New Delhi: President Ram Nath Kovind Wednesday asked those in top positions in financial institutions and the government to act like “ethical leaders” as their work and conduct affects the lives of common people, amid controversies involving the CBI and the RBI. Kovind’s assertion assumes significance as the CBI is embroiled in a controversy involving its two top officials, while there is mounting tension between the Arun Jaitley-led Finance Ministry and the central bank.

The president, addressing the gathering at an event organised by Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), said those present in the auditorium hold top positions in state-run banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions, and the government. “It is important that you understand the actual meaning of integrity, transparency and honesty. In the broad meaning of integrity both dedication to work and institutional discipline is included. “Your conduct, inspires other people of your organisation. Your work and ethical values, effects lives of lakhs and crores of citizens. In true sense, your role is of ethical leaders,” the president said. Kovind’s advice comes amid RBI’s Deputy Governor Viral V Acharya, in a recent speech, warning that undermining autonomy and independence of the central bank could be “potentially catastrophic”.

However, Jaitley had on Tuesday hit out at the central bank for failing to check indiscriminate lending during 2008 and 2014 that has led to the present bad loan or NPA crisis in the banking industry. CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana, who have accused each other of impropriety, were sent on leave by the Centre.  Kovind said there is a serious effort to curb and punish those involved in economic offences, and to give habitual offenders a sense of fear of the law. Citing different legislative measures and the introduction of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill in Parliament, he said such initiatives give confidence to honest citizens and taxpayers.

The function was organised by the CVC during the ongoing Vigilance Awareness Week, being observed from October 29 to November 3 to raise awareness on anti-corruption measures. “The confidence of our people that decisions and actions are being undertaken with transparency, accountability and fairness must continuously be enhanced. Unnecessary delays in decision making too hurt the credibility of any institution,” he said, adding that technology and the internet can be of great use in this regard.

Kovind said like “prevention is better than cure” is considered effective in the health sector, in the same way “preventive vigilance is better that the punitive vigilance” can prove to be an effective policy in checking corruption. Talking about benefits of use of technology to check graft, he said Rs 3.65 lakh crore has been delivered to beneficiaries of 431 different schemes using direct benefit transfers in the past four years.

“In addition, I have been told that direct benefit transfer and other governance reforms have led to removal of duplicate or fake beneficiaries, as also to plugging of leakages. As a result of these, estimated savings amounting to approximately Rs 90,000 crore have been made in the period ending March 2018,” Kovind said. He said from extending banking facilities to previously un-banked sections of our people to implementing the Goods and Services Tax, various endeavours have been made to boost the formal economy. “The adoption of digital systems has also helped contain corruption. In this manner, loop-holes for corruption and misuse of public money are being addressed,” the president said.

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