The World Bank defines corruption as a compilation of dishonest and criminal activities which are conducted by an individual or an organisation in a position of authority to acquire benefits illegally. Corruption includes affairs like bribery and embezzlement and sometimes also involves various practices that are deemed legal in many countries.
India is a country in which corruption runs very deep, polluting the very foundation of our nation. The nation’s economy, government and administration along with the corporate elements in the private sector are all affected adversely by corruption. The Berlin based NGO- Transparency International says that in 2005, more than 62% of Indians have confessed to pay bribes to a public official to get a job done.
There is no doubt that India is at a much better state of socioeconomic affairs than what it was in the last few decades. The Corruption Perception Index of 2018 ranked India at 78th position among 180 countries, indicating a steady decline in this activity. But unfortunately no administration at the centre or the state has been able to completely route corruption from the society.
Samuel Huntington, a famous economist had once stated that corruption is rampant in a nation when it is undergoing the most intense phase of modernisation and tends to decrease with the institutionalisation of advanced democracy. India had remained world’s fastest growing economy in 2018, which means rapid development is under progress. Therefore it becomes crucial to understand what challenges corruption poses before us that can hinder our growth into a 5 trillion dollar economy.
History of Corruption in India
To understand the advent of corruption in the daily life of an Indian and how it originated in the nation, we need to go back to the pre-colonial era of the Indian history. India as we know it today was far from what it was back under the various Rajput, Hindu or Muslim rulers who ruled the sub-continent.
The entire territory was split into big and small kingdoms and empires feuding with each other for territorial and political influence in the region. Inequalities had been established in terms of social status, religion, gender and caste which gave rise to social evils, injustice and malpractices.
When the British merchants arrived in the 1700’s, they exploited these socioeconomic and territorial divisions to gain monopoly of the land and human resources. In their 200 years of rule, they further marginalised Indians and exploited them. India had become more of a territorial commodity for the British and to gain the maximum out of it, the private stockholders of India in both Britain and Bharat started to become corrupt.
Corruption was also utilised by Indians in an effort to please the British rulers and have a better social standing as compared to their fellow indigenous brothers. As the British rose in power, the Kingdoms of India became weaker and more corrupt.
Thereafter, when the Indians found themselves free of their British rulers, the young nation was left in a poor and pathetic state. What followed was the political leadership announcing the nation to be a democracy and incorporate the ‘License Raj’ to bring most of the economy under the regime of the government.
This further prompted private domestic and international companies to engage in corruption to secure places in the growing Indian market. Economic growth in India throughout the second half of the 20th century was painfully slow due to this.
Low salaries of government employees, excessive regulations, complex tax and licensing systems, opaque bureaucracy, lack of opportunities, discretionary powers, government monopoly, and an antiquated legal system with a lack of transparent laws and processes further contributed to the already infamous and growing system of corruption that is prevalent in modern India.
Major Forms of Corruption in India
How the system of corruption works in a country is directly dependent on the laws of the nation. In India, there are six major forms by which corruption reins the private and the public organisations which are listed as follows:
This is the act of withholding of funds and assets from being used for their specific purpose and rather converting it to use for self-benefit. This is basically theft of organisation’s money and is enlisted as a financial fraud. It occurs when either the employee steals from the employer in private organisations or public officials misappropriating public resources which were meant for the welfare of the common and utilising it for their personal use.
This is a type of exclusive favouritism for one’s own family, relatives or friends when it comes to granting employment in various sectors. The Nehru-Gandhi family is one of the biggest examples of political nepotism. In the film industry, the established directors prefer giving a break to children of renowned actors only. This does not only increase corruption, but also demotivates talented individuals and leaders by denying them opportunities to showcase their potential.
Conflict of Interest
The most common denominator when it comes to corruption is this form. This is closely associated with authorities in procurement positions. It occurs when a person or a group find an opportunity to exploit the resources of the organisation for their personal benefit rather than using it for the well-being of the organisation.
This arises from the natural tendency of a man to favour the ones who are closer to him. This includes people who share common ideologies, social backgrounds or have mutual benefit from each other. In the government and administration, it is seen in the form of a Hindu leader appointing a Hindu person at a high ranking post in political parties, or a leader belonging to a certain lingual group putting the interest of his ethnicity over national interest. Such favouritism is bound to have negative impact of the communal harmony of the nation.
Using deceit, swindle or deception to steal money and resources is termed as fraud. This is another of the financial crimes that are linked with corruption. Frauds involve manipulation or distortion of information, facts and expertise by public officials for their personal advantage. Chit fund scams are a prime example of frauds in India.
This is the form of unofficial and illegal payment in the form of cash currency to get a job done or bypass the legal framework. This is a rampant crime that has given rise to corruption at every environment in India. Starting from a few hundred rupees to escape traffic challans to a few hundred crores to gain permits for construction of illegal commercial buildings. All this money which was meant to be paid for the development of the nation turns into black money thereafter and causes huge economic loss for the country.
