, having said that the loopholes in the existing system of responsibility within the administration are to be plugged. Earlier the system of accountability was part of our inner self [the conscience], the faith and the ethos. But the materialism of which humanity presently is the worst victim compelled the régimes to draft and draw strategies. It is disconcerting what was inherently indoctrinated in our psyche is now being admonished by the tribunals and the commissions through a set of rules and regulations.

Anyways, not going much deeper into the genesis of degrading inbuilt system of moral values and the consequent aura of accountability within the society let us draw attention towards flaws in the existing system of accountability. These flaws dilute the good intentions of the government and its good Samaritans. Time and its binding are a crucial factor influencing accountability. Most of the vested interests resort to delaying tactics to coerce the gullible people into their trap. Timely disposal of official matters will leave no space for exploitation and exploiting the hopefuls. Transparency of official business if addressed appropriately, will have a massive impact on the structure of governance. Strengthening the arrangement of right to information as envisaged in the existing RTI act with the highest degree of transparency and timeliness can bolster the mechanism of accountability and prompt service. Accountability being a broader term covering aspects of duty in the delivery system and fixing responsibilities for laxity, failure, and consequent exploitation requires a multi-pronged strategy to make it more effective.

For last more than a decade beyond the administrative checks and balances, a full-fledged state accountability commission is working in the state to make officials and public functionaries accountable and fix the responsibilities. The Commission initially with its appropriate authority and powers created waves in the ruling circles and earned the right name among the people. However, the robust liability mechanism established by the commission did not go well with few political entities and their cronies, and in a very clandestine manner, the commission was divested of its very vital powers. At present, the state accountability commission is virtually a toothless tiger gasping for authority and powers. Interestingly, I am witness to the oblivious state of authority within the commission. Even after almost fifty hearings in a complaint for more than three years, the commission for lack of powers is virtually on crossroads of decision making. And I have almost lost hope for timely disposal. However, my faith reminds me of—pessimism being a big sin! The Commission may apparently look complete in all respects, but its soul is battered by the malicious intrusion by its worst adversaries through amendments in its rule book of authority. If present dispensation, particularly the honorable Governor, wants to give real shape to his anti-graft crusade, and the idea of total accountability, the strengthening of institutions becomes imperative. All organizations meant to check corruption and guarantee accountability has not only to be restored to their pristine authoritative position but strengthened with absolute penal powers to prosecute almost every entity within the government and the society.