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Corruption in India

Last year “Lokpal”, Anti-Corruption, Civil Society has been buzz word among media, social networking and youth, owing to humungous nature of corruption scandals like 2G, Common Wealth, Antrix Devas Deal etc that have surfaced. Corruption exists in every system in India, right from obtaining birth certificate to death certificate. It takes heavy toll on our economic progress, and it is a complex phenomenon which has to be addressed from different angles. Corruption is just a symptom of larger complex co morbidity which is caused by many factors including inefficiencies, lack of governance, weak institutions etc. So fight against corruption should including addressing flaws along with going behind corrupt individuals.
Social and Economic Inequality
India is country of 1 billion populations, even after 60 years of Independence; the economic and social Inequality still exists. We still host 41% of world poor and most number of malnutrition children in World. There is still discrimination based on caste, religion and gender. So how does inequality give raise to corruption? As inequality increases, one strata (may be base on caste/economic/religion) of people gain prominence over other in political, social, economic, media and judicial system. They will try to influence policy decisions by bribing top government officials favoring them. This makes goods and services like education, health available for poor scare, and to overcome that, they will involve in petty corruption things. This is what we see, daily in our activities like small officers (like clerks, attendees etc) in government officers demanding bribe to provide services. This 20 years of economic reforms is leading us to crony capitalism, this can be corroborated by recent 2G/Coal scams, where big industrialists manipulated laws, causing huge loss to exchequer leaving benefits to only one section of society. So let us try to reduce economic inequality, so that temptation to bribe people and give bribe is been reduced.
Democracy and People
Close to 150 MP’s who were elected to Parliament have serious corruption charges. People who face serious corruption charges still win elections with huge margin. We need to ask our self, Do people who elect those leaders are not responsible for corruption? Corruption was never a major election issue because people tend to have short memory and we completely ignorant about its impact on our economic progress. In a democratic country like India, where high inequality exists People are getting attracted to sell their votes for free schemes. It has become a ritual to give freebies (indirect corruption) like Laptops, grinders, fans, TVs, cell phones etc as part of Election manifesto without providing basic requirements like schools, drinking water, electricity and roads. Mindless freebies will not only increase fiscal deficit but makes people lazy and shortsighted impacting there voting pattern. We can say ours is largest democracy, but still way behind participative democracy. The Panchayat Raj system is very weak to encourage active grass root level participation of people. Educated people don’t show interest in voting. Also it is wrong to assume Democracy is not about just voting and elections. True democracy is achieved when people are aware of Government policies, its impact and provide continuous feedback to politicians in policy decision. NGO’s can educate people on how to choose candidates during elections. Recently Election commission has taken bold steps to stem money flow during elections. It can be empowered to check malpractices, augment power implement Election code to weed out corrupt practices.
Natural Resources and Corruption
India is blessed with significant Natural resources. And research strongly supports that it tends to increase Corruption. Most of the big corruption cases, directly or indirectly involve Natural Resources. The recent scams in illegal mining in Karnataka and Goa, allocation of Coal fields, distribution of 2G spectrum etc corroborate this point. The income that is generated through natural resources is not being invested back in Human Capital that is the reason in spite of having abundant mineral resources; states like Bihar, Chattisgarh, Oddisha perform poorly in Human Development Indexes. The whole process of Natural Resource allocation has to be re-looked and fault lines has to be corrected to ensure, it is fair and transparent.
Sisyphus Syndrome
India ranks 166 out of 183 in starting a business by a private entity as per World Bank report. The project approval process of Government is mired with complex rules and bureaucracy hassles. We don’t have timeliness fixed for clearing projects and approval goes back and forth between various Government departments. This not only overruns the cost of project leading economic wastage but also fosters corruption to bribe administrative officials who are involved in decision process. And finally an investor/entrepreneur had to bribe officials to expedite his approval process. To overcome this fault line in our system, we need to ensure that simplification of rules/regulations and ensure more transparency.
