3 things everyone can do about corruption

Why is corruption such a big deal? India’s GDP is growing at 7-9% per annum, and presumably will continue to blaze along for some time. So, why fret about corruption when things are looking rosy? What are we complaining about? Don’t we have more important things to do than (Jan) Lokpal bill? We’ve been mired in corruption for 50 out of 65 years. What’s another few years? Is it even possible to fix it? Can this Pavlovian reflex that causes the reaching out of hands under tables and behind closed doors into another man’s pocket be cured?

Beyond the moral aspect, there are tangible and economic reasons as to why corruption belongs at the top of the list of issues India has to confront now.

The Numbers

India’s GDP (est) in 2010

  • Based on real exchange rate: $1.5 Trillion (Rank 12th in the world)
  • Based on purchasing power parity: $4 Trillion and change (Rank 5th in the world)
  • Growth rate: 8.3% (Rank: 7th in the world)

According to these key metrics, we’ve done well. In fact, outstandingly well.  So, why bother?

Why we should care

In the world of economics, capitalism and free markets, the past only evokes admiration and an occasional eulogy. The future is everything. The question that will be in front of us over the coming decade: How long can we keep this up? The answer lies in how we fix our problems. And if we do not fix the fixable, the future will be easy to predict. And, it won’t look pretty.

There are some good reasons to care about corruption:

1. It’s a tax and it destroys morale. Corruption introduces enormous inefficiencies. It raises the cost of living for all except the corrupt. It’s demoralizes the talented and hardworking amongst us.

2. Will growth slow corruption or corruption slow growth? The answer is yes to both. If we don’t kill corruption, we won’t be able to grow. If we don’t grow, we won’t be able to kill corruption.

3. Perception is bigger than reality: We are no longer a sheltered economy living in our own shadows. We are on the global stage. We have to assure our potential partners that we are serious and that they will be treated fairly. It is a mark of leadership. A corrupt nation cannot be a world leader.

3 things everyone can do on this journey

  1. Take a side: It doesn’t really matter which side. If you don’t like Anna, go find someone else who’s worthy of your support. Whatever you do, you cannot stay silent. Dialogue is the life blood of a democracy. As good citizens of this country, we owe it our voices.
  2. Say No to incompetency:  It is said that power corrupts. It‘s perhaps important to realize that incompetency too corrupts. Power corrupts the few, while incompetency corrupts the many. Those unwilling to subject themselves to the tough realities of merit and hard work, resort to corruption. Insist on a job well done, especially if you’ve had to pay them for it!
  3. Try the “rupee for rupee matching contribution” experiment:  Indira Gandhi once supposedly remarked, “Corruption is a global phenomenon” as a way to explain corruption away. We’ve glorified such leaders. These chickens have been roosting for decades, and it will take effort and time to root them out.  While you fight the good fight, how can you tell if your efforts are paying off? Try this: For every rupee you pay as “bribe”, pay yourself a matching rupee. Consider this your corruption provident fund. The size of this fund over time will give you an idea if we’re winning or losing. It’s easy to do. Worst case, you’ll have money to buy a few drinks and drown your sorrows if things take a little longer.

