Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Anatomy of Corruption

In India corruption has become a commonplace. Corruption is a word which every single politician swears to eradicate but few could resist the temptation once they jump into the political akkhada. Politics is a full time profession not a part-time activity. Once they become aware of how to make right moves they start doing political wrongs to make their politics more saleable. Politics is a commodity whose sale-ability depends on right kind of marketing. Politics has become like a long term investment: invest now to reap rich dividends later. This investment is made with the help of masses in the form of material deployment. India’s unlettered and in some cases lettered lot doesn’t understand that this timely and temporary windfall will bring them five years of misery. Once such an aspirant gets elected, masses feel the heat. Meeting your ‘favourite local politician’ becomes a nightmarish experience. The man who had all the time under the sun to hear your grievances shows his importance; the man who always smiled at you with folded hands refuses to recognize you.

It’s natural for any investor to expect rich dividends at the end of every quarter. Same applies to the politics also. Those who have made an investment in politics are naturally more interested in filling their pockets first. The rest, if they have some mercy, goes for the ‘development’ of their constituency.

Nobody can satiate a politician’s hunger for money. In India political eating has become a ritual rather than rarity. But smart politicians always eat in moderation because they know overindulgence might result in political stomachaches which is not good for the whole body politic.

The stupid thing about democracy is that you go into the voting booth and push the button and you have fulfilled your duty. Now for the next five years you can sit back and allow your candidate whatever he wants.

According to Transparency International’s (Transparency International evaluates corruption around the world) Global Corruption Barometer released in 2004 India’s CPI (Corruption Perception Index) is abysmally low. India’s place in the CPI scorecard which ranges from “10 (Highly Clean) to Zero (Highly Corrupt)” is just between 2 and 3.

Late former cabinet secretary, Mr Dharm Vira has set an upright example about “kickbacks” in international deals when Nehru was the Prime Minister. Once he had gone abroad, heading a delegation, to purchase some aeroplane parts, when the entire negotiations concluded, the person on the other side of the table said, “Now, Mr Secretary, how would you like to take kickbacks? In whose name shall I make out the cheque?” Dharm Vira thought for a moment and replied, “Excellency, make it in the name of Government of India.” And so the foreign counterpart made out a cheque for the discount in the name of the government of India. When he came back, cheque was presented to Panditji. The Prime Minister was furious. He said, “What? You accepted a bribe in the form of a discount! It is a disgrace.” Dharm Vira shot back, “Panditji, what did you expect me to do? Take the cheque in my name and put it in secret Swiss account?” Panditji was silent.

Dharm Vira is dead but his legacy lives on. There are fewer honest politicians and bureaucrats but their number is dwindling day by day.

Constitutional expert Fali S. Nariman is of the opinion that to curb corruption we should “rely on ourselves, rely on NGOs, rely on courts and public-spirited individuals, rely on press and on whistle-blowers.”

In such a ‘tidal-wave situation’ what can we do?

The answer is truly European. The editor of a left-bank literary journal in France (Nouvelle Revue Francoise) was ousted by his own kinsmen who collaborated with the invading German Army in 1942. He joined the Resistance – and when asked what one French man could do against such heavy odds, he said:

You can squeeze a bee in your hand until it suffocates – it would suffocate after stinging you – that’s precious little, you will say, but if it did not sting you, bees would have become extinct a long time ago.

(This article has some inputs from Fali S. Nariman’s article)

No comments: