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All about Corruption Politics And Democracy

It has become all-pervasive and entered every aspect of life to such an extent that it is now regarded as a fact of life and an evil we have to live with. In fact, a time has come when very few eyebrows are raised when we are informed of a case of blatant bribery; it is so common, so usual and all too familiar. We give and take bribes in the sphere of education, government and private service, all branches of administration, trade and commerce, industrial activity; scrupulous-honesty is rare; even temples and other places of worship are not free of it. Most of our politicians and legislators indulge in it without any qualms of conscience.

The great philosopher and reformer Edmund Burke warned the world in the 18th century that corrupt influence, which is itself the perennial spring of all prodigality and of all disorder; which loads us, more than millions of debt; which takes away vigor from our arms, wisdom from our councils and every shadow of authority and credit from the most vulnerable parts of our Constitution is a fast growing evil. The conclusion has, in fact, been drawn that there was never anything devised by the wit of man which, in course of time, has not been corrupted. At one time, it was said that a society in which there is corruption cannot survive long, but this has proved to be a myth. Corruption has continued, and even increased beyond measure, even as democracy has spread and civilization has advanced; so it can no longer be asserted that democracy and corruption are incompatible; both are developing fast, and simultaneously, and as far as human vision can go this duality will continue. Hasn’t the time come to accept this menace as inevitable, incurable, almost as the price of socialism, progress and civilization?

It is all right to preach honesty and purity in life, but the preachers either live in a world far removed from reality, or are themselves hypocrites, talking of one thing but doing another, as if their left hand does not know what their right hand does-a veritable case of Jekyll and Hyde “split personality”.

It is also wholly incorrect to say that our ancestors were fully honest people and that we should, therefore, follow their example. A close study of history shows that deception; dishonesty, conspiracy and corruption in various spheres of life have existed all through the ages. Chanakya, the Machiavelli of India and the celebrated author of Arthashastra (which has been described as the manual of government in the times of the Mauryas), specifically mentions 40 types of ways of embezzling government property. Obviously, if corruption and embezzlement had not existed in those good old days, Chanakya would not have discussed this question in such detail. Graft and corruption have also been common during Mughal rule, during the regime of the East India Company, and during British rule also, though the opportunities for offering open bribes were fewer. During the rule of the white “sahibs”, the favors were secured through other ways-“dalis” for the “memsahib”, receptions to officers on one pretext or the other and ever so many subtle ways to please the super bosses and bring them round step by step.

It is true, however, that the opportunities for bribery and palm-greasing have increased greatly with the dawn of Independence, and the growth of democracy and industry, the system of licenses and ‘permits for setting up enterprises, securing quotas of raw materials, imports and exports and expansion of trade and commerce. Consequently, the types of corruption have increased a thousand fold; the panorama is vast and baffling and beyond control, however loud the talk of anti-corruption measures, stringent laws and of deterrent sentences. Every few years there is much discussion of this problem, which is described as the foremost issue in the country; corruption is condemned as a cancer in society, but then there is silence; the flush of enthusiasm fades away and life goes on in the same way. The focus of attention shifts to other more pressing problems of bread and butter and of political survival; of new ministers and new parties and politicians, of enquiries and commissions and political witch-hunting, of majorities and minorities in Parliament and State legislatures.

Perhaps, the most ironic comment on the modern channels and types of corruption was by Mr. K. Santhanam, Chairman of the Committee for Prevention of Corruption, appointed by the government ofIndia some years ago. The ultimate sources of corruption, according to him, are (a) Ministers, (b) legislators, (c) political parties’ (d) industrialists and merchants who seek favors from these three and are willing to pay for them. Item 6 of the terms of reference of the Committee win revealing by itself-“to suggest measures calculated to produce a Nodal climate, both among public servants and in the general public, in which bribery and corruption may not flourish”. This was an indirect admission that bribery and corruption were indeed flourishing among public servants and also the general public.

The observations made by the Committee in this connection are significant, because they stress one of the main sources of graft in the country, and also the fact that this source has not been tackled by the government. There is a large consensus of opinion, said the Committee, that a new tradition of integrity can be established only if the example is set by those who have the ultimate responsibility for the governance of India, namely the ministers of the Central and State governments. The problem is indeed difficult and delicate. Ministers are the leaders of the political party which, by virtue of being in a majority or a partner in a coalition set-up, constitute the government. The Committee said that there was a widespread impression that failure of integrity is not uncommon among ministers and that some ministers who have held office for 10 to 15 years or so “have enriched themselves illegitimately, obtained good jobs for their sons and relations through nepotism, and have reaped other advantages inconsistent with any notion of purity in public life”. The Committee felt that the general belief about the lack of integrity among ministers is as damaging as actual failure.