Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Corruption and Quality of Governance


Corruption and Quality of Governance

Corruption and Quality of Governance
India is one of the most corrupt in the world is not the news, the news is that there is no hope for any respite from this evil which is essentially an anti-poor phenomenon. According to the Transparency International, India ranks very high on the Corruption Perception Index. There are a lot of things because of which one is proud of being an Indian. However, there are a lot more for which one is ashamed of being an Indian, and corruption is one of them.

Courage, integrity and moral values of life have been major casualties in recent times. We have seen how these qualities have nose-dived to absurdly low depths. Our leaders have lost total sense of responsibilities and propriety and have misused and abused the power and authority vested in them with impunity, and with utter disregard to public interests. They have literally converted the governmental infrastructure as their personal fiefdom, resulting in series of scams and scandals. As a natural aftermath of this degradation on moral values and quality of leadership, everyday life of common citizens has become a living hell. Municipal services are heaped in corruption and inefficiency, with erratic electricity and water supply, choked and overflowing sewers, smelly drains, neglected roads and streets with potholes, and dotted with rotting garbage dumps and stinking public toilets. Standards of education in government schools and colleges have gone down and several money spinning private schools and coaching centres have mushroomed, whose sole aim is to fleece the public.

In the present economic scenario, the basic prerequisites of an efficient administrative system, conducive and growth-oriented environment and good and reliable infrastructure are not available in our governing apparatus, which are essential for a sound economy. Inefficient and inapt administration, which has no work-culture worth the name, and which is forever on holiday or holiday-mood, has caused serious overruns on development projects, resulting in losses and chronic shortages of power, roads, ports and means of communication. Family-planning programmes have failed miserably, which has led to further inadequacies of our basic facilities—education, health, housing and transport projects. Perennial shortage in our infrastructure network has stunted our industrial and commercial growth. Absence of right environments has failed the system and driven out our intellectuals to greener pastures in foreign lands, thereby causing brain-drain. Even our space programmes have been jeopardized due to flight of scientific talent. Our industrialists have also failed the nation. Inspite of prolonged protection from foreign competition, they have not developed the indigenous technology and have remained heavily dependent on outdated imported technologies to produce substandard products, most of which cannot compete in international markets either in price or in quality.

The root cause of all this is our poor work-culture and corrupt practices, which have now become endemic in our national character. The main aim of the bulk of our citizens is to make hay while the sun shines and not to worry about the nation and its plebeian designs.
Our political system has proved to be the fountain-head of corruption. During elections, help of industrial and business houses and criminal elements are invited to fund the extravagant election expenses of candidates and use muscle power to muster votes, which results in nexus between politicians, business houses and underground mafia. This nexus associates are later reimbursed through scams and scandals by siphoning off public funds.

Huge amounts received from international agencies for welfare projects are pilfered and shared among the nexus associates of the politicians in power. The bureaucracy has been made servile through carrot and stick policy. In fact, most of them have now become conduit for slush money for their political bosses, and in process have become drain into the vortex and are partners in promoting corruption. They have forgotten the legacy of courage, integrity and uprightness of their predecessors—the Indian Civil Services cadre of yore. They have forgotten that their first duty is to serve the people and not their self-interests or their political bosses.

Corruption is an anti-poor phenomenon which can only be tackled by better governance and less government. Apart from its moral and ethical dimension, corruption is the major cause of poor becoming poorer and, of course, rich getting converted into super rich or filthy and vulgar rich. In democratic set up, and in a plural economy like ours, everyone is guaranteed the right to grow to one’s potential and create wealth by all legitimate means. However, corruption of any kind deprives the common man from ‘climbing’ the next ladder and he either continues at the same or slides further down to a more pathetic condition.

Corruption is really anti-poor. 31.5% of the food grains and 36% of sugar in the Public Distribution System (PDS) gets diverted to black market. The fact is that Rs 20,000 crores is the subsidy involved in the PDS and 30% leaks to the black market, in other words, more than Rs 6,000 crores are made available for the politicians, corrupt officials of the PDS, the corrupt shopkeepers and their protectors. We can, therefore, see how, while in the name of the poor, an argument can be made for food security and subsidy. Different scams have shown the linkage between anti-national elements. 300 people died in Bombay blast in 1993 and this was made possible because RDX could be smuggled by bribing Rs 20 lakh to certain Custom officials. We can, therefore, see that corruption is anti-economic development, anti-poor and anti-national.

What is corruption and why should any government and its people fight corruption? The World Bank definition of corruption is “Use of public office for private profit”. Some or all government offices are public, and the use of these offices for ‘private profit’ by politicians, bureaucrats and the others is common in India. So much so, we have created such systems in our country that corruption has become endemic. Like Mark Twain’s statement that every one talks about the weather but nobody seems to be able to do anything about it, the entire nation talks about corruption but nobody is able to do anything about it. Former Central Vigilance Commissioner, N. Vittal, used to compare corruption with a disease like AIDS. He felt as AIDS is the result of uncontrolled sexual behaviour, corruption is the outcome of uncontrolled financial behaviour.

The next aspect to be understood is why the government and responsible citizens must fight corruption? The straight forward answer is, because corruption is anti-poor and anti-development. The Human Development Report for South-Asia,  pointed out that if India’s level of corruption could be brought down to the Scandinavian countries, its GDP will improve by 1.5 % and foreign bank investment by 12%. Anything that is anti-poor and hence anti-social must be on top of the government agenda to rectify the situation, but in a country where populism takes priority over good governance, it doesn’t find even a mention. It is often said that leaders of India have deliberately kept the people ignorant so that they won’t know how badly they are governed. The present state of anarchy has made  everyday life of the citizens a living hell. They not only live in the fear of life and property, they also have to make do with inefficiency in every government department.

Perhaps, the present state of affairs can be described in the words of Mahatma Gandhi whose understanding of India and patriotism cannot be challenged. “India is a country of self-suppression and timidity”, he said. This contributes to a common man’s low expectations from anything Indian, including the administration. Many
intellectuals who are painted by others ‘as full of self-loathing’, perhaps also contribute to this phenomenon—that nothing can be done to eradicate corruption and we have to resign to our destiny and fate. It is not true. Of course, a lot can be done, provided there is a will to change the present state of affairs.

Mahatma Gandhi’s dream was to see India with every face without a tear. Alas, in more than 60 years, we have not been able to meet the aspirations and objective potential of our people. Official figures indicate that at least 36% live
below the austerely defined by the Planning Commission. Today, millions of our citizens do not have the elementary freedom from economic poverty, social deprivation or political tyranny. As famous Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen will like us to understand, we are only technically free but not truly free.


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