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Bank accounts and Toilets: India’s corruption markers

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San Francisco: Bank accounts and toilets—these are the places to look at to figure out where India stands in its fight against corruption, said Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s minister of state for commerce and industry, while speaking at the Fortune Global Forum conference on Tuesday.

190 million Indian citizens have opened bank accounts for the first time, and that too in little over a year, even though the average account balance is just about $21 or Rs 1380.

“Financial inclusion” has been one of the prime areas of concentration for the Modi government, said Sitharaman. Apart from improving the finances of India’s poorest, this step can also help combat corruption.

When pensions are paid, or government officials are paid in cash, in most cases, middle men take a portion of the wages. But now, with the government wiring the money directly to the employees’ bank accounts, incidents of fraud have gone down to a large extent.

The simple act of counting toilets can give a glimpse into India’s journey towards a corruption-free nation, said Sitharaman.

The government has poured in money for 60 years towards the installation of toilets in small villages around the nation, but most were never installed, she added. However, the past year has seen a major push by the government to improve sanitation. This in turn has reduced corruption.

“India was spending money to put toilets in schools, but god knows where the money went,” says Sitharaman.

McKinsey managing director, Dominic Barton said that a recent report from the consulting firm found that apart from making a difference in the lives of its citizens, Indian government’s reforms were also attracting foreign businesses to the country.

“Three years ago, when clients would ask about doing business in India, I would say, ‘Don’t waste your time. It’s too complicated and too difficult,’” said Barton. “That’s changed dramatically.”

(Quotes and inputs from Fortune.com)

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Khaleda Zia granted bail in 2008 corruption case

Khaleda is a two-time Bangladesh Prime Minister, having ruled from 1991-96 and again from 2001-06

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Khaleeda Zia granted 64 months bail. IANS

Bangladesh Nationalist Party Chairperson Khaleda Zia, convicted in a corruption case, was granted bail on Monday.

BNP leader Zia secured a four-month bail in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case in which she was handed five years of imprisonment by a Bangladesh court.

“Now, there is no legal bar to let Khaleda walk out of prison on bail,” Bangladesh Daily Star quoted BNP Advocate Sagir Hossain Leon as saying.

Earlier today, a bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Shahidul Karim passed the bail order in response to a petition moved by Khaleda before a high court back in February.

Her bail was considered on four grounds, including her health condition.

Further, the high court directed the concerned authority to prepare the paper book of the case within the next four months for hearing the appeal she filed against her conviction in the case.

The high court sentenced Zia’s eldest son and Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s (BNP) Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman and four others for at least 10 years with a fine of 2.10 crore Bangladeshi takas (Tk).

The Anti-Corruption Commission had earlier filed a case in 2008 with Ramna Police Station, accusing six persons including Khaleda and her son Tarique.

Khaleda is a two-time Bangladesh Prime Minister, having ruled from 1991-96 and again from 2001-06.

In a political career spanning almost four decades, Khaleda went to the jail several times but was never convicted. She was detained several times during the anti-Ershad movement between the 1980s and 1990s.

In March 1983, she was made vice-chairperson of BNP after her husband and former Bangladesh President Ziaur was assassinated.

She went on to become the party’s chairperson in 1984, a position which she holds today. May 10, 1984.

Since the last three decades, Bangladeshi politics have been dominated by Zia and current Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

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