As things stand right now in India, money’s a key to getting things moving. And it’s easy to be relatively privileged here, and speed up things with a bribe or two. If corruption were to be rooted out entirely, don’t you think it would paralyse progress for a good period?
Well, only recently, I was at a lunch for bankers in another country, I don’t say which. (Laughs) And there was an Indian banker there, and he said “I don’t believe in all this anti-corruption stuff. We’d never get anything done if there isn’t corruption. Corruption is the only way you get things done.”
But my own feeling is that, we’re thinking of corruption in the wrong way, in this country. So much of corruption is, in my view, a symptom of bad governance, rather than the problem. The basic problem is bad governance, and that’s what this book is about, really.
Corruption is – I always use the analogy – a bit like a boil. You get a boil on your hand, you know, and you squeeze it, and the pus comes out of it. That’s not the answer to the problem, because another boil will take its place. Because the boil is a symptom of poison in the blood, and the poison in the blood of this country is bad governance and institutions which are feeble, far too feeble. That is the fundamental problem, and when it is tackled, corruption will come down dramatically.
And, you know, there are also two different sorts of corruption – you may think it’s harmless, the low-level corruption, if you bribe someone to get a driving licence, for example. But when low-level corruption means that those who should be getting ration cards don’t get them, and those who shouldn’t be getting ration cards do, when it means that those who shouldn’t be getting work under the NREGA – or MNREGA as it’s now called – get it, and those who should be getting work under the MNREGA don’t, then that’s a very damaging form of corruption.
Another very damaging form of corruption is this whole Inspector-Raj business. Because you do need inspectors, you do need people to go in and check that things are happening in factories, for instance, you do need people to check that electricity isn’t being stolen, you do need people to check that fire precautions, in particular, are being properly observed. But under the Inspector-Raj, all you have is people going in there and collecting money for saying that things are all right. That’s going to be severely damaging.
Equally, corruption on the big scale is damaging as well, because you get things like the spectrum scam, or the Commonwealth Games scam. So, corruption at all levels is bad, but fundamentally, it’s a symptom of bad governance.
Image: A supporter of AIADMK holds a mock rupee note with photos of politicians allegedly involved in the 2G spectrum scam.