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Emboldened Corporates

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Lokayukta police on Tuesday arrested a chief environmental officer in the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) while he was accepting Rs 50,000-bribe from an employee of a leading instant food manufacturer. Police said GR Kumaraswamy had demanded Rs 3 lakh from MTR Foods in Jigani to grant permission for transporting water treated at the factory’s effluent plant (ETP) to agricultural fields for irrigating lands. The factory administration filed a case before Lokayukta police, saying Kumaraswamy demanded Rs 50,000 as advance for granting permission for transporting treated water. As a factory executive was handing over the advance money in a hotel in Vasanthnagar, the KSPCB officer was caught by cops and the money seized.

For the full report in the ToI, click here

While we have known of enough cases, where individuals have been filing cases before the LokAyukta, this is the first case I have heard of where a Corporate has taken bold to pursue such a step. Given the almost impossible license-permit regime prevailing, based largely on archaic rules, where any business is in violation of some rule or the other, the owners had generally been reluctant to challenge the wrong-doings of the authorities, so far, perhaps due to fear of reprisals. Apparently, that's changing now - perhaps emboldened by the heightened Civil Society activism of recent, as also the positive response of the judiciary to the same. All in all, a good augury.

What is now required of the business chambers is to demand that the Acts/ Rules/ Laws be re-written to promote the genuine interests of the stake-holders concerned, rather those of government officialdom. One ready example is the dreaded Contract Carriage Act, which has been used to perpetuate government monopoly in public bus transport services, to the detriment of the travelling public as well as the private bus operators (check this).

Muralidhar Rao

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