collection of essays from noted economic experts such as Mr. Madhav
Godbole, Mr. A.G.Nooriani and Samuel Paul about corruption in India calls
for a total rethinking on the subject. The problem in India as the authors
traces is to a weak political system, over bureaucratization and lack of
public faith in the working of public services, governmental and policing
institutions. The book calls for the popularisation of the Lok Pal system,
a code of conduct for politicians, and the sensitisation of the Indian
administrative system to the ills of corruption. "A careful poll
taken among business interests and financial journalists by Transperancy
International, the reputed anti-corruption non-governmental organisation,
placed India 9th from the bottom in its 1996 list of 54 countries with a
score of 2.63 on a scale with a maximum of 10 for the totally corrupt-free
Corruption can straddle the public and
private sectors, getting reinforced in the interaction between the two
spheres. However, given our focus on corruption in public services, it
might be useful to start with the simple definition that corruption is the
misuse of public power for private gain. Other definitions have been
offered, based on the misuse of public office, violation of public
interest, disapproval of public opinion, and the illegal use of public
office for private gain. These and similar definitions have been critiqued
on the ground that they tend to be too broad and indeterminate since there
could be much debate on what constitutes ‘misuse’ or ‘public
power’ or ‘public interest’.
Corruption can be many kinds, assume many
forms, cover a wide variety of tractions, and operate at many levels. It
can be related to acts of commission, omission or delay; involve the
exercise of discretion; or the violation of rules, but not necessarily so
since illegal gratification can be taken even whilst technically
conforming to rules.
It is necessary to proceed to the causes
of corruption having described its characteristics and symptoms. The
extensive literature on the subject draws attention to political systems
and practices, the level of economic development, economic policies,
sociological characteristics and the culture milieu as the main factors
which are relevant for the casual explanation of corruption.
It has been argued that democracies and
the electoral cycles associated with them especially when combined with
the high cost of elections, are a fertile ground for political corruption.
In poor developing countries there is acute competition for the sharing of
benefits. At the same time, inequality and expectations are both high.
Such a situation provides an inability impetus of corruption.
Furthermore, economic policies based on
administrative regulations__such as permits and licences for the
allocation of investment approvals, scarce resources and the like, and
administratively targeted welfare benefits and subsidies create powerful
incentives for bribery. In terms of sociological factors, it has been
argued that caste, kinship and patron-client relationships, especially in
predominantly rural societies, generate and reproduce corruption through
networks of nepotism, patronage and dependency.
The conclusion that emerges on the basis
of available empirical evidence is that it would be untenable to
characterize democracies or developing countries or traditional societies
as immutably condemned to a state of corruption. Within each such
category, there are less-corrupt and more-corrupt societies, and also
those with, over time, have been able to move from a higher to a lower
level of corruption. In some societies, pervasive corruption has yielded
place to corruption which is more or less confined to certain sectors or
types of activities.
Turning from the causes to the
consequences of corruption, there is a much greater convergence of views.
There is considerable agreement about the adverse effects of corruption on
society, polity and economy. Corruption corrodes the moral fibre of
society. It undermines the legitimacy of governments because of the
widespread cynicism that breeds not only on the factual basis, but also on
perceived levels of corruption and related misdeeds.
The essays in this volume provide a
wide-ranging review of the problems and constraints of the public
institutions, legal systems and processes, and the behavior patterns in
our society that have contributed to the growing phenomenon of corruption.
The focus is on the need to redesign and improve the underlying framework
of our basic and public institutions that serve all sectors, their
structures and systems, in order to achieve corruption control.
The propensity for corruption in any
society can be controlled only by systematically reducing the incentives
and opportunities to engage in corrupt practices. An agenda for action to
control corruption must identify the key interventions necessary to minimize
such incentives and opportunities in Indian society. Drawing upon the
essays in this volume, we present four action areas as the essential
building blocks for a national agenda for corrupting control:
(i) reform of the political process,
(ii) restructuring and reorienting the
(iii) empowerment of citizens, and
(iv) creating sustained public pressure
The political process needs reform at
strategic points in order to create an enabling environment that is
conducive to the control of corruption.
There is considerable evidence in India
on the close links between political corruption and the criminalisation of
politics. No person with a criminal conviction should therefore be
permitted to contest in an election to the legislature. Legislators
convicted for criminal offenses during their tenure should be required to
vacate their seats forthwith.
Proper functioning of the government and
its institutional mechanisms is bound to reduce the scope for corruption
in any society. The reality, however, is that the structures, systems and
style of functioning on many of our public institutions, and the
orientation of the bureaucracy, have contributed directly and indirectly
to the culture of corruption.
Corruption can be effectively tackled
only when the reform of the political process and the restructuring of
government machinery are complemented by systematic efforts to inform
citizens about their rights and entitlements, and to enable them to
monitor and challenge abuses of the system.
There are important directions of
empowering citizens that deserve special attention. The inner urge and
resolve of a person to combat corruption depend, in no small measure, on
his or her basic moral values and beliefs.
If, on the other hand, the guiding values
of people tolerate corrupt practices and unethical behavior, there is
little hope that such individuals will revolt against corruption or help
launch a collective assault on corruption in their community or society.
When there is no collective urge to uproot corruption, the institutional
and legal reforms proposed by the authors will not go far, and any impact
they make is likely to be marginal from the larger social point-of-view.
India has not been free of corruption,
whether, in ancient times (at least, as far back as the Artbasastra), the
immediate pre-Colonial period, during, during British rule, or in the
decades following Independence. Gandhiji was concerned with corruption in
the provincial Congress ministries formed after the 1935 Act; a number of
cases of corruption in the states have been documented during the critical
decades after Independence, when Nehru was the Prime Minister; nor were
cases of corruption absent at the Centre, itself.
Neither the incidence of corruption in
India nor the concern with it are thus new. However, the current state of
corruption in he country is not just a linear continuation of the
experience in the 1950s and 1960s. Beginning with the 1970s, changes in
the level, trend, nature and spread of corruption in the 1980s and 1990s
have been such as to suggest that corruption has assumed critical
proportions. In other words, it might not be an exaggeration today to talk
about corruption in terms of a crisis or a cancer endangering India’s
society, polity and economy.
A number of ministers and governors of
states have had to resign on account of being legally charged with corrupt
transactions. Leading politicians belonging to different political parties
have been charge sheeted in the hawala proceedings related to violations
of the Foreign Exchange Regulations and Income Tax Acts. In more than one
instance, although prime ministers and chief ministers have been tainted
with suspicion, the investigations have not been expeditiously or
effectively pursued against them. Take the case of the present Chief
Minister of TamilNadu, who inspite of being held in jail for corruption is
now heading the State as CM. In any event, it is not credible that
widespread ministerial corruption would have been possible without the
acquiescence, if not the involvement of the head of the government.
India has acquired the unenviable
reputation of being among the most corrupt countries in the world. A
careful poll taken among business interests and financial journalists by
transparency International (TI), the reputed anti-corruption
non-governmental organization, placed India 9th from the bottom in its
1996 list of 54 countries with a score of 2.63 on a scale with a maximum
of 10 for the totally corrupt-free country.