Accountability crucial to good governance

Oct 01 2013, 22:11 IST
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SummaryThe Japanese have always had the highest standards of accountability.

The Japanese have always had the highest standards of accountability. Honour was/is an integral part of life and, over the years, several leaders (both corporate and political) have actually committed suicide as atonement for failure of strategy, execution or morals. Indeed, in the most extreme cases, even failure by subordinates led to senior public figures committing hara kiri.

This high—perhaps, excessively high—standard of morality still prevails in some Japanese. As recently as February 2012, in (of all places) Gurgaon, “…a 45-year-old Japanese national and senior executive of a multi-national company…[hanged] himself in the lawns of upscale DLF Icon condominium….In a suicide note...[he] wrote “I am sorry for what I have done.”

To my mind, this is a pretty extreme approach, and, indeed, in terms of governance, is unlikely to be a good thing unless the person in question had created an effective back-up. It would be more sensible to publicly acknowledge the failing and resign voluntarily, assuming the failure was not criminal. Here, too, the Japanese were/are leaders, although honour is certainly not the sole preserve of the Japanese. There are honourable people everywhere, most of whom you never hear about.

In India, while we do have our share of honourable people, we are, tragically, pretty far down on the accountability scale in the public realm. The list of corporate and political figures who have found ways to excuse themselves from crimes, let alone more modest failures of governance, would extend way beyond the word limit of this article.

The good news, however, is that the people and the courts are demanding accountability more and more loudly and—Allah be praised—the system is responding. RTI was the first, or certainly the most potent, tool in our hands. And, as it has wrought considerable havoc in the corridors of corruption, there have been legislative efforts to thwart the Chief Information Commissioner’s ruling that six major political parties should be brought under the ambit of the RTI.

Both the UPA and NDA tried to legislate this ruling away, but the peoples’ voice was raised loudly and quickly enough to get it pushed from Parliament to the standing committee. Note, the battle is still on—please be continuously engaged. We all know that political funding is one of the primary sources of all of India’s ills.

Kudos too to the Supreme Court, which has consistently been stepping out of its proper position since it is clear that our democracy

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