New Delhi: Corruption has virtually enveloped India, growing annually by over 100 percent, but systemic graft can be ended for good, says a new book by two economic experts.
Bibek Debroy and Laveesh Bhandari also warn that while India has not been reduced to a kleptocracy, "it appears to be well on its way to becoming one".
"Undoubtedly corruption has taken over India," they say in their well-researched book titled ‘Corruption in India: The DNA and the RNA’ (Konark Publishers) that was released Thursday.
"It rules over the country with its stranglehold in every aspect of the state and consequently in all aspects of life of citizens."
Debroy is a professor with Delhi`s Centre for Policy Research. Bhandari heads Indicus Analytics monitoring the performance of the Indian economy.
The authors say that corruption and bribery have become "a common language, a universally recognized medium of interaction and transaction between the citizens and the government..."
While "lower level bureaucracy and police thrive on bribes and baksheesh, higher level (depend) on grease money and scams...
"The state withers away and in many parts of India what is left of the state, it appears, is only held together due to corruption and a sophisticated system of sharing the spoils."
But the authors argue that Indians are not corrupt by nature.
"Indians aren`t necessarily corrupt when they live and work in other countries that have relatively corruption-free environments. Therefore, corruption is due to our economic policy-making."
Marshalling statistics, the authors say that big-time corruption has zoomed since the unleashing of economic reforms in 1991 which ironically ended the Licence Raj, otherwise always blamed for graft.
The total quantum of corruption money in 1990 stood at Rs 31,546 crore (USD 6.3 billion), shooting up to Rs 100,095 crore (USD 20.01 billion) in 2000 and to a much higher Rs 461,548 crore (USD 92.3 billion) a decade later.
The book says that once corruption "is understood, its foundation figured out and its mechanism deciphered, it is possible to address most forms of corruption simply and effectively.
"Ad hoc approaches, or those driven more by emotion rather than a systematic understanding, may succeed in reducing corruption but at a very high cost to the economy and society."
Technology, the authors say, "will play a vital role in India`s fight against corruption".
"Though sporadic corruption may be impossible to eliminate for all times to come, endemic or systemic corruption can be," the book says.
"Other countries have been able to largely address the problem, though it may have taken sustained action and many tries.
"In the end, corruption will be eliminated from India through political action driven by political exigencies."
While the Indian voters may seem to have accepted at one level corruption as a fact of life, there was widespread disenchantment at another level.
"In all democratic countries, as history has shown, forces arise that make it difficult for corruption to be sustained."