How Long Will We Continue Tolerating Corruption
The issue of corruption keeps getting highlighted especially during elections. All parties say they are committed to its eradication but in reality we find it is more of a lip service then concrete action. It can only be hoped that with increased public awareness political parties will be more sensitive to selection of their candidates.
In many surveys it is observed that corruption does not many a time rank in the top three or five concerns in the common person's list of priorities. Issues like unemployment, prices, safety etc seem to be their main worries. Political parties are therefore quick to point out that corruption is not a big issue, although they will not say it openly. Lip service and standard sermons are routinely dished out on need to reduce or prevent corruption by the various political parties from time to time.
However in reality corruption is not only corrosive in nature but also creates and perpetuates injustice in the economic and social system of our country. The government and its employees are employed by the citizens to efficiently run the affairs of the country and optimally use the material, financial and human resources among other resources. In a developing country like ours government also has the social responsibility of looking after the economically weaker sections of the society.
What has been the experience till date starting from 1947 when we got an opportunity to form our own government at the Center and in the States? Judging by the response the anti corruption social activists got, it has been a story of repeated betrayal of trust by those in power whether political or in bureaucracy across all governments and officialdom in the country. Every time funds are embezzled it is a breach of the trust by the corrupt babu or the politician. The fraudulent appropriation of state funds for one's own use has been converted into a fine art. Like a plane flying below a certain height can escape detection by radars, corruption is also carried out in many strategic ways making its detection more and more difficult.
Corruption occurs at broadly two levels. Level one is where a citizen is in need of official documents like ration card, passport, birth or marriage certificate, driving licence, property card etc, absence of which will cause hardships or stop a process from moving forward. The concerned officials knowing the importance of these documents to the citizen demand a consideration in form of a bribe. It is also known as speed money because otherwise the documents may be issued at the will of the officials and after you are required to visit them many times.Therefore to ensure speedy delivery without any hitch one has to pay a bribe. The system has been perfected into a fine management like system.
When you go to these departments, generally you do not know where to start from or which window or official to contact. This is a deliberate ploy. Soon a person will approach you and introduce himself as an agent who can get things done for you. Knowing the system you are relieved that someone has come forward to help you. Soon he will tell you his all inclusive charges and there is no point in bargaining because that is the prevailing rate, take it or leave it. He will ask you for necessary papers and take your signature at appropriate places and tell you when you will get the document or it will be sent to your house address. Generally it is a foolproof method and rarely fails. One does not resist paying extra sum because one is interested in getting the document. To hell with morals. That is the system. If you do not pay and insist on going directly you may face many troubles and have to pay multiple visits. Thus it is overall cost beneficial to pay extra.
This lower level corruption involves large volume of interactions transacted at relatively low costs. It is Chinese style of mass production, low labor costs but high volumes. The turn over runs into very high figures. It is shared within the hierarchy and everyone is happy. Rarely any one is caught or exposed. It has become socially accepted and the involved officials do not feel ashamed. It is so very normal and has now become part of our culture. There is hardly any citizen who at one time or the other would not have paid a bribe to get above documents. Exceptions will always be there.
It is the second type of corruption which is more harmful in nature. It occurs at higher levels, involves multiple agencies, is meticulously planned and skillfully executed. It is planned embezzlement of public funds by those holding positions of power. The siphoned money is used for personal enrichment and is used to buy benami properties and also sent into foreign accounts. Thus white money gets converted into black money. Also it goes out of the system and reduces the overall availability of funds from the national kitty. The country is poorer by the magnitude of the funds fraudulently embezzled every year and year after year.
It is this form of corruption that is responsible for the poor condition of roads in our cities and towns, for the dirty and stinking garbage lying all around us, for the poor quality of government school and hospital buildings, for the poor state of intra and inter state bus transport systems and so on. All around us we see poor quality of government infrastructure. We are terribly surprised if we see an A class government building, so used are we to seeing shabby structures. No sooner is a public project announced all concerned start finding ways of milking it to the maximum. In the process the quality of the asset to be created suffers, but who cares.
There is a joke in my city. A statue of Rana Pratap was commissioned by the municipality. When it was installed it turned out to be almost half the actual height. Where had the balance height gone to. Your guess is as good as mine. Soon there was an agitation and a new statue befitting the great king and as per his actual height had to be installed. This was a case of visible corruption. The executioner of the project will compromise on quality to adjust for the funds he is required to share with others.
Therein lies the sad story of our various government projects. The huge subsidy schemes announced for the poor end up enriching the in between channels who benefit hugely and the poor remain poor. What a sad system we have not only created but successfully sustained over the years. They have now a vice like grip over the system. They will not allow a transparent system to develop. They have amassed huge sums of money which can be used to buy anyone they desire. The RTI is a strong weapon, but many activists have lost their lives to the corrupt mafia. They have been hugely benefited and will go to any length to continue doing so.
Does it mean corruption is here to stay? Unfortunately yes, because we are a highly tolerant society worried only about ourselves. If my work gets done by hook are crook I am not bothered about the system. It is this selfish attitude that has cumulatively converted us into a mammoth vegetable who are easily exploited by corrupt politicians and officials. We go and vote again and again for corrupt politicians and are afraid to take on corrupt officials. Individually we complain and in a group we become impotent.
I have traveled to many countries and have seen how smart, clean and efficient there systems appear and work. True there is some corruption there also but the common man is not harassed. The scale is miniscule compared to India and does not impact the country's progress. The quality of life is thus much elevated and dignified.
India is today in the hands of invisible corrupt mafias who are robbing the citizens of their dignity by forcing them to be corrupt and in turn look the other way when they are robbing the state. A dispirited nation will elect weak representatives who will not tackle corruption but many of them may buckle before it.
What is the solution? I wish I knew. But if individually we resist corruption we may be able to make a severe dent. Also trials should be expedited and punishments awarded fast. Also the illegal property of the corrupt persons upon conviction should be confiscated by the state.
Can Indians be proud of themselves and thus the idea of India or continue to accept corruption as inevitable price of being born in India.
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