Tatas vs A Raja: India's corruption gap

Last Updated: Fri, Apr 15, 2011 03:41 hrs

You may have heard of the gender gap and the generation gap. But India is one country which is plagued by something called the ''Corruption Gap'', or the Black Money-White Money Gap.

Crores of people in the villages are kept out of India's stunning development thanks to corruption. Crores of middle-class Indians in cities slog all week, pay their taxes regularly and lead tough lives replete with long working hours.

At the other end of the spectrum is the lakhs of politicians, government officials and their conspirators who swindle the government of crores and crores of Rupees and lead unbelievably lavish lifestyles.

The gap between the hardworking masses and the corrupt good for nothing making crores is growing all the time.

Dhirubhai Ambani built an empire from scratch and transformed the stock market. The company grew and diversified throughout the decades. His son Anil Ambani is worth a whopping $8 billion! But then the hitherto unknown Hasan Ali owes a similar amount to the income tax department!

Black beats white.

The Tata Group is more than 100 years old and has operations in 80 countries. Its turnover is short of $70 billion. But the loss touted to the exchequer by A Raja over the 2G scam is greater than that!

Black beats white again.

A corrupt foundation

Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw had once said: Democracy is the worst form of government, but there is no better.

Similarly one could say: Capitalism is the worst form of economy, but there is no better.

All over the world, communism in particular and socialism in general has failed to generate the kind of wealth promised by the theorists.

And we built this country on socialism.

When we got Independence Mahatma Gandhi was one of the first persons to push for lower salaries for government officials. That was an idealistic assumption.

Some people think that such a high corruption is a recent phenomenon, but that is not so. Corruption began right in 1947. Just ask anyone who wanted to do a business and get a license or permit of any kind. Palms had to be greased right from the beginning to end.

You had to wait for years to get a gas connection, telephone line or a scooter. Or you could use influence.

In fact, our founding fathers built a system that was conducive for corruption.

Liberalization changed everything

Before India did not produce that much wealth compared to many other countries. But a good part of that was black money. Liberalization simply increased the amount of money in circulation.

White money increased manifold. Black money also increased manifold.

One of the main reasons black money is entrenched in our system is due to the way all political parties operate. In many countries, political parties run like corporations and many party workers are effectively employees of that corporation. Funds are received, receipts are given and party wealth is declared to the citizens.

That is not so in India where there is no accountability. Today's elections in India are high profile and worth thousands of crores. Most of that appears to be black money. That is very much part of the system that needs to be cleansed.

The first step towards mopping up corruption will be for all the political parties to get together and introduce a bill in parliament that will thresh out a framework for how to make the funds that all the parties get more transparent.

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An Anna Hazare led revolution?

Revolutions have taken place when inequities have increased to gigantic proportions. It happened during the French Revolution in 1789. It happened in India when the British elite had too much power and too much money and Independence was inevitable.

It is happening in the Arab world, where a large population has lived with restricted freedom for decades.

Of course the media is playing a huge part in the expose. It's not that corruption is on the rise: The fact is that exposes are on the rise.

From 1947 onwards, All India Radio and Doordarshan were under state control. There were not many magazines and the newspapers were staid and conservative.

There has been a media explosion in the last couple of years. Newspapers have mushroomed, while news TV channels make sure that nothing is forgotten. And of course there are things like WikiLeaks and the Radia Tapes which are all increasing transparency in a convoluted manner.

So, while you have terms like the upper class and middle class, in India another classification is in order. India has an elite Corruption Class, which enjoys unlimited power, perks and riches. India has a Working Class which is increasingly getting frustrated at the events around it.

The gap is increasingly astronomically.

It is that which has led to the popularity of the recent Anna Hazare movement.

The time is ripe for a full-fledged anti-corruption revolution.

Also Read: Even Pappu can fast - Only you can kill corruption

The author is a Bangalore-based journalist.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/