Friday, December 2, 2011

A Proposal : Voluntary Disclosure of Corruption and Exemplary Punishment Act!

Until just a few decades ago, income tax in India used to be very high; and the government brought in VDIS plans, VDIS standing for Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme. The deal, typically, used to be: Declare your hitherto undisclosed wealth, pay a one time tax of about thirty percent along with some negligible penalty, and the money becomes yours, and "white". This was supposed to be an idea to bring in "black" money into the main-stream market.

In the present hullabaloo of Corruption and Lokpal vs. Jan Lokpal we need a genuinely new idea. Here we present a proposal which is based on the "voluntary disclosure earning some concession" idea. We do not claim that it should be exactly like we are stating it (We are not the adamant Team Anna, LOL), nor do we insist that this is a good idea. It is just an idea that we would like to share with our readers, and we are throwing it open to discussions, criticisms and comments.

Firstly, we need to realize that Corruption has become endemic in our society and system. Though it is true that political corruption is really really huge, we can not ignore the fact that this corruption pervades the whole system and also a large part of society.

Suppose we think that since politicians emerge from the society itself, a corrupt society can only engender corrupt leaders. Also, suppose that we want things to change. As we have suggested earlier, we need to completely overhaul both our society (through education, thus it is a much longer process, may be a few decades) and our system (by enacting a new Constitution, with a possibly new form of government, election, electorate, law, and so on). Overhauling the system by writing a new Constitution too will take, say about, three to five years; and we need an interim government until then.

Secondly, we need to remember that this change can only be meaningful and effective when it is brought about by people of much cleaner character and wisdom. Also we grant, at least for the sake of argument, that there may still be a few people amongst currently practicing politicians who really want to be clean and good, though they have a tainted past.

Thirdly, we surmise that the election for the interim (caretaker) government will take place with the existing system.

Now, suppose we want to give a fair chance to our politicians. In this para, the term "we" means the peoples. Consider the following proposal based on voluntary disclosure. We declare that before the next election, any politician who confesses to his Corruption and deposits all the money that he acquired through corruption into our national treasury, will get the following concession. After the new system (Constitution) comes into place, if he is investigated and it is found that he disclosed ALL of his corrupt past and surrendered all money acquired thus, then he will be left to lead the life of a common citizen, and that he could participate in the political process again. However, if the disclosure is less than the totality, and on investigation this fact is established, then he will face Exemplary Punishment. We also mention that those politicians who confess to their criminal acts will get the concession that they may receive a softer version of exemplary punishment. Also, that this will be the last chance for VDOC. One could also consider making a suitably modified version of this proposal for bureaucrats.

For the purpose of discussion, let us call the proposed as Voluntary Disclosure of Corruption Act, or VDOC Scheme. Please note that this could be combined with the plan that in the absence of VDOC by the currently practicing politicians, we will encourage, support and elect only "newcomers", more specifically "first timers" who have a very clean past. Since the election would result in the formation of only an interim and care taker government which would oversee the writing of NEW CONSTITUTION, NEW LAW, and so on; party affiliation will not be crucial for candidates in winning elections. In the development of new constitution, the "civil society", along with common citizen would (and preferably must) play an important and actively participatory role.

We invite comments from our readers.

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