2.3 Corruption and the right to food
Corruption is an all pervasive phenomenon. But one finds that some schemes are more prone to corruption than others. Some contractors had approached the Government of Rajasthan for introducing special biscuits as mid-day meal. The proposal was objected by the activists in the state arguing that biscuits are more prone to diversion than cooked meal. Similarly we find that there is more diversion where grains are given to children as ‘dry rations’ in the mid-day meal scheme, than when cooked meal is given.
When we make some policy suggestions especially with respect to food, we should take into account the impact corruption can have on the suggested scheme. Some methods may be technically more efficient, but if the method we suggest is prone to corruption, it may not deliver the results we expect it to.
One way to approach the problem is to choose schemes that we expect to be less prone to corruption. The movement for right to information deals with the question of corruption in a different fashion. Inspiring efforts have been done by MKSS and other organisations to first gain access to accounts of public works. This has materialised in the form of right to information acts in many states and now by the union government also. To make use of the access to information, they have developed the institution of social audit. The public scrutiny of the works undertaken has put a lot of pressure in reducing corruption. While there is no systematic study of the reduction in levels of corruption, people engaged in the movement in Rajasthan are confident that it is close to impossible to fudge accounts in the areas they work in.
To ensure that the plans reach the intended beneficiaries, it is important for us to choose schemes that are less prone to corruption and also take measures to promote transparency and public scrutiny. It is important to have wide publicity campaigns about the entitlement of schemes. Simple schemes with clearly spelled out entitlement helps in reducing the scope for corruption. We should also promote public action towards ensuring transparency to improve accountability.