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democracy vs. corruption in India

Friday 12 August, 2011

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs hosted Kiran Bedi, the 1st & highest ranking female officer in the Indian Police Service & founder of the Navjyoti & India Vision Foundation who talked about RESTORING PUBLIC CONFIDENCE IN A DEMOCRATIC INDIA.  Bedi’s life’s mission is to fight corruption & she’s tried to use visual depictions rather than words to document it.  The Right To Information act of 2005 created a revolution in India which created dramatic results & exposures.  India has no anti-corruption authority as in Scandinavia, only an advisory organization, & it’s not mandatory that it is followed, so it is not respected.  There have only been 11 inquiries.  It’s not independent, so it relies on political powers that run hot & cold.  They also can’t investigate those with 25+ years of service without the approval of the government.  Corruption has increased as the economy has grown because there are no checks & balances.

The strength of Indian democracy is it’s 714M voters, more than the sum of Europe & North & Latin America.  Rural governance includes 1M+ women in 1/3 of all village councils.  It’s supreme court is independent & biggest strength, but does depend on other branches for it’s budget.  India’s comptroller general is fearless & exposes corruption in the headlines every day for the last 2 years.  The free & commercial media keeps people on their toes.

Bedi wants to see if Indians in America will raise their collective voice.  The head of the Commonwealth Games went to jail.  The founder of India’s Premier League was exposed as corrupt.  But watchdogs have no teeth.  In bribery scams, there was a system failure & India never fought for the system.  The government is only connected by voting, so there is no ongoing retrograde democracy.

To restore confidence, India filed a complaint about the Commonwealth Games.  They looked at laws in Hong Kong, Singapore, & Sweden & drafted their own bill.  India has been 1 of the last to sign the water treaty.  Indians say they want an honest democracy.  Civil society is using soft power along with mobile phones to influence virtually.

Q&A

An Indian millionaire lawyer took his child back to India against the wishes of his ex-wife & because of his wealth, has escaped the law.  These situations are being addressed in a new bill.

A common ID card with biometrics will clarify who gets what.  The common man needs access to this information.

India is estimated to lose $16B in corruption.

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