What Makes India Corrupt?
Bad governance, lack of transparency, and complicated procedures are major attributes of Independent India. They provide fertile ground for corrupt practices to grow. Global Integrity Report of 2009 also highlights some glaring flaws in Indian governance.
- Bad Governance and Corruption
- Why Corruption Thrives in India?
- Global Integrity Report and India
- India Report Card – Global Integrity Index 2009
- Suggested Further Reading
Bad Governance and Corruption
In a world where money is god morality cries and corruption thrives. Since the institutions that used to care for moral values in society are no longer relevant in today’s technology oriented world, the only way to keep corruption at bay is the good and efficient governance. Good governance is a prerequisite for strengthening the economic and social performance of a country. Hence, corruption and good governance are certainly related in opposite ways.
Good governance is dependent on accountability – of those responsible for running the country, mainly politicians and bureaucrats. Lack of mechanisms (or weak mechanisms) to hold them accountable for their actions is the common reason that allows them to get by with sins (or errors of omissions and commissions, in today’s popular languages). This happens when the governance is not participatory – where general public is mere spectator.
Therefore, good governance necessarily means an accountable system of governance. Accountability has two components, Proactive – ensuring fair and proper selection of public officials and participatory governance; Reactive – ensuring transparent and legitimate conduct and enforcing liability on the conduct of public officials.
In order to work properly, the mechanisms for accountability must not be under government control – it defeats the very purpose – and they must be easily accessible to the ordinary people.
Why Corruption Thrives in India?
Lack of transparency and complicated procedures are two important hallmarks of Indian bureaucracy. General public can never understand what is actually going on in the minds of top bureaucrats and their representatives sitting at the top. Indian politicians have also done a brilliant job of staying above accountability: they have kept the main investigating agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, under the control of government and denied it freedom to initiate investigation against public officials (wrongly called “public servants” in India) without permission. The other two top bodies – the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the Controller & Auditor General – are also reduced to advisory roles (advise can always be ignored!). The CVC is, in reality, like a non-executive ombudsman or a paper tiger.
Another brilliance of Indian politicians has been to thwart creation of an independent ombudsman with freedom and power to investigate top bureaucrats and ministers, for last Forty Years. Recently, a notable Gandhian social worker, Anna Hazare sat on a “fast-till-death” to pressurize the government to immediately pass a strong ombudsman bill. It was surprising to see a spontaneous and widespread mass support to his peaceful movement – perhaps first such movement in the history of independent India.
The third factor that has been encouraging organized corruption is the absence of legal protection to whistleblowers. The news of harassment and even murder of those who expose corruption is a common occurrence in India.
Global Integrity Report and India
Global cross-country surveys have been repeatedly highlighting the rather poor quality of governance in India, in comparison with other major economies. This poor governance and the resulting high corruption is the prime cause of high poverty and ineffectiveness of family planning efforts – India failed to achieve the targeted fertility rate of 2.1 by 2010 end needed for population stabilization.
The Global Integrity Report provides an understanding of the governance and anti-corruption mechanisms in a country. It uses over three hundred actionable indicators to provide a picture of citizens’ and businesses’ access to key governance and anti-corruption mechanisms and their effectiveness. The elaborate scorecards take into account both existing legal measures on the books and ground realities of practical implementation which is what really counts for the citizens. The final out put comes in the form of the Global Integrity Index (GII) which should have been more aptly labeled as “governance effectiveness indicator”.
Difference between the red and blue scores in the image above gives the gap in implementation of the written law. A wide “implementation gap” is a sign that written law is widely ignored, creating a situation where real reform depends more on political will than on new laws.
India Report Card – Global Integrity Index 2009
India’s score (70 out of 100) implies that it is only moderately capable of handling the menace of corruption and has lot to do in improving its governance. It also highlights a large gap between the legal framework and actual implementation on the ground. The report rightly exposes that of all six indicators the weakest is the Government Accountability (59, Very Weak). When seen in light of high score on Oversight and Regulation (80, strong) it implies that there is a vast “implementation gap”.
In fact, any ordinary Indian can testify that implementation is the weakest area – and often people don’t even know the existence of many laws concerning them. A glaring example is the PESA Act of 1996. It is the most important piece of legislation that empowers the 8% tribal population to rule themselves and manage their local resources – so that their exploitation at the hands of the bureaucrats and other rich and influential people stops. It is a law social activists working in tribal areas always want to know but find little information. It is just one example of a good-intentioned law remaining only on paper.
The report also rightly states that “the country struggles with promoting transparency and accountability in the financing of political parties and candidates”. For instance, there are currently no regulations that require parties or candidates to disclose the donations they receive. This is where the seeds for future corruption are sown.
Corruption coming from bad governance is the major reason for most of the major problems such as poverty and high population. And speaking analytically, ineffective implementation of laws, absence of proper accountability mechanisms, opaque electoral financing, and absence of laws to protect the whistle-blowers are four major shortcomings in the governance system of India.