Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Is Corruption an Issue in Indian Politics?

Are you surprised at the timing of this question?  Are you wondering how any sensible person can even ask such a question while the entire media is discussing nothing but corruptions and scams?

Well, I have my reasons for asking such a question, which I hope you will appreciate, if you continue reading this post.

I, for one, strongly believe that corruption is not an issue in Indian politics!

Well, we make lot of noise around corruption. There are allegations and counter allegations being hurled in all directions, with total impunity.  Even media is willing to air stories about individuals without even proper verification of the alleged facts, with scant regard for the person’s reputation or propriety. 

Look at the number of agitations and fast unto deaths etc that was conducted purportedly against corruption in the past 15 months or so. It is very easy for us to get convinced that corruption is the single most important issue in today’s politics.  Now, we even have a new political outfit (yet to be named), under the aegis of India Against Corruption (IAC) or whatever is left of it, with fight against corruption as the only known ideology and agenda that binds them together ( though some would say, it is not corruption but the love of anarchy that is the binding force).

We have allegations not only against reigning central ministers and chief ministers but even against President of the principal opposition party and son in law of president of the ruling Party. There are insinuations as to who the Team A is and who else is their Team B etc in fight against corruption.  There are also claims and counter claims as to who is behind the activities against corruption- RSS, Congress dynasty and Ford Foundation getting the maximum credit or discredit.

The most bizarre theory about scams I heard recently was that the new scams are brought out into public domain only to remove the previous ones from the public memory.  I even heard that allegations involving Law Minister Mr Salman Khurshid was brought with his own connivance to deflect the heat away from Mr Robert Vadra, the son in law of Mrs Sonia Gandhi, against whom allegations of arranging undue favours from a state government to a corporate group as quid pro quo for benefits given to him was alleged.

On the other hand it is business as usual as far as Indian elections are concerned.  In various bye-elections and local elections, the current ruling party at Centre is facing mixed results, with some wins and some loses.  Same is the case with many regional leaders who are facing corruption allegations.  None of them seem to have lost any supporters on account of the allegations.  Even on social media, the arguments for and against the leaders facing allegations are mostly on predictable lines- depending more on the affiliations of the person commenting than on the nature or extent of the allegation itself.

Everyone speaks a lot on corruption.  But invariably, it is against the leaders of the opposing parties. Even those people who are not supporters of any conventional political parties (like the ‘I Am Also Common Man’ or ‘Mein Bhi Aam Aadmi’ volunteers) are focusing on targeting individuals and seeking their resignations than addressing corruption as an issue!

We don’t get to hear any suggestions from anybody as to what we should do or not to do to end or reduce corruption  in our country.  Look at the issue of Mr Salman Khurshid’s Trust. What is the sole demand of everyone concerned? Let the Minister resign!

“How about an investigation?” ....“ Well, no one has any faith left in the investigating agencies. “

“But the investigation is being conducted by the State Government ruled by another party!”... “So what?!  Centre will use CBI against State leadership who are themselves facing corruption charges, so that State Government will not let the truth come out against Central Minister”

“How about fighting it out in the court?”... “Are you crazy? Don’t you know in India, courts take so much of time and nothing comes out of it?”

“Ok, what if the Minister resigns but his colleagues continue to influence the probe?”... “Yes, very much possible. That is why this tainted government must go”

“What if the same government comes back to power?”... “No way, don’t you know 120 crore Indians are against corruption?”

“But then you saw the Nanded Municipal elections where Congress party was led to major victory by none other than Mr Ashok Chavan, who had to resign as Chief Minister, due to the infamous corruption case relating to Adarsh?”... “ Well, those are municipal elections and fought on  local issues” 

“But then how can we say corruption is an issue for 120 Crore Indians if they are not even willing to punish someone like Ashok Chavan, who has lost the perception war very badly?!”

This goes on...  Some would like to see the entire government out and replaced by their own party, like any genuine opposition would wish.  Some others are not happy with any party coming into power.  They, like true anarchists, want the government out but don’t want any other government to come back in its place! Some of them even say what India needs is a revolution.  Ok, fine. Revolution, and then what? No answer!

Why are we not asking ourselves as to how can we stop the corruption?  Why no one questions distribution of public money through private trusts?  Salman Khurshid and his Trust may or may not have misappropriated the grant, let courts/investigations decide that.   But can’t we ensure that the money is reaching the needy, directly? Even if the process of identification is conducted through NGOs, why should money be distributed through them?   How about the proposed direct cash transfer scheme, expected to remove all the middle men in distributing subsidies and state aids to poor?

