I recently got an invitation to the  “Pledge Portal” of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC)  to take an integrity pledge on the following lines.

Since there was nothing in the pledge which I did not believe in and has been trying to follow for all my life, I took the pledge and was provided the certificate as shown above.

When I shared this in my professional circles, there were as expected an encouraging response from many. Some went ahead and obtained their own certificate. There were many who remained silent.

 “Do we require a pledge” to be honest?

There were a few of my friends who felt whether it is required to take a pledge to be honest?. Are we all supposed to be honest anyway?

This is certainly a valid question which we need to debate. In the Theory of  Information Security Motivation that I have been propounding, I have always accorded importance to “Obtaining an Ethical Declaration” from employees after a Cyber Security Awareness Program so as to “Reinforce the Commitment”.

We all know that many would give a written commitment with no intention of following it or with an intention which they may not be able to sustain when under some kind of pressure.

However, psychologically, it would still be beneficial to obtain the declaration and keep reminding  people of what they have committed so that they are able to re-dedicate themselves to the cause.

Similarly, the attempt of CVC to request the public to take the pledge is to be appreciated and we should encourage more people to adopt this pledge.

In the pledge it is always easier to say that “I will not take bribe”. But when it comes to “I will not pay bribe”, people get into difficulty since in many cases “Bribes” are paid out of compulsion and not out of free volition. Also many times bribes are not paid to enable unethical extra favours from the bribe receiver but only to do what the person is paid salary to do and not create a problem to the citizen where there is none. This situation has not changed even after the 7th Pay commission and increase in salaries to the Government officials. Even the demonetization has not helped since now the bribe receivers may try to recoup their past losses if any.

Such “Bribes” are “Payment under threat and coercion” and most citizens feel uncomfortable when they are confronted with such a demand but succumb to the pressures.

What CVC can do to help compliance of the Integrity Pledge

If the CVC initiative has to succeed, then there has to be some mechanism to ensure that an honest Citizen should be able to register a voluntary declaration of a “Demand for Bribe” and “Bribe paid under duress”. This will also create an evidence which will not be available for Bribe demanded unless the Bribe is actually paid.

We need to also however consider a situation where the accusation of  “Demand For Bribe”, could be false and is meant to harass an honest official. Hence the mechanism should take in to account the principles of “Ombudsman”  suggested for “Whistle Blowing Policy” in a company to ensure that an honest person is not hounded by a false complaint.

Also, law need to ensure that some body who has declared a “Bribe Demand” and followed it up with a “Bribe Paid under Duress” information should be considered as not having committed any offence under law and must be protected under the “Whistle Blower Protection” just like Press are protected under Sting operations under the discretion of the Courts.

People like us who try to help Cyber Crime victims many times need to encounter situations where such “Bribe under Duress” is acknowledged by the victims. I however add that there are many honest officials who work without expecting any bribes and the system runs only on such honest persons whose tribe should increase.

One of the reasons that I am suggesting an online system for “Registration of a Cyber Crime Complaint with automated raise of IP resolution request to intermediaries” is to ensure that temptations for the officials to use such occasions to expect a bribe is eliminated. I am sure that this is the reason that most States have abandoned the online FIR filing system and are resisting any such suggestions.

It is now for the Central Government and CVC to consider how they would assist honest Citizens to resist the pressures from those who “Demand Bribes”.

I notice that the CVC initiative is meant only for Citizens and Organizations. I donot see any initiative for Government Employees, Police and particularly the officials of the Ministries in Center and States. For these people the pledge should be mandatory and every official should display the certificate prominently in front of their working desk so that dishonest citizens would not try to corrupt a person who wants to otherwise remain honest.

CVC should also conduct a movement in Schools and request children to encourage their parents to take the pledge and sport a badge “My Parent has taken the Integrity Pledge”.

Will CVC move in this direction?

In particular, I want CVC to demand all members of the “Committee on Bitcoins” to take the integrity pledge and disclose it to the public.

The Home Ministry should also make all Police Stations to display the integrity pledge of the Police officials in the Police Station. Incentives may be given to police stations where all the employees have taken the pledge so that we can declare that the “Entire Police Station is Pledged not to take bribe”.

Next Election Should be fought on this Campaign to remove Bribes

Mr Modi should propose that all MLAs and MPs of BJP as well as the primary members of BJP to take the pledge and display it prominently in their place of work. BJP should distribute T Shirts to its workers so that the next election campaign should run on this campaign to remove Bribes from the system.

I look forward to seeing this initiative in Gujarat, HP and in Karnataka in the coming elections.

May be those who oppose all Government initiatives for the sake of opposition may not like to be part of such an exercise and I would not compel them.

I also take this opportunity to all my friends to take the pledge and sport it as part of their WhatsApp Profile pictures so that this would attract the attention of others and motivate them to do the same.

Naavi