AAP’s Helpline Against Corruption is “How To Sting” Tutorial

Yesterday, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal launched Delhi’s Helpline Against Corruption. Like most of us, I  thought it to be a Phone number where Delhi-ites can report corrupt officials and take the Anti Corruption Department’s help to nab the corrupt officials red handed. Today, I found that I misunderstood the very purpose of Delhi’s new Helpline Against corruption.

According to Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, the Helpline number is not primarily for reporting corrupt public servants, but it’s also for getting a tutorial on “how to do a Sting Operation”. Yes, the person on the Help desk will educate the caller on how he/she can record an audio or video clip of the public servant taking bribe, using a cellphone or some other recording device.

On the first day of the Helpline, so far about 3900 people have called (the help line is on till 10 PM). About 40 among these have submitted audio or video clips of the bribe demands and bribe exchanging hands. According to the Delhi CM, the people of Delhi have done a wonderful job and the clips submitted are of excellent quality.

Mr. Kejriwal may be happy with the quality of these stings, but I’m somewhat disappointed by this. I think encouraging people to do a sting is particularly not good. This dilutes and defeats the very purpose of the Helpline.

Why I think so?

For the following reasons:

1) People’s responsibility ends at reporting the Corruption: The duty of collecting the evidence is that of the Police or the anti-corruption department. It is not the duty of the people to make available the evidence. One of the biggest drawbacks of asking people to bring the evidence is that the agencies duty bound to collate evidence or investigate will become lazy, and will not act until the person reporting doesn’t give some evidence.

2) You can’t Democratise a Weapon : Suppose, crimes suddenly increase in a city. Will the city Government issue Gun licenses to all the citizens? Obviously, it will not. It will beef up its security system to curb crimes. The very fact that a gun can misused, can’t be proliferated among citizens or the citizens are encouraged to personally arrange and keep one. In today’s time, video recording enabled mobile phones are a common possession. Hence you can’t encourage citizens to record other person secretly. If phone tappings by Governments are condemned in a civilized world; how can one one justify video or audio clips recorded secretly via mobile. Just like guns, you can’t encourage such use of mobile, as it can be seriously misused. Misuse, where people start recording clips for non sting purposes.

3) Why risk an average Citizen : It’s easy to say that the citizens must record any corrupt practice. It’s entirely another to actually record it. Doing a sting is a risky act. Just pick up a classified and you will see ads from media houses like Tehelka, requiring courageous young men and women for investigative journalist jobs. The job requires the courage to do stings, that’s why there are very few takers.

That’s why when CM Kejriwal says people can and must do such stings, he’s not understanding the gravity of risk involved. No Government must encourage its citizens to do a job, which needs special skills, training and competence.

4) Only Those who will do a Sting will See their Cases Heard : Out of 3900 complaints only 40 submitted the evidence. Acting on these 40 cases is a time consuming judicial procedure. In best of circumstances, chances are that only these 40 cases will get heard (as the complainant himself has given some evidence). What about the rest 3860.

5) Court may or may not approve the Sting : What if the Court of law doesn’t allow the audio or video clips as evidence (Stings have not been counted for much in the past)? Won’t it build disappointment among the citizens. That apart, you can’t ask people to file hundreds of complaints or grievances; and don’t have a mechanism to address the complaints. I mean — Courts, investigation teams etc.

AAP’s Helpline Against Corruption can be a great initiative, if it clearly segregates the duties of the public and the state. Doing stings for collecting evidence is surely NOT the duty of the citizens. There are better ways to curb corruption effectively. For instance to curb day to day corruption, the state can video record every proceeding inside the office of a public servant. Or it can give strict instructions to the Top officials in any department to curb small corruption in their offices. The state can reduce the human touch. This can be done by the use of technology.

AAP’s Helpline Against Corruption for Delhi-ites is good initiative. It just needs some changes. AAP and the CM must remember that the mere act of having a People Grievance Helpline is a step in the positive direction. So why burden the citizen and the government with impractical appendages.