Educational System
We have acute shortage of good quality of Universities and Colleges. But demand overwhelms the supply. This wedge between demand and supply, has given rise to private sector exploiting people through donations and capitation fees. Being a lucrative business Colleges/Schools get approvals and recognition through corrupt means (Medical Council of India scam, and Tandon commission recommendation of de-reorganization of 44 deemed universities). Students who go through this process will imbibe shortcuts to make money in future instead of believing in hard work and meritocracy, to recover educational costs spent. Moral Science, Social Service, RTI and Ethics don’t find place in our curriculum. Career success should not mean making money but professional satisfaction. Good Education system can spearhead fight against corruption.
Can existing Investigative and Judiciary systems work
Computer and Auditor General
CAG is a constitutional body whose role is to audit government expenditure. In spite of being an independent organization its impact on corruption has been tangential. Firstly CAG has no authority to call Government officers/department for clarification, it can just mention a paragraph in it report of lapses occurred. Secondly they don’t have authority to sanction. Everything has to go through Public Accounts Committee (PAC). The response of Government officials/Departments has been poor on clarifications and remedial steps seeked. PAC had failed in apprising Parliament and Government in audit reports.
Central Vigilance Commission
CVC was setup to check corruption in Central Government organizations. Upon receiving complaints CVC can direct vigilance officers or CBI to take up investigation. It has neither investigative powers, nor its reports are obligatory to Government departments. This severely defeats the objective of setting up CVC.
Central Bureau of Investigation
CBI is country’s major Investigative agency. We have some of the best officers working for it. It has severe shortage of manpower and autonomy. As of 2010 December 21% of posts are vacant, which includes 52% law offices, 65% technical officers, and 21% executive. Close to 10,000 cases of CBI are pending in court out of which 23% are pending for more than 10 years. It needs to take permission from Government to prosecute any officer above Joint Secretary, which generally involves time consuming process reducing steam in investigation. It is severely manipulated by Government to cater its political needs. Making CBI more independent can be right way forward.
Justice delayed is equivalent to Justice Denied. With delay in getting justice, the ordinary public has lost hope in Judiciary, so instead of fighting any injustice, we tend to believe corrupt practices are better than going through than following legal rules. With current estimate, it is said that It will take over 350 years to clear pending cases. India ranks lowest among world in number of judges per million populations, with each judge on average handling close to 4000 cases. The best legal brains in Supreme Court are wasted on unnecessary cases like Bail petitions to politicians. We have to Supreme Court only for constitutionally and very high profile cases. Judicial reforms are long pending, unless these reforms are implemented, we keep on pilling up cases and cases with no solutions.
Role of Media
Media forms fifth pillar of our Democracy. It forms significant role in shaping up people thoughts and minds by educating on day to day issues in Country in an unbiased manner. People’s memory is very short on corruption, media can play active role in keeping the issues alive. It should encourage Investigative Journalism, Sting operations, Opinion polls and Public Debates in unearthing corrupt practices. This puts pressure on Government to ensure transparency in its operations.
There is no one panacea to solve corruption, it has to be addressed at all levels from social, economic inequality, empowering people, and strengthening existing democratic and investigative institutions. We cannot eliminate corruption; but only reduce the corruption by fixing bugs in existing systems.

  1. Inequlity and Corruption, Faculty Reaserch Paper, Jong-Sung You and Sanjeev Khagram , Harvard University
  5. Natural Resources, Democracy and Corruption, by Sambit Bhattacharyya and Roland Hodler
  7. Corruption in Education Sector –An Empirical View, Dr. Vikas Saraf* and Pooja Jain*
  8. Corruption in India : The Road block for national prosperity, N – Vittal
  9. Fighting Corruption in Developing Countries: Dimensions of the Problem in India
  10. From Government to Governance, A Brief Survey of the Indian Experience, Kuldeep Mathur