Reasons of Corruption in India
While it can be easily concluded that the sole motive of corrupt individuals is to gain monetary or resource benefits to achieve personal aims or satisfy their luxurious desires while deceiving the public and utilising their hard earned money for themselves, the reasons of corruption are much more than this. One can broadly classify them into the following categories-
Political: The faction or organisation that holds the political powers of a region is considered to be the most powerful human of the region. To achieve this, political parties and candidates utilise black money in almost every aspect of elections. In fact, in the 2019 general elections, the ECI banned voting n Vellore Constituency due to political parties flexing their money muscle.
Another way we see corruption creep into polity is through the criminals who are allowed to contest elections while cases remain pending against them. Crony capitalism is also a leading cause of political corruption and has led to the establishment of a nexus between businessmen and government officials.
Economic: Economic corruption is an offspring of three major reasons. Firstly, the larger section of the working force (about 80%), is involved in the informal sector and use bribery as a mode of getting things done. Adding to this, due to the several paper works and licensing, ease of business is difficult in India and start-ups find it easier to pay bribes to get their projects approved rather than following the regular norms.
Administrative: Political criminalization and bureaucratic politicisation when combined together gives a these individuals a perfect infusion for misuse of their state powers. This includes colonial bureaucracy, low wages and judicial failure.
Social and Ethical: The three most impactful social and ethical failures are in the form of the current education system which has been unable to inculcate moral sense in the current citizens. Furthermore, social discrimination involving marginalising the poor sections and depriving them of privileges is also responsible. Finally, change in the lifestyle and shifting of goals becoming more individualistic and materialistic has caused people to fall for corruption.
Consequences of Corruption in India
The worst impact that corruption has on the society is that it destroys the very fabrics of social and moral grounds on which it was woven. The government loses its credibility if they continue to focus on their personal needs before the welfare of the needy people.
It not only worsens the economy, but also boosts poverty and hunger in the lower classes. Welfare schemes and development policies, all become irrelevant as the funds and resources allocated for these programmes are being used for satisfying some politician’s needs.
It also has a negative impact on the business and investment sector. The higher the corruption in a country, the lesser is the ease of doing business. Global Competitive Index survey has time and again pointed out that private sector still finds corruption as a major hindrance of doing business in India.
Additionally, illegal lobbying has led to an elite bias amongst the businessmen and politicians who tend to use favouritism and nepotism to promote either their own business or of their close friends and relatives. This further has bad implications on the ecological health of the region as illegal constructions are sanctioned via corrupt officials who lead to encroachment of forests and green cover.
Corruption also leaves military and paramilitary forces in a state of jeopardy. Historically, the governments at the centre have been accused of corruption in various defence procurement deals. This not only ruins the relations between countries and ruins the image of India at an international level, but also weakens our armed forces which are already in need of modernisation.
Aggravating the situation are the corrupt officers and personnel who blatantly use favouritism and bribery to secure more authoritative positions for them. Amongst the police and law enforcement agencies, bribes, fake encounters and non-registry of criminal cases is rampant, especially amongst the fielded personnel who usually let offenders go for mere money. They come under the influence of the corrupt ministers and often, thus making them benefactors of injustice, instead of protectors.
As consumers, we too are responsible for corruption. In cases of bribery mostly, a public official will not accept money as long as we are not offering them any. But unfortunately, the general population like to settle things unofficially when being caught or charged.
When paying the bribes, the consumers forget that due to the shortages caused by the circulation of black money, the nation’s development slows down and it is the consumers themselves who have to bear the cost of production ultimately. As per various estimates, the parallel economy running in India due to black money is almost about 50% of the GDP of the country.
The more we contribute towards this practice, the lesser the government will have to build us a better nation which would lead to worsening of the available resources for the population. It is high time we take action to prevent these mishaps.
Be it political, legal, administrative, corporate or any other system, all have been practising corruption in one form or the other. Not many can argue that corruption is not deep rooted in India. But thankfully, people have identified these roots and are gradually working their way towards them.
A realisation at political, social and economic level is definitely vital, but what is more important is a realisation at the individual level. Thanks to the anti-corruption laws and acts like Prevention of corruption Act 1988, Benami property Act 1988 and Central Vigilance commission Act 2003, corruption has been curtailed to a decent extent.
Furthermore, provisions have been made to safeguard the ones who expose such unlawful activities under the Whistle blower Act, 2014. To maintain transparency, the Right to Information Act, 2003 mandates proactive disclosure of the information and digitization of the records. Finally, the Lokpal and Lokyukta Bill 2013 have been passed to ensure corruption cases are given special attention.
Therefore, we cannot blame the government for not trying to fix the situation in this case. It is us as the citizens of the largest democracy who are responsible equally as well. It is our duty to stay vigilant, refrain from corrupt practices and provide moral and ethical education to the future generation as it is us who will one day occupy great offices in the political, economic and administrative department of public and private sectors. If we are able to eradicate corruption at our personnel level, it will magnify at national level and maybe then India can grow into a developed nation at a faster rate.