12 Replies to “3 things everyone can do about corruption”

  1.   Is it a truism to say that the movement against corruption so ably led by Annaji is the by-product of middle-class exploitation, (a class hitherto, mere indifferent on-lookers, ignored and taken for granted)by an arrogant and spineless gov  ernment, as  the Independance of 1947 , is a by-product of economic, social and political exploitation by a foreign power. We had valid reasons to condone the latter as the British had an axe to grind and bled our nation blue. . But the former  is a crude betrayal of our own kith and kin, by persons (we regret  in hind sight) who hold position and power, thanks to a flawed electoral system which is no longer relevant or valid.
          If every one of us feelthat we arte Indians first and then only, Maharashtrians, Bengalis, Madrasis etc, then every thing will fall in its place. This beautiful fabric of Indian polity, wonderfully brought  about by the master plan of Sri Sardar Vallabhai Patel as National Integration, gave way to disinegration, the moment Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in his wisdom conceived  the disastrous policy of division of the nation-state based on linguistic consideratio9n. Though well intentioned by him, he failed to foresee the dismal consequences which led ultimately to further sub-divisio9n based on caste, communities, religion etc. We are at each other's throat.
          Fighting corruption which is well entrenched  in our system is a garguntuan task and Annaji's movement has conveniently made political parties piggy-back on it to serve their own purpose. The Congress party, which refuses to see beyond its nose is as much at fault as BJP, which, stoutly denying its connection, fails to cut its umbilical chord with RSS (Rashtria Swayam Sevak Sangh), which only means National Self Defence Party. To call the bluff of Congress , if only BJP dis-associates itself officially and truly from RSS it can get a lot of mileage, though I doubt whether they mean what they proclaim while supporting Annaji..
          In the ultimate analysis, eradication of corruption, which is a time consuming process, is a Goal to be achieved by several kicks and shots, staRTING WITH BASIC ELECTORAL REFORMS.
          The Indian Constitution, which has been raped several times by political parties to serve their own purpose needs a thorough overhaul, even  at this late hour and the task of redrawing it should be entrusted to eminent men of integrity, chaired by the Constitution  Bench of the Supreme  Court  and may comprise of Chief Justices of All state High Courts which will give it a semblance of geographical representation. Self-efacing personalities like Infosys Mr Narayanamurthy, Ex-President Abdul Kalam, eminent luminaries, Industrialists of long-standing, Academecians etc should constitute two-thirds of its membersghip and the balance one-third  should be, unfortunately , by National Political   Parties (which have a sizable presence  atleast in 5 or 6 states), which to our misfortune has to run the system, once it is in place . Regional parties should be scrupulouly excluded as also representatives of  vested interests  like caste based reservations, which has been the bane of our democratic country. The Constitution, in its wisdom gave a life span of 10 years only  for such reservations and it has perpetuated itself thanks to our regional political parties. We should also be not averse to giving  representations to  Social Activists, who are eminent and unbiased in their faith and beliefs…
          The basic tenet of corruption in public life as a means to enriching oneself should be made a criminal offence punishable with maximum Capital punishment and confiscation of 4 to 5 times the amount of enrichment and the adjudication proceedings  should be completed within 9 to 12 months from the date of FIR. The adjudicated corrupt should be banned for life   from contesting any election and also hold any office of profit at either the minicipal, district, stae or national levels. The bonafides  of the bribe-giver should be scrupulously investigated  by the designated body  and if found to be deserving , the benefit for which  bribe nad has made him a victim of circumstances, should be condoned and not punished.
          The Investigating Agency (like CBI or any other name) should be made a Consitutional Body  answerable  only to the Constitutional Bench referred to earlier.
          Elections to stae legislatuers and Parliament should be stae-funded and should be held , not once in 5 years, but every three years to put the fear of god in the elected representatives. Or in the alternative, 25 or 33 percent of the state legislatures and Lok Sabhs (MPs from each stae) should be elected every year. This will defitely pay for itself compared to the level of corruption  prevalent to-day. Apart from this legal provisions should be made to vest the public with the POWER OF RECALL , both for the centre and the states.
          The media which has contributed substantially for the successa of the Anna movent should be well-advised to restrain  themselves  and not become partisans  to the issues  espoused.
          Last but not the least, Social Activists Like Annaji should espouse only causes which deserve URGENT public attention and not fritter away  their energy  on frivolous campaigns, not calling for the  type of crusade he has so successfully accomplished. Frequent resort to this NUCLEAR LIKE  DEVICE OF AGITATION will otherwise  lose its significance and efficacy,

  2.   Is it a truism to say that the movement against corruption so ably led by Annaji is the by-product of middle-class exploitation, (a class hitherto, mere indifferent on-lookers, ignored and taken for granted)by an arrogant and spineless gov  ernment, as  the Independance of 1947 , is a by-product of economic, social and political exploitation by a foreign power. We had valid reasons to condone the latter as the British had an axe to grind and bled our nation blue. . But the former  is a crude betrayal of our own kith and kin, by persons (we regret  in hind sight) who hold position and power, thanks to a flawed electoral system which is no longer relevant or valid.
          If every one of us feelthat we arte Indians first and then only, Maharashtrians, Bengalis, Madrasis etc, then every thing will fall in its place. This beautiful fabric of Indian polity, wonderfully brought  about by the master plan of Sri Sardar Vallabhai Patel as National Integration, gave way to disinegration, the moment Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in his wisdom conceived  the disastrous policy of division of the nation-state based on linguistic consideratio9n. Though well intentioned by him, he failed to foresee the dismal consequences which led ultimately to further sub-divisio9n based on caste, communities, religion etc. We are at each other's throat.
          Fighting corruption which is well entrenched  in our system is a garguntuan task and Annaji's movement has conveniently made political parties piggy-back on it to serve their own purpose. The Congress party, which refuses to see beyond its nose is as much at fault as BJP, which, stoutly denying its connection, fails to cut its umbilical chord with RSS (Rashtria Swayam Sevak Sangh), which only means National Self Defence Party. To call the bluff of Congress , if only BJP dis-associates itself officially and truly from RSS it can get a lot of mileage, though I doubt whether they mean what they proclaim while supporting Annaji..
          In the ultimate analysis, eradication of corruption, which is a time consuming process, is a Goal to be achieved by several kicks and shots, staRTING WITH BASIC ELECTORAL REFORMS.
          The Indian Constitution, which has been raped several times by political parties to serve their own purpose needs a thorough overhaul, even  at this late hour and the task of redrawing it should be entrusted to eminent men of integrity, chaired by the Constitution  Bench of the Supreme  Court  and may comprise of Chief Justices of All state High Courts which will give it a semblance of geographical representation. Self-efacing personalities like Infosys Mr Narayanamurthy, Ex-President Abdul Kalam, eminent luminaries, Industrialists of long-standing, Academecians etc should constitute two-thirds of its membersghip and the balance one-third  should be, unfortunately , by National Political   Parties (which have a sizable presence  atleast in 5 or 6 states), which to our misfortune has to run the system, once it is in place . Regional parties should be scrupulouly excluded as also representatives of  vested interests  like caste based reservations, which has been the bane of our democratic country. The Constitution, in its wisdom gave a life span of 10 years only  for such reservations and it has perpetuated itself thanks to our regional political parties. We should also be not averse to giving  representations to  Social Activists, who are eminent and unbiased in their faith and beliefs…
          The basic tenet of corruption in public life as a means to enriching oneself should be made a criminal offence punishable with maximum Capital punishment and confiscation of 4 to 5 times the amount of enrichment and the adjudication proceedings  should be completed within 9 to 12 months from the date of FIR. The adjudicated corrupt should be banned for life   from contesting any election and also hold any office of profit at either the minicipal, district, stae or national levels. The bonafides  of the bribe-giver should be scrupulously investigated  by the designated body  and if found to be deserving , the benefit for which  bribe nad has made him a victim of circumstances, should be condoned and not punished.
          The Investigating Agency (like CBI or any other name) should be made a Consitutional Body  answerable  only to the Constitutional Bench referred to earlier.
          Elections to stae legislatuers and Parliament should be stae-funded and should be held , not once in 5 years, but every three years to put the fear of god in the elected representatives. Or in the alternative, 25 or 33 percent of the state legislatures and Lok Sabhs (MPs from each stae) should be elected every year. This will defitely pay for itself compared to the level of corruption  prevalent to-day. Apart from this legal provisions should be made to vest the public with the POWER OF RECALL , both for the centre and the states.
          The media which has contributed substantially for the successa of the Anna movent should be well-advised to restrain  themselves  and not become partisans  to the issues  espoused.
          Last but not the least, Social Activists Like Annaji should espouse only causes which deserve URGENT public attention and not fritter away  their energy  on frivolous campaigns, not calling for the  type of crusade he has so successfully accomplished. Frequent resort to this NUCLEAR LIKE  DEVICE OF AGITATION will otherwise  lose its significance and efficacy,

