N.Vittal Says he will purge the poison of Corruption in India

PUNE, 3-9-1998: The newly-appointed Chief Vigilance Commissioner, N Vittal, said today his first and foremost task would be to supervise the functioning of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), in so far as it relates to investigations under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Vittal, who was in the city to attend the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation meet, was selected for the post by a committee comprising Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Union Home Minister L K Advani and leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sharad Pawar yesterday. He will assume charge tomorrow.

Vittal said his priorities would be to ``purge the poison of corruption'' from India, which has been ranked the world's 9th most corrupt country by a German agency, Transparency International.

The entire perspective of looking at corruption has to change, he said, ``The judicial in India thinks that a man is not corrupt unless proved otherwise has created a cushion of safety for corrupt persons to thrive and cock a snook at the law enforcing agencies, by providing him enough loopholes to escape from the clutches of law'', he said.

The other factors that breed corruption include the scarcity of services or commodities, the lack of transparency in various departments that issue tenders and work orders, and red-tapism and delay in court cases which sometimes takes 20 years to give judgement.

Vittal said another reason for corruption thriving was that the system of punishing the accused was laborious, ``For example, during an inquiry in a government department, the inquiry officer asks for loads and loads of documents. And by the time all the documents arrive, the officer gets transferred and all the time is wasted'', he said.

Asked how he would counter political pressures he might face during the anti-corruption drive, Vittal said, ``I would not like to answer this question as I have still not taken over''.

A prolific writer, Vittal is a strong proponent of liberalisation and a critic of the bureaucratic processes that he feels have slowed down the pace of development in India.