The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, April 16, 2000

Anatomy of corruption

REFER to the article "Anatomy of Corruption" by S.L. Sharma (March 26). The degree of corruption in our country in the recent years has acquired frightening proportions.

After mid-seventies, the rulers of the country started distancing themselves from Mahatma Gandhi’s slogan of ‘simple living and high thinking’. They became busy in filling their own coffers with huge amounts of illegal wealth. Their greed influenced the bureaucrats and the middle classes also. They followed the unethical ways of the political leadership. The nineties of the last century saw the opening of the gates of the country for globalisation and liberalisation. Political leaders were accused of looting thousands of crores of rupees in different scams and scandals. Not a single corrupt politician has been punished so far. This has led to a general belief that "corruption is never punished" and has encouraged corruption in other walks of life.

The common people also know this bitter reality. So they let themselves be fleeced of their hard-earned money by booking clerks at railway stations, by clever conductors in buses and greedy owners of different private agencies. They can’t get their First Information Reports (FIRs) registered at police stations without giving some bribe. This is the grim reality of the present-day India.




Corruption in public life is not new. In other countries, in the past and at present, people in power have been corrupt and immoral. On being found, they hide their faces, walk out of public life, flee the country and occasionally commit suicide.

However in India the corrupt walk majestically to court, dressed up in their Sunday best, acknowledging people’s greetings. Whatever the people may say in coffee houses and seminars, they show respect and awe to the corrupt. They vote them to power; they genuflect before them; they seek favours from them which they know is not their due. This group psyche is a very infertile soil for the growth of public morality.

Unless this sick segment is treated as moral lepers and avoided as such, the direction of their movement will remain unchanged. In that climate, they will avoid only the pitfalls of law. Except for President Nixon, in the world of liberal democracies, no leader has ever tried to seek shelter behind the technicalities of law, and the world knows how the people of America treated Nixon and his tapes.

The question is where do we go from here? The answer rests neither with the law nor with the Constitution nor with the courts. We have, in theory at least, an ideal legal and constitutional system. We have only to create a different Indian who will be in tolerant to corruption and system debasement. No legislative measures can generate a cultural stream which can save us from the character crises we are facing. A good legal order in society issues from a good moral order amongst the people.

The anonymous sovereign of all societies is the nameless common man. His voting ways, his submission or non-submission to an unjust or corrupt system, the fears of his revolt against injustice, his possible indifference and contempt for the unworthy and the corrupt in public life — these are the ultimate determinants of the type of political leader and political system and the quality of public administration we will have. Not laws, lawyers, and judges. They are all agencies for punishment, not of moral and social change.



From Kashmir to Kanayakumari and from Dwarka to Dibrugarh, corruption rules the roost in this land of Gandhi, Nehru and Jayaprakash Narayan.

Nehru was far away from corruption. But why should so clean a Prime Minister have tolerated unclean Chief Ministers in states?

In Govind Ballabh Pant’s Uttar Pradesh, we have heard of Mayawati who had even taken advances out of the contingency fund of the state to build more Ambedkar parks and statues.

And Mulayam Singh Yadav recklessly spent a whopping Rs 23.6 crore on IAF planes for his "non-defence" visits to Lucknow during his 21-month tenure as India’s defence minister. This is corruption, pure and simple.

In Bihar, Laloo Prasad Yadav is involved in Rs 950-crore fodder scam, a sari dhoti scam and much more. In Tamil Nadu, Jayalalitha is the "empress of corruption". This does not, however, give a clean chit to Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, for his past and present financial bungling. Nor can P. Chidambram of the Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) justify his act of purchasing Fair growth shares out of the promoters’ quota when he was the country’s commerce minister.

Bureaucrats too are sailing in the same boat. Files in government offices never move unless a currency note is attached with them. These are the chinks in our politico administrative armour. The sooner these are repaired, the better would it be the health of the nation.