Once upon a time in 1939, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of sovereign India, said, “Freedom is in peril; defend it with all your might.” At that time, our jeopardies and threats were different. Today, our threats are distinct. Nehru referred to managing variousness as a problem. He also foresaw how freedoms of the citizens of democracy would be in danger. Today, delinquency, corruption, scamming and poverty are our issues. Although India has done well on many fronts like Global Competitiveness Index (on which it is ranked 23rd among all countries for perceived efficiency in public spending), a unified tax system and effective governance of vigilance and anti-corruption activities, yet, there are miles to go to achieve complete vigilance and consequent prosperity. A watchful kingdom would eventually lead to a prosperous state. To achieve this, we need all the key elements of our country to keep their eyes and ears open. We must not shut our mouths, close our ears and fold our eyes. The three monkeys of 2020 should listen to all evil; see all evil and post all evil. Vigilance at individual and organisational levels is needed. This is the way forward to achieve prosperity in economics, health, business and the like.
Eternal circumspection is the price of liberty. India needs to secure lookout at the following levels so as to achieve a state of absolute vigilance and prosperity:
1. Citizen Level Vigilance: Pearl S Buck, an American author and Nobel laureate, once said, “When good people in any country cease their vigilance, evil men prevail.” India is a country with more than 1.3 million people, 200 languages and dialects and seven religions. Here, not all are alike. Everyone needs to be open-eyed in his or her own capacity. We need to be vigilant to save the fundamental tenets of our society. Whenever something erroneous is happening around, raise your voice. We all need to raise this question within ourselves. Posterity will demand an explanation from us about what we have done.
2. Media Vigilance: The Fourth Estate is the cornerstone that upholds democracy. Its freedom and inclination must not be tinkered with by any means. Curtailing media freedom on one or the other pretext and compromising its content are always dangerous for the secular and democratic fabric of the country. We have seen how the governments have time and again assaulted the press leeway. The Internal Emergency of 1975 and the ban on some media organisation in recent times reveal the sorry state of circumstances wherein governments have curtailed the freedom of media. This leaves them unable to be vigilant and expressive. At the same time, no media or press house must be allowed to resort to unfair means of earning. The Fourth Estate should be vigilant, unbiased, responsible and free.
3. Intellectual Vigilance: This class of the society is the most influential. They have their say in the most appropriate and the most effective manner. The drops of their ink make a million think. Their watchfulness would do the same thing. They must be vigilant to bring any uncomely activity to the forefront and make the authorities act. Former President Pranab Mukherjhee once said, “I do believe that citizens’, media’s and intellectuals’ vigilance can act as the biggest deterrents to the forces of darkness and backwardness.”
4. Organisational Vigilance: Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has instructed all government departments and private organisations to implement Information technology (IT) in their systems. This automation of activities prone to corruption and human interference ensures that any probable act of fraud is caught at an early stage. Many organisations like the Oil India and many banks have adopted the concept of Catch Them Young (CTY). Here, the IT measures in place detect any possible irregularity early. Similarly, there are many automatic reports of suspicious transactions in banks that make it possible to catch the fraud early. The organisational vigilance is a macro framework of sections, personnel and IT that makes surveillance and diligence possible.
Effective vigilance at all levels in a country like India which is fairly placed among the largest economies of the world, is surely going to contribute towards achieving prosperity. Language defines prosperity as a state of well-being. On macroeconomic level like that of a country, prosperity is measured on how well it is doing in terms of Economy, Employment, Education, Health, Entrepreneurship and Opportunity, Personal Freedom, Safety and Security, etc., etc. These are the indices of prosperity of a country. The better the indices, the prosperous the country.
Our picture is dull and dismal. According to the Legatum Prosperity Index 2019—which ranks 142 countries across eight categories—Denmark is the most prosperous country of the world followed by Norway. India stands at 101st position. In terms of economic participation and opportunity, we are 149th. When it comes to the ‘ease of doing business’, we are 63rd. Our GDP is shattered. Frauds, as a consequence of negligence, have uprooted the base of our economy. The Enforcement Directorate says that as many as 38 people involved in bank fraud cases have fled India in the last four years. Vijay Mallya’s Rs 9,000 scam, Nirov Modi’s Rs 11,400 theft, 2G spectrum scam of Rs 1,76,000 Crores and many more such frauds have looted public money. BOFORS Scandal of Rs 64 Crores, Colgate scam of Rs1.86 Lac Crores and CWG Scam of Rs 70,000 Crores are blemishes on the face of our Vigilance.
India is a country with the highest youth population in the world. 30% of our population is young. But, most of them are NEETs (not in employment or education). Our unemployment rate, which currently averages at 8.87%, reached an all-time high of 23.50% in April 2020. Lack of proper vigilance has hit this sector hard. Age-long recruitments and inefficient strategies have been a double-whammy.
Another important aspect of prosperity is health standard and amenities. The wealth of a nation is measured by the health of its people. World Bank says, “50% of the economic growth differential between the developed and the developing nations can be attributed to ill health.” Strauss & Thomas, 1998; Bloom & Canning, 2000; Shultz, 2002 have written, “…better health would undoubtedly increase labour market participation & workers’ productivity.”
The purpose of setting up of the Central Vigilance Commission and the observance of annual Vigilance Awareness Week is to ensure vigilance everywhere and act accordingly. Last year’s theme “Vigilant India, Prosperous India” carries the need to be actively diligent. That is only way we can improve various parameters of national prosperity. Publilium Syrus, a Latin writer says, “He is most free from danger, who, even when safe, is on his guard.” Today, let’s join hands to ensure proper vigilance to achieve prosperity.
(The author is MBA, NET, IBPS. He’s Manager Scale-II in the middle management of a reputed PSU bank. The views are personal)