Do we Indians actually want corruption?

Last Updated: Fri, Mar 25, 2011 10:50 hrs

The recent events happening in India makes one think: Does India actually want and love corruption?

One reason for that is the amount of clean image politicians who have been kicked out and the number of tainted ones who keep getting re-elected.

Former Karnataka Chief Minister SM Krishna boosted private investment in the state, backed IT and concentrated on infrastructure. He was booted out. It's not that there was a strong alternative or there were some compelling reasons to dump him. As a result today even after seven years of Krishna going, the state continues to be in a state of flux and corruption rules.



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Former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu was like Krishna and he too had to go. In fact even Andhra Pradesh today is in a state of flux.

J Jayalalitha in her first term didn't have much to show in Tamil Nadu. In her last term as CM, she concentrated on roads and industries, something that failed to get her re-elected.

The biggest example of corruption having absolutely no effect of one's electoral fortunes is Laloo Prasad Yadav. The fodder scam was one among his many misdemeanours, but he ruled Bihar for a record 15 years.

Mayawati despite being too busy building statues of herself and meaningless parks actually increased her Lok Sabha tally in Uttar Pradesh after becoming chief minister.

There are exceptions. Gujarat is one of the fastest growing states in India. But Chief Minister Narendra Modi has very little opposition. Then there's Nitish Kumar. But his achievements in Bihar have been too huge to ignore.

Why corruption suits us fine...

Of course, that is only at the electoral level and it can be hotly contested.

There is also the personal level.

How many of us would rather hand some money to a traffic policeman instead of getting booked? That's a little bribe. Someone else gives a big bribe. A bribe is a bribe is a bribe.

Rich localities in India pay to keep their power bills down. The poor simply steal electricity. We are also OK with corruption because it helps us to break rules and jump queues.

Then what of taxes? It is only the salaried class and large corporate companies which pay their taxes diligently. What about the rest of India? Small shops, unlicensed businesses and many companies dealing with political parties are totally off the tax radar.

At one end of the spectrum is the famous Hasan Ali with tens of thousands of crores due in taxes. At the other end of the spectrum is an unknown businessman from Andhra Pradesh, who declared close to Rs 500 crore in the VDIS (Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme) of the 1990s and went back to his opulent anonymous lifestyle without any one ever bothering him.

Hasan Ali, 2 others owe govt Rs 75,000 crore in taxes: CAG

What of the lakhs of people in between? What about their stakeholders, partners and employees?
Everyone is in on it. If all the corrupt people were exposed, the newspapers would fall short of space just to tell their names.

Political parties have been giving gifts to voters for ages. In the last Karnataka elections, there were stories of tens of thousands of 1000 and 500 Rupee notes being distributed to voters. Then there are the Colour TVs for the Tamil Nadu electorate.

But the question is, does anyone refuse or protest them? Hardly!

Millions of voters are quite happy with this arrangement. The fact that they are getting bribes pleases them.

Talk about receiving corruption with open arms!

The fast-track in business

If you want to be a Bill Gates in India, then you'd have to be a genius with a great business plan and a capacity for hard work.

Or you could simply become corrupt, make the right connections and bribe your way to the top. It is surprising how many people actually prefer this route.

Take the case of the late Sadiq Batcha, former Telecom Minister A Raja's business associate. He went from Rupees one lakh to Rs 500 crore plus in no time. He is no Ratan Tata or Dhirubhai Ambani and yet he wanted to be the richest man in the world!

The funny thing is that he might have actually succeeded had A Raja not been caught!

A parallel black world

Decades back, Madhu Dandavate was one of the first finance ministers to estimate the amount of black money to be half of the national budget of India. That may be a low estimation, but that gives you the idea of a parallel corrupt world in India that is a multi-billion dollar industry and happily supports millions of citizens.

Corruption is all around and has been there for ages. 2010-11 has simply brought a lot of it into the light.

All of our politicians have extremely low salaries and the people want them to stay low. An impossible way to get rid of corruption!

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If salaries are high, corruption may or not take place. If salaries are low, corruption will definitely take place. This was a theory propounded by Lee Kuan Yew in 1959 in Singapore. Lee rectified that in his country and the results are there for everyone to see.

What is worrying is the thousands of Indians who have billions of dollars stashed away comfortably in Swiss Banks.

What is more worrying is the millions of Indians who actually aspire to be on that list!

The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger.

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