Participative Vigilance: Key to Good Governance

Kashmir Magazine



Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat

Vigilance means keeping a watchful eye on the activities of the personnel and taking prompt action to promote transparency, fair practices and ensure integrity in the functioning of public authorities and official transactions. Vigilance and good governance are interrelated and both require a fair legal framework which is enforced impartially. It also means we have an independent judiciary and impartial anti-corruption authorities and police force. Access to Information should be freely available and that is the essence of good governance.
Santhanam Committee in 1962 had identified four major causes of corruption: (i) Administrative delays (ii) Government taking upon themselves more than what they can manage by way of regulatory functions (iii) Scope for personal discretion in the exercise of powers vested in different categories of government servants; and (iv) Cumbersome procedures of dealing with various matters which are of importance to citizens in their day to day affairs.
Every corrupt officer needs the two elements to indulge in corruption. One is opportunity and assurance of safety. We have three types of vigilance:
Preventive Vigilance
Participative Vigilance
Punitive Vigilance
Preventive Vigilance seeks to prevent acts of corruption by reducing the incentive and opportunities for private gain by using corrupt means. Punitive Vigilance is based on action against an individual by Anti-Corruption Agencies. From last over a decade a new kind of vigilance has emerged which means Participative vigilance , wherein Govt and civil society actors, activists, whistleblowers and transparency activists sit together and brainstorm on controlling corruption.
CS laid emphasis on Participative Vigilance
During the recent Vigilance Awareness Week several transparency activists got a chance to interact with Chief Secretary Dr. Arun Kumar Mehta in Srinagar. This meeting was organised by the Govt in commemoration of the Vigilance Awareness Week which is celebrated across the country every year between October 30 to November 5. The Chief Secretary along with senior officers in the administration held separate meetings with RTI activists in Srinagar and Jammu. Issues related to good governance through e-governance, implementation of Right to Information Act -RTI , Public Service Guarantee Act -PSGA were discussed and debated. I was also invited by the Deputy Commissioner Srinagar to attend the meeting along with other colleagues. Transparency activists who make rigorous use of the Right to Information Act (RTI) in Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal were part of this brainstorming session which lasted for more than 2 hours. I, along with my associates representing the Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement, explained in detail the measures taken by the Government in the last 3 years on ensuring good governance in J&K. Chief Secretary laid emphasis on participative vigilance and said that he would do a follow-up meeting after 3 months
I appreciated Chief Secretary for the initiatives taken by Govt listed as follows:
Digitization of Land Revenue records
Providing adequate funding to village panchayats
Organising Back to Village programmes
Opening of Jan Aushadhi centres (subsidized chemist shops)
Introduction of e-POS at Govt ration stores
Providing financial assistance to people under Golden card scheme PM Jan Arogya Yojna-PMJAY
Providing 1075 online services to citizens
These public services have not only helped the poor and disadvantaged communities but it has also reduced corruption in many Govt offices especially with the introduction of e-POS machines in the Food & Civil Supplies Department.
Suggestion given to CS
During interaction I put some suggestions before the Chief Secretary which would ensure more transparency and accountability in the functioning of our public authorities. I appreciated the work done by J&K Anti Corruption Bureau -ACB during the last 3 years wherein dozens of corrupt Govt officials were trapped red handed accepting bribes, however to take these cases to logical conclusion and to convict these corrupt officials it takes decades to convict them. I suggested CS take following steps to strengthen the work of J&K ACB:
Creating posts of Special Anti Corruption Judges
Providing Online RTI service to citizens
Ensuring transparency audits of all Govt websites
Janbhagidari portal
During the meeting with the Chief Secretary which was attended by Divisional Commissioner, DC Srinagar, Commissioner SMC, Director School Education, Director Health Kashmir and several other senior officers from divisional administration. Some activists raised issues related to road projects of PMGSY wherein works were not done properly. Social activist Syed Farhat raised Chadoora Susrayar road issue which is not getting completed and information is not provided to RTI applicants nor is PMGSY making proactive disclosure of this information. The Chief Secretary took a strong notice of the complaints and asked the Divisional Commissioner to inquire into it. He also suggested the participating activists to access information from Janbhagidari online portal also wherein any Govt work can be seen along with details of the funds spent on it. This portal contains massive information about funds spent in Govt works . One can access work details from ward, mohalla, village , block and district level. There are little loopholes in the portal like not having updated details or certain information is missing or in some cases the funds are shown to have been allocated and released but expenditure is shown nil. But when we examine this portal in totality this is the best online portal I have seen in recent years wherein the Govt has made proactive disclosure of information which is mandatory under section 4 (1) (b) of RTI Act 2005 as well.
I wish Government authorities had organised such interactive sessions between senior Government officers and transparency activists earlier. The recent meeting between Chief Secretary & Transparency Activists in Srinagar and Jammu is an example of Participative Vigilance which helps to reduce corruption and authorities will have to take less punitive measures to curb corruption. Unfortunately the senior officers in the government are misinformed by their subordinate officials about the work done by some well meaning activists and whistleblowers. Ironically the senior government officers don’t get to meet the public spirited citizens and activists which create a huge gap. Many corrupt officers are involved in a misinformation campaigns well and they mislead well meaning senior officers is done mostly by corrupt officers which impacts our governance. In-fact the Chief Secretary also appreciated that role of participative vigilance in ensuring good governance. This demands a conducive work environment which would reduce propensity to corruption. J&K Anti Corruption Bureau -ACB must also hold sessions on preventive and participative vigilance with anti corruption activists and whistleblowers. These interactions , workshops should not be restricted to Vigilance Awareness Week only but should be held on monthly basis by our government institutions especially ACB and administrative training institutions (ATIs) like J&K IMPARD
(The author is an Acumen Fellow, and is Founder and Chairman of Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement)