America: Biden signs bills to combat fraud in COVID relief fund, where does India stand?

President Joe Biden on 5th August 2022, signed anti-fraud pandemic bills to prosecute fraudsters involved in ‘stealing’ of the relief fund. Noticing this, where does India stand in tackling corruption?  

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America: Biden signs bills to combat fraud in COVID relief fund, where does India stand?

In a signing event held on 5th August 2022, President Joe Biden signed anti-fraud bills into law in order to prosecute COVID relief fund fraudsters. The president acknowledged this fact with his tweet made on 6th August.

Also Read: Biden to nominate Indian-American consultant to a key Pentagon position

What are the bills about?

The bills will extend the time period that the prosecutors need to hold the individuals accountable to 10 years, if they are found guilty of committing fraud in receipt of PPP or COVID EIDL loans. 

“Too much of small business relief funding, which was passed by the Congress, ended up in the hands of those who either didn’t need it or criminal syndicates who outright stole the money.” said the president in the signing event. Besides that, he asserted that the fraudsters will be held accountable: “My message to those cheats out there is this: You can’t hide.  We’re going to find you.  We’re going to make you pay back what you stole and hold you accountable under the law.”

Controversy in India with COVID relief funds

It wasn’t too long ago when the PM-CARES(Prime Minister’s Citizen And Relief in Emergency Situation) fund in India attracted global attention due to issues associated with its transparency. The fund created by PM Modi on 27 March 2020 was brought under public scrutiny when the government failed to provide a proper account of the money donated. Critics also questioned the need to create a different fund altogether, since there already existed a public fund named PMNRF(Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund) created in 1948 to provide support to people impacted from natural disasters. Fair or not; whatever be the case with the PM-CARES fund but one can not deny that the GOI failed to provide the transparency we expect from the largest democracy of the world.

State of corruption in India

The corruption perception index, 2021 placed India in 85th place out of 180 countries in a scale where countries placed lowerer are perceived to have more honest public sectors. C.K. Prahalad, who had been the professor of corporate strategy at University of Michigan, estimated that India loses about $50 billion a year due to corruption. Knowing that the country spent $77 billion on its defense budget in 2021, one can perceive how grim the situation is.

America: Biden signs bills to combat fraud in COVID relief fund, where does India stand?Transparency International: Corruption perception Index 2021

TPT’s advocacy and suggestions:

In one of his parliamentary speeches against corruption, former PM Atal Vihari Vajpayee mentioned a conversation he once had with former PM Rajiv Gandhi. 

“If I allocate 1 rupee from here, it becomes 19 paise by the time it reaches the right authorities.” stated Rajiv.

“And how does a miracle like this happen sir?” asked Vajpayee.

In a hilarious reply, Rajiv said mockingly, “It’s because the rupee outwears as it rubs through offices. It slips and slides into hands and pockets.” 

Rajiv’s strong but sarcastic criticism sums it all. India needs to work on getting its rupee to the right place.

Here are some suggestions TPT advocates:

  • Push towards digitisation can curb corruption. More computerized the office work is, the easier it becomes to keep an eye on malpractices. 
  • Strict enforcement of anti-corruption laws is the need of the hour.
  • Public should seek an end to VIP culture. 

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America: Biden signs bills to combat fraud in COVID relief fund, where does India stand?
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President Joe Biden on 5th August 2022, signed anti-fraud pandemic bills to prosecute fraudsters involved in ‘stealing’ of the relief fund. Noticing this, where does India stand in tackling corruption?  
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THE POLICY TIMES
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