Terming corruption as a "major stumbling block" in the country's progress, President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday asked the central vigilance commission to lead the way in cleansing the government.
The President said while there has been no let up in the fight against corruption, it has to be acknowledged that only a limited success has been achieved in this regard. "Corruption remains a major stumbling block in the progress of our nation," he said inaugurating a seminar organised on the occasion of golden jubilee celebrations of the CVC.
Mukherjee said corruption has increased transaction costs, reduced efficiency of public services, distorted decision-making processes and undermined the moral fibre of the society.
"Corruption has reinforced inequities and limited access for public services by the common man, especially the poor," he said.
Asking the CVC to lead the way in cleansing the government and contribute to reversing the cynicism of public towards government functionaries, the President said he was confident the CVC will continue to function as a strong and an effective body, making useful contribution to enhancing probity in governance and checking corruption as well as mal-administration.
Referring to the civil society's "huge public outcry" over corruption in recent times, Mukherjee said, "The air is thick with despair and cynicism. There is an urgent need to restore the faith of our people in our governance system and the credibility of our institutions."
The President said the CVC must expeditiously investigate all allegations of corruption without fear or favour and it must, at the same time ensure that vilification campaigns to destroy reputations and careers are not carried out in the name of checking corruption.
"The CVC should be an ally to good governance and facilitate speedy, responsible and bold decision making in the interests of the country. Members of the CVC and its staff must also set an example by maintaining the highest standards of probity in the discharge of their functions," he said.
Describing corruption as a cancer that erodes democracy and weakens the foundations of the state, Mukherjee said the solutions that are found must complement and strengthen existing institutions.
"A large number of opinion polls and surveys reveal that corruption is among the foremost concerns of our citizens. We must engage in serious introspection on how both, 'petty' corruption which affects the public at large and 'grand' corruption involving the higher echelons of the government can be eliminated," he said.
The President said corruption is a global phenomenon and rapidly growing developing countries like India face a particularly difficult challenge.
"Ensuring sustainable growth, eliminating poverty, raising the quality of life, promoting industrialisation, providing jobs etc. require quick decision making by the executive. If the executive has to deliver results and demonstrate efficient governance, it needs to have substantial financial powers. At the same time, provision of such financial powers and administrative discretion in governance gives rise to opportunities for nepotism and corruption," he said.
Remembering former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri who had said that stamping out corruption was a very tough job, the President said the menace should be confronted head on and everyone must redouble the efforts and address corruption on a war-footing.
"The fact that corruption has proved to be intractable should not make us lose confidence in our abilities to address this problem. The CVC has an important role to play in this regard," he said.
Mukherjee said after setting up of the CVC in 1964, Shastri had set up a committee to look into the matter under the xhairmanship of then Member of Parliament K Santhanam.
The Santhanam Committee identified four major causes of corruption -- administrative delays, government taking upon itself more than what it could manage by way of regulatory functions, scope for personal discretion in exercise of powers vested in different categories of government servants, and cumbersome procedures in dealing with various matters, which were of importance to citizens in their day-to-day affairs.
"The sad reality is that none of these problems have gone away. Fifty years later, they continue to plague our governance system," he said.
The President said the CVC Act, 2003, provides extensive powers to the CVC, including reviewing progress of applications pending with competent authorities for sanction of prosecution and exercising superintendence over vigilance administrations of various central government ministries, departments and organisations.
He said the CVC has powers to protect 'whistle blowers' under the Public Interest Disclosure Resolution, 2004.
The CVC is principal advisor to the government on all matters relating to vigilance administration and is required to conduct vigilance audits of various systems and procedures in organisations as well as assist managements establish effective internal control systems and procedures.
"The CVC must re-energise itself and pro-actively lead the charge against corruption," he said.
Image: A protest against corruption in New Delhi