Is India Very Corrupt?
Recent corruption scandal involving ministers, high officials, and parliamentarians have badly shaken the confidence of general public in the government. International corruption measures also expose various forms of short comings and suggest that at global level India has much to improve.
- Recent Corruption Scandals
- The Root Cause of Corruption
- How the Corruption Equation Applies to India
- What International Corruption Measures Say about India
Recent Corruption Scandals
Public confidence in government of India appears to be at all time low due to exposure of corruption at the highest level. It is despite having the most honest prime minister. Practically the whole organizing committee of the New Delhi Commonwealth Games of 2010 is in jail including its chairman. Exposure of telecom spectrum allocation scandal has already sent a minister to jail and many others are expected join him soon. Then there is cash-for-vote scandal involving several parliamentarians.
According to World Bank estimates, between $1 trillion and $1.6 trillion dollars are lost globally to illegal activities each year. Corruption decreases the amount of wealth in a country and lowers the standard of living. It affects you even if you don't come into direct contact with it.
The Root Cause of Corruption
Corruption is an age-old phenomenon. The word corruption means destruction, ruining or spoiling – a society or nation. Selfishness and greed are at the root of it; it also implies lack of integrity and honesty. A corrupt society is characterized by immorality and lack of fear or respect for the law. When it stops valuing integrity, virtue or moral principles it starts decaying. Corruption comes under many different guises: bribery, misappropriations of public goods, nepotism (favoring family members for jobs and contracts), and influencing the formulation of laws or regulations for private gain.
Corruption is always contextual and rooted in a country’s policies, bureaucratic traditions, political development, and its social and cultural history. Still, corruption tends to flourish when policies are complicated, their implementation is weak, and the general public can not get its grievances addressed. Klitgaard has modeled the dynamics of corruption (C) in the public sector in the following equation:
C = M + D - A
Corruption tends to increase when an organization or person has monopoly (M) power over a good or service, which generates income, has the discretion (D) on its allocation, and is not accountable (A).
How the Corruption Equation Applies to India
This equation applies very well to India and explains why even the poorest people are not immune to corruption. They get exploited by the lowest level government employees who have M and D with practically zero accountability A. However, they are doing only what the people dictating them from the top are doing.
Politicians in India may quarrel with each other on petty issues but are united when it comes to playing with public money. The bureaucracy and the police have been taught to act like a shield between the ruling elite and the ruled – this tradition, started by the colonial British, has been carefully preserved by the indigenous rulers even after six decades of independence. Since the investigating agencies and police remains in their control, they are almost accountable to none. They are free to make rules to defend their own vested interests and of those who fund their elections. They, of course, have monopoly on law making by virtue of the democratic set up of the country.
On paper laws are equally applicable to all, but in reality the rich and the powerful have resources to rise above any law, besides the services of best legal brains. Therefore, the probability of finding a corrupt politician or his collaborators in jail is very low. Even if they land up inside a prison they are given privileged treatment.
What International Corruption Measures Say about India
Though India is credited with having made considerable progress in terms of economic reform over the past few years, corruption is perceived to be widespread and entrenched at all levels of the political and administrative system. India ranks 87 from 178 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2010 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), with a score of 3.4. Since the first iterations of the index, India has scored between 2.7 and 3.5, indicating that – despite some progress – corruption continues to be perceived as rampant and endemic by the various CPI sources.
Similarly, the 2009 World Bank Governance Indicators suggest little change over the years. The country performs consistently above average on indicators of voice and accountability, government effectiveness and the rule of law, but poorly in terms of regulatory quality and control of corruption. Its rating for political stability and regularity quality are particularly weak. With an overall percentile score of just 47, India does not instill much confidence.
Freedom House 2008 comes to similar conclusions, noting that government effectiveness and accountability continue to be undermined by the close connections between crime and politics, weak government institutions and widespread corruption. The latest survey by Political and Economic Risk Consultancy ranked India’s bureaucracy as the worst in Asia.
According to the Global Corruption Barometer 2010, petty corruption is common in India. Citizens do not expect the situation to change in the short term and expressed skepticism with regard to government political will and/or capacity to curb corruption. 74% people felt that corruption has increased in the last three years.
Indian firms are also perceived to export corruption outside its borders. The country comes at the bottom of Transparency International’s 2008 Bribe Payer Index, ranking 19 from 22 countries. The other tail-enders are Brazil, China, and Russia. This indicates that Indian firms are perceived as very likely to engage in bribery when doing business abroad.
A corruption survey published in June 2008 by Transparency International-India and the Centre for Media Studies India confirms these findings. One-third of Below Poverty Line (BPL) households across the 31 states covered by the survey paid bribes to access one or more of 11 public services. The percentage of respondents paying bribes to access services was especially high for the police, land registration and housing.
India has to work on improving its governance. It is particularly weak in implementation of policies and in judicial accountability and efficiency. The political corruption starts right from the election financing and carries over to electoral representatives. It also need to weed out corruption at the lower end of bureaucracy that affects common man. Needless to say a major part of high poverty in India is due to corruption in implementation of government welfare schemes.
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