|NEW DELHI: If it takes two to
tango, let the music play on. Right? Well, that's a lot like corruption -a
game that Corporate India has played with some dexterity for years. But
now, in the aftermath of the Tehelka expose, India Inc. posted its
distress at levels of corruption in the country.
To quote one corporate bigwig: "Corruption has
always existed. The difference is: earlier it was systematic, now it is
unsystematic. While bribing was required only for licenses earlier, now
everyone is creating opportunities for himself. It depends on his
innovativeness to earn. That is creating a lot of chaos."
Multinationals entering the country have been an obvious
target. Says a senior MNC official: "When we entered the country
about five years back, we were asked by the state chief minister to pay Rs
3 crore for election funding. When I expressed our disability to do so,
two attempts were made on my life. When threats did not work, the minister
started working the IPS lobby to exert pressure."
The impact is being felt down the line. Says a
consultant for consumer product companies: "Post liberalisation in
1991-92, we were working on a huge number of feasibility studies for MNCs
wanting to enter various sectors in India. In recent years, the numbers
have reduced dramatically to a couple a year."
And now, post Tehelka, the perception that India does
not offer a level playing field, is going to worsen. The impact is more
likely to be on consumer goods MNCs, says the consultant. For,
infrastructure MNCs, who work mostly with government-owned utilities
worldwide, are more comfortable dealing with corruption. Consumer product
companies are not.
An auto consultant echoes these views. "No one
wants to do business where rules are not transparent." He goes a step
further. "India is not the only corrupt country. However, MNCs tell
me that when they pay bribes in China, they are certain that work will be
done. In India, they are not sure." The reason: the chain of
corruption is so long that companies are never certain if the money has
reached the right hands.
Others too feel that corruption has reached a new high.
Says a corporate top-shot: "The private sector's willingness to beat
the law is also on the rise. The lobbies-politicians nexus was not so
apparent even 15 years back. Now the policies are being drafted by vested
The ramifications? Says the CEO of a diversified group:
"All was going well. The Budget was good and the government seemed to
be consolidating its position. With this, the stability of the government
is in question once again and that is not good for business."
Counters Dewang Mehta, president of Nasscom: "There will not be any
impact on the feel-good factor created after the Budget. Things will
settle down soon."
By and large, most feel it's a lose- lose situation for
business. "If the government takes a tough stand and resigns,
instability will rear its head again. If it does not, it will be giving an
official nod to corruption. Both ways we stand to lose."
Unfortunately, these voices ring true. After all,
Transparency International downgraded India's ranking on corruption, from
No 28 to No 22 this year.
SLUG: Tehelka aftermath