We are a corrupt nation

Last Updated: Dec 04, 2010, 09:50 AM IST

Ritesh K Srivastava

"Our economy may be increasingly dynamic, but our moral universe seems to be shrinking. Graft and greed are on the rise. The principles on which independent India was founded, for which a generation of great leaders fought and sacrificed their all, are in danger of being negated," Sonia Gandhi.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s recent comments over the rising cases of corruption depicts the darker picture of India, which despite its tremendous economic growth, still has the dubious reputation of being one of the most corrupt nations in the world.

As per the latest report by the global corruption watchdog Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, India has slipped three positions to being 87th among 187 countries.

TI measures the magnitude of corruption involving the public sector, officials, civil servants and politicians in individual nations across the globe and going by its latest report, India’s integrity score has also declined from 3.5 in 2007 to 3.3 in 2010.

Thanks to people like Suresh Kalmadi, A Raja, BS Yedyurappa, Ashok Chavan (the list is growing), India is gaining notoriety for all the wrong reasons.

Surely, the rising cases of corruption have seriously tarnished the country’s reputation as a rising global economic power. The alleged misappropriation of funds meant for public spending and welfare by a handful of influential people reflects the failure of successive governments to check corruption.

Even one of India’s known businessman Ratan Tata had hit the wall when it came to demands of the corrupt. In a startling revelation, he had disclosed that he was asked to pay a bribe of Rs 15 crore to get the license for launching a domestic airline. His views were endorsed by Bajaj Auto chairman Rahul Bajaj, who claimed that bribing by business houses is common in India.

Undoubtedly, the virus of corruption has slowly spread its roots into our political and bureaucratic system and those in power have freely plundered taxpayers’ money. And the sad part is that we as a nation have come to live with it, live with the fact that corruption is so pervasive in India that it is now impossible to detach this stigma from our country’s psyche.

Our PM may not belong to the league of corrupt, but he still faces the embarrassment of being the leader of a government which is under scrutiny for serious cases of corruption that have happened under his guard.

But why blame the politicians only? Corruption has seeped into the lives of common man too, as he “works” his way through the obstacles to get his work done.

What is even worse is the fact that even the institutions that were always perceived as incorruptible have come under the scanner. The judiciary, armed forces and the free media, all have been in one way or the other fallen prey to the menace.

Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a Washington-based think-tank, recently wrote about the degree of corruption in India. It said that during 2000-2008, an estimated USD 125 billion were illicitly siphoned out of the country. This sum could have been utilised for alleviating poverty and other welfare schemes. .

If we fail to check corruption and punish corrupt officials, the fruits of our economic progress will never reach the most backward, downtrodden and most neglected sections of our society.

We need to bring greater financial transparency, strengthen the anti-corruption mechanism and introduce stringent measures aimed at protecting the whistleblowers and those who have waged a war against corruption. However, our fight against corruption will be meaningless, unless we take a pledge to arrest the gradual erosion of morality from our day-to-day lives.

All these measures will ensure that as Indian economy grows stronger in future, the real fruits of development reach all sections of our society, the disparity in income levels declines and a society driven by values and strong fundamentals is created.