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An Indian perspective of corruption: Its root causes and probable remedies

The Indian people often take pride in citing how ancient and great the Indian civilization was. In fact, it is true. Every knowledgeable Indian knows once India prospered in every aspect of life. When other parts of the worlds were still in the cradle of civilization, the Indians reached its zenith. The kind of philosophy, literature, art, culture, architecture, spiritual and scientific knowledge inherited by the Indians from their forefathers imply the fact that Indian society, indeed provided necessary stability, balance and security of its members, otherwise it could not have been possible for them to achieve that. It is obvious that, once the Indians knew well how should the society be run for optimum well being of each and every member.

However, modern day Indian society does not reflect such glorious past at all. Almost in every stratum of society, malpractices like corruption are now rampant. Scam, bribery, fraudulent case, etc. are now everyday news in India and almost become norms. Corruption is so widespread in now a day that everyone takes it for granted.

In 2017, India has been ranked  81st among 180 countries in terms of corruption index. The ranking was given by Transparency International, an international NGO who fights against corruption. It stated that India is one of the worst offenders in terms of graft and press freedom in the Asia- Pacific region. This indicates how grave the current situation in India is.

We wonder what are the causes that lead to corruption in India. If we make an introspective, the following causes come to the fore:

Close-knit family structure and favoritism:

Although in Indian society, the erstwhile joint family system has no longer been prevalent, family and relatives still play a great role in one’s social behavior. If a person holds a significant position in an office or organization, his or her relatives invariably expect him to do some favor for them. Generally people fall prey to such ‘family love affairs’ and end up misusing their power, offices or position to fulfill the demands of their kith and kin. Those who have strong ethical value, even they also go through dilemmas and sometimes surrender to such family pressure jobs.

Greed and easy-money:

Generally in government jobs, most of the posts don’t have higher pay-structure. On the other hand government employees are not allowed to engage in other ventures to make money. As such, if someone offers them a bribe, most of them gleefully accept that. Slowly it becomes a habit for them and eventually they start to demand bribes from each and everyone for their official works. It’s a bitter truth that bribery is almost a norm in many government offices. Many unscrupulous employees’ greed and desire to have some quick-bucks gives a bad name to government offices.

Vested interest of political parties:

Most of the large-scale scams happen due to the vested interest of politicians in power and high level bureaucrats. It’s an open secret that political parties are financially sponsored by many business groups during election campaigns. Whenever a political party forms a government, they are bound to return the favor by awarding contracts of profitable schemes/projects. To make it happen, the party in the power may result in the misuse of their power and office. These kind of incidents are very common in Indian scenario.

Lack of social responsibility:

Most of the people do not have a broader perspective in terms of their social behavior. Own interest, selfishness, ambition and desire to get rich usually make the people blind and as such, they used to forget the real purpose of social organization. While social responsibility and one’s own interest come together, generally people choose the latter. If the mentality of the majority of the people is such, then automatically the public institutions will lose its sanctity.

Loopholes in the laws:

While India got its independence, then the prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru once said that corruption would not be tolerated at all and corrupt officials would be hanged on the lamp posts. However, in reality, corruption becomes rampant in independent India and no real punishments have been given to corrupt officials or politicians. Whatever little action had been taken, is due to political or personal vendetta. There is no potent and pragmatic mechanism to prevent corruption in Indian governance. Institutions like Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) are supposed to act as watchdog to government, but, they are hardly capable to reduce corruption at any level.

General observation:

As it is said earlier, India had its own social structure and a rich cultural heritage. However, continuous invasions broke the ancient social fabric and also pushed the society to abject poverty. Invasions and foreign rules took away not only the wealth from the Indians, but also their pride and ethical code to a large extent. Now, the Indians inherit a structure of governance from the British, but, perhaps they are yet to imbibe complete this new structure. The sense of belonging and pride to be able to be a citizen of a great nation are yet to come. As the true pride of the nation is absent, people used to ignore the fact that nation or state is for their own welfare. As a result, they do not hesitate to break the sanctity of the public institutions, as their own interests seem bigger than some abstract idea of nation or state.

Undoubtedly corruption is a severe menace to the society. If this disorder cannot be plucked from the society, it will never be able to prosper in true sense. To reduce the corruption, the following aspects may be taken into account.

Transparency in governance/ public offices:

One of the reasons for corruption in public or government officials is the nature of its functioning. These are not easily accessible to common people. The works of the public offices should be as transparent as possible. Even the layman should have access to it as and the necessity arises. However, in this regard implementation of RTI Act, 2005, making various facilities and services available in online etc. are welcome steps in India. In addition to that environment of public offices should be made people-friendly. Feedback from the general public should be taken into account to gauge the performance of a public servant. However, this also needs attention that many unscrupulous people in the guise of the common man may create undue pressure upon public officials.

Stringent law against corruption and speedy trial:

There are many examples that seriously corrupted politicians, bureaucrats, persons roam freely in the society without getting a punishment or with little punishment. This sets a very bad example in the society. The lethargic and overburdened judiciary and lack of stringent law against corruption make the situation worse.

Any form of corruption should be considered as a major crime and corrupt persons should be punished as soon as possible. In this regard relevance of bringing out a strong Lokpal Act can’t be negated.

Drawing dedicated people towards politics:

Politics, particularly in India is infamous for kind of people it houses. Many people with criminal background resort in politics to avoid being caught. To make the matter more worse, after being elected, they become lawmakers. So, from the government formed by such politicians, no one can expect something nice and extraordinary would happen.

As such society is in dire need of politicians who are dedicated to the greater goal of the society, visionary and capable. However to make the pace of such people in politics, perspective of general people towards politics and governance also needs to change or vice versa.

More power to people:

In a democracy, actual power lies with the people. However, after assuming the office, many elected politicians used to forget their responsibilities and indulge in corruption and other malpractices. There is no immediate remedy for such situations. In that case, if some method like Recall in direct democracy can be applied to a limited extent, then the activities of corrupt politicians could be curbed to a great extent.

Raising an altruistic view at individual level:

The underlying factor which leads to corruption is unruly desires of human beings. If unchecked, desires can provoke man to go to any extent to acquire their never ending needs.

In this context every human being needs to introspect deeply and try to realize their relation with other fellow human beings in the society and the whole universe as a whole. No one can be exclusive in this world and our progress in life depends on a healthy society, environment and world. For the sake of one’s own petty self, no one can undermine the others.

Revisiting the ancient Indian ethos is very much needed at this crucial age and time. The concept – ‘Vasudaiva Kutumbakam’, i.e., the world is one family, as taught in the Upanishad, needs to be brought out to everybody’s life.

It is true that it is probably almost impossible to have a perfect society in the world, but, social disorder like corruption cannot be taken for granted. This must be reduced, if not eliminated to function the society at its best.