  3. Yes, in this fast paced world, when everything in life is moving in the fast lane, 5 years does seem like an eternity to get things done by our elected representatives. This should be cut down to 3 years (2 would be too short, in these times).  If their intentions are right (and good) and plans are made, with technology aids and skills that are available, execution should take much less time than what it used to take a few decades ago – for any size and kind of project.  Teh tiem limit would also add pressure to get things done sooner and better.

  4. Yes, in this fast paced world, when everything in life is moving in the fast lane, 5 years does seem like an eternity to get things done by our elected representatives. This should be cut down to 3 years (2 would be too short, in these times).  If their intentions are right (and good) and plans are made, with technology aids and skills that are available, execution should take much less time than what it used to take a few decades ago – for any size and kind of project.  Teh tiem limit would also add pressure to get things done sooner and better.

  5. Yes, in this fast paced world, when everything in life is moving in the fast lane, 5 years does seem like an eternity to get things done by our elected representatives. This should be cut down to 3 years (2 would be too short, in these times).  If their intentions are right (and good) and plans are made, with technology aids and skills that are available, execution should take much less time than what it used to take a few decades ago – for any size and kind of project.  Teh tiem limit would also add pressure to get things done sooner and better.

  6. Yes, in this fast paced world, when everything in life is moving in the fast lane, 5 years does seem like an eternity to get things done by our elected representatives. This should be cut down to 3 years (2 would be too short, in these times).  If their intentions are right (and good) and plans are made, with technology aids and skills that are available, execution should take much less time than what it used to take a few decades ago – for any size and kind of project.  Teh tiem limit would also add pressure to get things done sooner and better.

  7. Posting this comment almost 9 months later. Political parties are definitely not interested in ridding themselves of corruption – either because it is too lucrative for them or their election fund or because corrupt individuals hold them to ransom and would ditch them in a hurry to join the opposition if anyone tried to bring them to justice. People know what corruption does and yearn for a corruption-free India but how would you motivate them to come out onto the streets again? I believe they still respect the IAC but the momentum and anger seems to have gone.

  8. Posting this comment almost 9 months later. Political parties are definitely not interested in ridding themselves of corruption – either because it is too lucrative for them or their election fund or because corrupt individuals hold them to ransom and would ditch them in a hurry to join the opposition if anyone tried to bring them to justice. People know what corruption does and yearn for a corruption-free India but how would you motivate them to come out onto the streets again? I believe they still respect the IAC but the momentum and anger seems to have gone.

  9. And posting my response at some ridiculously late time after your comment.. sorry (again). History of developed nations tells us that corruption wanes when the % of middle class population approaches 50pct. THen virtuous cycles kick in – ie people vote responsibly, demand accountability and penalize inappropriate behavior.. we’re still ways off in getting there in India. Thanks for reading and writing back. Appreciate it!

  10. And posting my response at some ridiculously late time after your comment.. sorry (again). History of developed nations tells us that corruption wanes when the % of middle class population approaches 50pct. THen virtuous cycles kick in – ie people vote responsibly, demand accountability and penalize inappropriate behavior.. we’re still ways off in getting there in India. Thanks for reading and writing back. Appreciate it!

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