Just like fashion, most corruption trends start because someone gets a creative idea and then it spreads across the sector. So, at any given time a specific modus operandi (MO) can found to be trending, and the flavour of this season is a brilliant MO that must be yielding crores of rupees for various stakeholders, so it has forced me to ponder over the possibility of using of data analytics as a tool to fight corruption.
Though this MO is required to be tweaked as per the specifics of each case, it works on a few simple principles.
It uses the fact that a lower court is ready to admit almost anything as a civil dispute for land ownership, and when Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 is added to the issue, constitution of an SIT is almost a must in a land matter.
To this already lethal mix, a systemic lacuna that old land deeds were not computer-scanned and it is easy to find a trivial problem is added and a recipe to earn crores is ready.
The idea is to find an old land deal where the seller who belonged to SCST category is dead and then encourage his heirs to approach the court with claims like when my grandfather sold the land 20/30 years back, our consent was not taken or we didn’t get our share or no money was paid. I even saw a claim where money is paid through the bank account but a claim was made that, because it was withdrawn in cash next day, it must be looked at as a proof of none-payment.
But, we know that all of the above is entirely possible because we have a great history of land grabbing by the rich and the powerful, so claims like these have to be admitted and SIT must be created to investigate them.
The net result is, when such a case is filed, the buyer knows that he is under a grave risk of facing not just a civil court trail that will destroy value of the land as the clear title can’t be claimed for next hundred years, but there is also a threat of criminal case under SCST act, so he has no practical option but to pay the criminal nexus operating the scam.
A normal case like this yields about 10 to 20 % of market value of land and runs in lakhs or even crores, where the beneficiaries include the accuser, the tout, the land revenue officers, the police department and even court officials.
Though it is a criminal misuse of the system, when we look at the above scheme, it is clear that, as the matter is impacting the poor and the downtrodden, the solution is not in closing the option of seeking remedy, so we need to identify those misusing it and that is where data analytics comes into play.
If the government starts looking at the trends in litigation or trends in setting up SITs, it will be easy to see telltale spikes that will point out that a given corruption scheme is trending and needs scrutiny.
As corruption is infectious and once a loophole is discovered it will be used by many, it will always surface where data is analysed at a global level. Data mining is a tool that will become even more powerful if data points from various departments are brought to one platform for analysis.
At this point, we have all the technologies available to act and are cheap and affordable too, so all we need is a state that is willing to curb corruption and keen to use the new-found power of data analytics.