No one seems to be interested in these questions? Why?

Answer is simple. We are not interested in corruption or its eradication as an issue.  No political party in India will dare to raise the issue of corruption as they very well know almost everyone in India is corrupt.  Neither will they take measures to eradicate corruption as the very electoral system in India survives and thrives on black money and corruption.  No one is under any illusion that the 1000s of crores spent on elections after elections are raised through bucket collections but corrupt deals!

With all the movements and agitations against corruption, have you seen a single person who has stopped going to the TTE in train, to get that berth allotted by paying bribes? Anyone who refused to avail admission of his/ her kid because s/he was asked to pay black money as unaccounted capitation fee? Anyone who refused a property transaction since the other party insisted on payments in black? Any corporate that refused to accept a license or contract because it was asked to pay bribes?

That being the case, all parties avoid fighting corruption.  But yes, they do use the concept as a tool in an insidious manner; for gaining publicity and media coverage on the one hand and for character assassination of opponents on the other hand. 

That is what corruption is for Indian politics... Only an easy tool to attack opponents!

I can foresee some readers reminding me about the struggle for Lokpal /Janlokpal as a remedy against corruption!  But again, I believe Lokpal /Jan Lokpal is no remedy for corruption. It is, at best, another tool that can be used against one’s opponents.  If threat of prosecution and punishment can stop deviant behaviours we wouldn’t be having murders and rapes so often.  

The whole focus of the movements against corruption and even the proposed Lokpal is how to punish those who have indulged in corruption.  The concept of retribution!  I am not convinced about the efficacy of retribution measures in preventing corruption.  If we have to prevent corruption we need to necessarily remove the avenues for corruption.  We need to reduce discretion of individuals and increase transparency in administration.  We need to make processes more and more automatic and reduce the interface between service provider and beneficiaries.

In fact this focus on the retribution and targeting of persons are being counterproductive to the cause.  No doubt, the guilty have to be punished. But that has to be done within the existing systems and institutions. We cannot afford to have revolutions and change of government on each allegation of corruption.  Instead, these allegations are only making the governments and leaders to go of the defensive thereby reducing any chance for systemic reforms!  Like lawyers fighting in the adversarial system of trial, people become compelled to take sides irrespective of the merits of the case!

In my opinion, the Right to Information Act alone has done more  in preventing corruption than all other measures combined (please note that more disclosures through RTI does not mean more corruption).  We need to follow it up with Right to time bound Services to citizens.  We also need to make more and more information regarding decision making processes compulsorily available in the public domain through publication on websites of concerned department etc.

These (and many other such) measures require a strong will to implement as any effort would surely face lot of resistance from vested interests.   Such measures lack glamour and will not get more time of news channels.  Instead we will continue to adopt the short cuts like targeting and seeking heads of our respective opponents.

I strongly believe, when our politicians realise that corruption is indeed an issue for our people, they will change and they will start reforming the systems.  Politicians only understand the language of votes... they don’t care a bit for reputation!

If people stop voting for corrupt leaders, leaders will stop being corrupt.  If people are more concerned about caste, religion, mosque, temple, cow, pig and various other such narrow issues, then corruption will continue to thrive in our country- merely replacing the old leaders with new ones, to continue in the same path and to provide new fodder for more retribution!

 May be this is the right time to make corruption a true political issue?


  1. but the problem is the "POWER CORRUPTS & ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY". If we vote the corrupt out it will only lead to a breed called NEO-CORRUPT LEADERS. And this has happened in past too.
    Definitely hyper activism of media has reduced corruption to a subject of drawing room discussion from the NATIONAL SHAME. They are simply pursuing Agenda Setting Theory rather than Social Responsibility Theory. Media needs to restrain from yellow journalism and subjectivity. Reporting is becoming editorial kind, Media is not playing it's role responsibly, which is something pathetic.

  2. The Lokpal Act should lay down an objective and transparent criteria such as competence, experience, qualification etc for the selection of candidates for appointment to the Lokpal.

  3. gud one, i liked your blog its very good and shows how much you give in
    your articles and you can also see my blog:- www.hindu4u.blogspot.in
    i would like to say that i want to give you salute for your exellent

  4. Actually To the Some extent you are right.The Corruption in not only in Politics.It is in almost every sector.I also agree with you that the common man also starts to take and give bribe according to his convenience.
    First we have to stop this habit.

  5. Mr. Mushil Ahamad is an honest leader and a strong candidate for MLC Graduate in Lucknow.