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Corruption exaggerated in India: Economist

Last Updated: Thursday, December 2, 2010 - 21:20

New Delhi: With spotlight being on corruption
and scams, internationally acclaimed economist Jagdish
Bhagwati told Indian MPs on Thursday that the corruption issue is
exaggerated in India which has delivered well on reforms.

"It is easy to exaggerate corruption we have today. In
India, public figures are considered to be corrupt unless they
prove to you otherwise. A blind man will tell you how he saw
`with his own eyes` a bribe being given and accepted",
Bhagwati said delivering the Hiren Mukherjee Memorial annual
Parliamentary lecture.
Corruption is found in several countries. "It is the
same play; actors are different," Bhagwati said in the
presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his junior in

The Columbia University Professor of Economics and Law
said the problem in India is that "nobody gets punished. In
America, if you are caught, even God can`t help you," he said.

Bhagwati did refer to the issues like 2G scams but said
the perception that everybody in public life is corrupt would
be "self-defeating".

Within days of Bihar voters giving a pronounced victory
to Nitish Kumar for his development agenda, Bhagwati shared
his thoughts on the subject with the Parliamentarians, who
need to live upto the rising aspirations.

"Aroused economic aspirations for betterment have led
to political demands for politicians to deliver yet more. This
suggests that voters will look to vote for the politicians who
can deliver growth...." he said, giving lavish compliments
to the Bihar Chief Minister.

Bhagwati, who is the brother of former Chief Justice of
India P N Bhagwati, tried to establish a link between
development and economic reforms.
"...Smart members of the Lok Sabha should be looking to
augment reforms, not reverse them as misguided anti-reform
critics urge." He made out a strong case for India opening the
retail sector and for reforms in the labour market.

"Such intensification and broadening of reforms can
only add to the good that these reforms do for the poor and
the under-privileged," said 76-year-old Bhagwati who has
taught at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Oxford
University and Delhi School of Economics.

On corruption, he said the menace can be dealt by
institutional reforms and use of science. As an example, he
cited the government initiative of giving electronic identity
cards to the poor.

He said Nandan Nilekani is engaged in "arguably the
most important innovative reform in recent years by creating a
national database of identity details of Indian citizens.

This should take the political corruption out of the
Public Distribution System and in the Employment Guarantee


First Published: Thursday, December 2, 2010 - 21:20

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