Saturday, March 14, 2009

Corruption in India

The extent to which corruption may flourish in a particular country, depends largely on the attitude of the public, which in the case of India is one of apathy. In fact, public apathy is the unconscious sanction of governmental corruption. This is, to some extant, due to ignorance, but the prime reason is historical.
Corruption in India is so deep-rooted that even those living Below Poverty Line (BPL) are made to cough up huge sums as bribe to avail basic and need-based public services in the country. About one-third of BPL households across the country paid bribe in the last one year to avail one or more of the 11 public services covered in the study, which shows that even the poor are not spared in the case of targeted pro­grammes.

The 11 services covered under the study conducted by the Transparency International India (TII) and the Centre for Media Studies, include Public Distribution System (PDS), hospital, school education electricity and water supply, National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), land records/registration, forest, housing, banking and police.

Relative Position of States
As regards the relative position of States on corruption in availing 11 public services by BPL households. Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have an alarming level of corruption, while Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi and Punjab have ‘moderate level’.

In order to get a power connection or to get faulty meter rectified, people have to bride official/staff of the electricity department. Similarly, staff and officials of school indulge in corrupt practices in order to admit the child of poor parents, issuing certificates to them and promoting the child from one class to another. It was found that the amount paid as bribe by BPL households was Rs. 120 million for availing school services.

Armed Forces
The Armed Forces have also lost credi­bility owing to widespread corruption in their ranks. Twelve senior defence officers have been charge sheeted for corruption, going by a reply to a query in the Rajya Sabha. There has been an erosion of values and conduct within the defence services.

It is unfortunate that there is hardly any deterrent effect on corrupt officials as the process of connection is slow, and has not made an impact. Consequently, corruption has been flourishing with more and more instances coming to light. It is difficult to visualise a corruption-force society because those who prefer probity in public life and proclaim to curb corruption are not serious in introducing reforms.

Corrupt Politicians
Corruption rules the roost among the country’s politicians today and finding an honest politician is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Jail sentences do not mean anything to these political leaders as they immediately go into appeal against such sentences and, more often than not, are set scot-free by the higher courts. They enjoy the power and the pelf they have amassed through illegal means.

The main reason for the steady growth of corruption in India is the advent of get rich quick professional politicians. They make hay while the sun shines as also encourage corruption among the officials to suit their own ends. Modern polity is ruled by the unholy trinity comprising politicians, businessmen and bureaucracy. At times, politicians call the shots, which is usually after they have won an election with generous help from the unaccounted wealth of big business who, in turn, are helped by the bureaucracy.

The Measures
Drastic changes and reforms are imperative to weed out unethical professional and corrupt practices from our academic and public institutions. The process of conviction needs to be speeded up. Apart from recommending legislation to protect whistle-blowers, the Administrative Reforms (ARS) has suggested a new piece of legislation—corrupt Public Servants Bill, to curb corruption. The recent landmark ruling by the Supreme Court that public servants can be prosecuted without mandatory Government sanction should have a deterrent effect on corrupt officials and politicians. There is need for transparency and accountability in our academic and public institutions, including the judiciary.

However, the picture is not entirely gloomy. There are encouraging signs of success in tackling corruption. Right to Information (RTI) laws have had the effect of making governments more accountable. In 1990, there were only 13 countries in the Asia-Pacific with RTI laws.
In India, RTI, which is considered to be one of the most progressive such legislations in the developing world, has forced government officials to become more transparent. The internet and ever-multiplying blogs have also played a role, particularly in repressive regimes, in checking corruption. There are other measures such as e-governance, strong anti-corruption agencies and better compensation for civil servants that could lead to reducing corruption.

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