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Corruption – India’s Bane

A lot has been said on the existing state of corruption in India. In fact the term is so much in vogue, that it has become old hat and elicits an almost blasé reaction from the larger public in general. Understandably, one hardly feels like hearing about the term, let alone reading about it anymore. Nonetheless, I am still offering my two penny worth of opinion on it.

The Indian State has unfortunately not only succeeded in creating a society which at a fundamental level is organized chaos but also where the socio-economic, politico-bureaucratic, techno-corporate machinery is functional, only if palms are greased and deep pockets are well lined. The blatant ease and lack of hesitation which accompanies the solicitation of a bribe (a very small aspect of the generic term ‘corruption’) for instance, is both amazing and appalling.

It is not as if the very act of corruption is anathema, for corruption has existed ever since civilization dawned and is thus not endemic to India alone. What however is disturbing is the extent to which it has percolated among all segments and classes of modern Indian society. The venerated lawyer Sorabji in fact, had once stated that Indian democracy is based on corruption.

Indian society is in danger of depreciating into a twilight zone between a banana republic and a mafia state. Our leaders seem to bask in an iconoclasm secure in the facile assumption that India’s wealth generation process (based to a large extent on cronyism and corrupt practices) will continue to yield rich dividend and economic development without upsetting the balance of the social moral cart.

However, the cart has been imbalanced and thinking citizens had taken notice resulting in the vociferous protest movements by the likes of Anna Hazare and his ilk. I do not wish to deviate into semantics or speculate as to whether the mass protest movements that were organized by Mr. Hazare and his supporters in the year 2011-2012, were politically motivated or not. Irrespective of Mr. Hazare’s motivations, it was still heartening to see someone who had the gumption to try and bring this social menace to the forefront of mass consciousness.

Though the movement gained considerable momentum, it drew considerable flak from various segments of the society and even unsurprisingly from the UPA led Government, which had leveled accusations of the movement being backed by various groups with vested interests and the opposition party in particular. Although the charge was not an entirely baseless one, the statement was made insipid by the very stupidity inherent in it.

The larger issue at stake was (and still is) that of monetary-corruption which permeates through the whole system rather than that of political up-man ship and pointing fingers. The UPA led Government was either unable or unwilling to take measures to nip this malaise in the bud, thus bringing into question the credibility of the political elite.

What is worse is the fact that there were voices of dissent within the system that asked for supporting evidence for the existence of this glaring moral-social aberration. Such people have either been providently lucky in not having to face a situation where their sense of moral ethics has been compromised; or have more to gain from the perpetuity of a politico-economic scenario that ensures massive gains to a select minority to the detriment of a hapless proletariat majority. History shows us that the ruling elite and the wealthy in any society have always taken umbrage to any event, which may challenge the status quo. Moreover so, there is a fatalistic tendency embedded in the psyche of the Indian people best illustrated by the ‘chaltha hai’ attitude.

Such a debilitating attitude does not augur well for either economic development or prosperity for vast swathes of the Indian populace. The existence of corruption in the monetary system was also implicitly responsible for the economic slowdown and policy paralysis that afflicted the country in the years 2010-2013 (The ramifications of which are still being felt in 2014 as also the consequent economic fallout that the current government is grappling with). True enough that in an era of globalization, economic crisis in one country has a ripple effect on other economies. However, that does not absolve an economic – political system from systemic errors inherent in it, which allows leaders, parties & its investing allies to shine their own brands just to smartly loot and share public resources in next phase.

Monetary corruption puts inflationary pressure on the economy and unchecked inflation can have devastating consequences (The economic crisis of Argentina in the late 80’s is a case in point) Inflation is a precursor to economic instability and a sure sign for FDI and FII to flee. To add to the calamity of the problem, India has one of the largest black markets in the world and corruption, black money and inflation are all inter related and have a direct bearing on the gross domestic product per capita.

It is not without reason that the economic adviser to then PM Singh, stated in early 2012 that the Indian economy was in dire straits. The voices of post-colonial condescension would delight in the rot of the new ‘India Shining’ or the new ‘Incredible India’. They would rejoice in their resounding smugness of ‘we told you so!’ Indians should be aware that the Western attitude towards India does not stem from new found respect or admiration based on equality but on hard-nosed business, political, and geo-political vested interests. If we as a nation wish to elicit genuine respect, then the current government and we as citizens need to clean up our act.

It is a matter of great shame for India and Indians that no political party or the ruling political elite that form it, have not had an accusatory finger being pointed at them for alleged weak and callous governance and corrupt practices. The number of scams that rocked the previous government and ruling party’s political boat only serve as an ugly and unfortunate reminder of the sorry state of affairs of Indian politics.

According to Transparency International and the Corruption Perception Index, India ranked 94 in the year 2013. That puts us in the same bracket as African and certain Latin American nations. And worse, this scale is greatly augmented by our behemoth population! China (an unfair comparison perhaps) ranks 75. Any dissenter, who wishes to repudiate statistics as mere figures, is in need of an inward evaluation. The methodology of surveys may change as per the changing socio-economic reality and perceptions of a country but the inference; deductions and social message have bearing.

30 years ago one could perhaps have been forgiven for turning a blind eye, fortified by the paltry excuse of being a poor country comprising mostly of illiterate and uneducated people. No longer today, what with a 350 million strong educated middle class. It is imperative that the young men and women coming into adulthood begin to turn an introspective glance inwards and become the harbingers of change. They have the necessary weapons — youthful optimism, energy and education (PM takes that the older generation needs to take a step back and let the younger generation take a more proactive role in Nation building and formulation of policy, is worthy of appreciation)

I must emphasize that I am not explicitly holding a particular class / segment / section of Indian society solely responsible for embedding and perpetuating corruption as a way of life in India, for it takes two to tango. However that said, ‘heavy lays the head that bears the crown’. Thus the onus on weeding out or at least putting checks on corruption falls squarely on any ruling politico-bureaucratic elite. Any systemic change after all, flows from top to bottom and not the other way round. The common man and even the not so common man must thus be devoid of any incentive to resort to corruption.

The new Government staunch crackdown on ‘black money’ stashed away in International tax-safe havens is a welcome step to putting checks on corruption. The revelation of the names of three individuals accused of concealing foreign assets from the tax authorities, as also the Supreme Court’s diktat that the Government reveal the names of all those guilty of stashing money in foreign banks, is indeed a positive and welcome step.

However, much still needs to be done, what with at least 700 Indians having Swiss Bank accounts and untaxed black money in foreign bank accounts estimated to be in hundreds of billions of dollars, commissions needs to be fixed, corruption soldiers converted (using sam-dam-dand-bhed), promote new corrupt boys as young leaders, white-wash smartly done, hire PR agencies, buyout media for election hypes … etc.

One must remember that the greatness of a country or civilization depends upon the character of its people. Thus, there is a dire need for putting in place a system that prohibits monetary corruption while bringing the guilty party to book, if we are to arrest Indian societies’ decline into moral apathy.

Hopefully, the Government would rise to the challenge of preventing the further spread of this social cancer; as also enact and implement legislative measures that act as deterrents to the practice.

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