As part of the campaign towards a corruption free society, there have been several initiatives undertaken by the Government of India to strengthen the anti-corruption framework. As the apex integrity institution of the country, the Central Vigilance Commission has been at the forefront for most of these initiatives. Over the years, there has been a significant shift in focus from penalizing and flagging corrupt acts to institutionalizing preventive measures such as modernizing governance, leveraging IT, reengineering processes and systemizing checks and balances However, citizen participation and collective will in internalizing and enforcing the message of zero tolerance to corruption must be core of all these initiatives.
The Central Vigilance Commission, in its fight against corruption, uses the tool of participative vigilance to bring in all stakeholders and reaffirm their commitment to usher in transparency and integrity in public administration. Vigilance Awareness Week, which is a large-scale annual outreach measure towards this end, is being observed from 30th October to 5th November this year.
Over the years, Vigilance Awareness Week has garnered enthusiastic participation and support from governmental and non-governmental stakeholders alike. Organizations are encouraged to hold seminars, awareness gram sabhas and undertake programs to disseminate the importance of integrity in all spheres of life. The e-integrity pledge has so far been undertaken by more than 16 million citizens and over 250,000 organizations.
These initiatives also follow the spirit of Article 13 of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption which provides for “…the participation of society and promotes the active participation of individuals and groups outside the public sector, such as civil society, non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations, in the prevention of and the fight against corruption and to raise public awareness regarding the existence, causes and gravity of and the threat posed by corruption.”
A three-month campaign has been undertaken, as a run up to the week, with six preventive vigilance measures that have been selected as focus areas for the organizations to work on. They include awareness building on whistleblower complaints, capacity building programs, systemic improvement measures, leveraging IT for complaint disposal, updating circulars, guidelines, manuals and disposal of pending complaints.
These preventive initiatives have been undertaken to emphasize on revamping procedures and bringing about systemic change. The goal is to bring about a paradigm shift in governance that would enhance transparency and accountability in government functioning.
In 2022, in collaboration with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), a nationwide essay competition was held by the Central Vigilance Commission. Around 7.6 lakh students in more than ten thousand schools across the country participated.
The Complaint Management Portal of the Commission, which was inaugurated last year by the Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, is another attempt to elicit the involvement of citizens in the fight against corruption. Through this portal, any citizen who has witnessed wrongdoing by an official working for the Central Government can lodge a complaint directly with the Commission. If the citizen, for any reason, does not wish to disclose their identity then they may file a whistleblower complaint, also directly with the Commission, making the apex body accessible to the masses.
In India, whistle-blowing garners legislative support from the Public Interest Disclosure and Protection of Informers (PIDPI) resolution. Through the resolution, the identity of the complainant is kept confidential, and in case they feel the need to seek protection, the Commission can provide for necessary measures. This encourages citizens to come forward with any information they may have while also discouraging the filing of anonymous or pseudonymous complaints.
These initiatives advocate for the building of communities and societies with a culture of rejection of corruption. Ultimately, even though the Central Vigilance Commission and other government bodies continue to actively prevent and fight corruption, the true power rests in the hands of the citizens and how they can influence probity in governance. The citizens are to be continuously supported and empowered to bring about a real, sustainable change.
– The writer is Secretary, CVC and Wormila Jasmine Keishing, Deputy Secretary, CVC