[Essay] Corruption in Public Life - Can We Do Away With It?

India is one of the largest and most successful democracies in the world. At present we are moving rapidly towards becoming a developed nation with a high trajectory of economic growth. We have established our impeccable track record in meeting all the democratic credentials. But there are some man made obstacles within our system which are hindering our path of development. Among such problem most important is the prevalence of rampant corruption throughout the arteries and veins of the whole system.

We have seen, through sting operations that several ministers, leaders of political parties and many members of Parliament and State Legislature accepting bribes red-handedly. Corruption is not confined to political circle only. Rather it is ever vigorous in bureaucratic system now. In our country the roots of corruption are so deep that in some government departments it has become the order of the day. The biggest irony is that in such departments, the bribed and corrupt people are known to be ‘talented’, while an honest official is termed as ‘moron’. Because of this corrupt system many honest people have been victimized. Many such incident come to our mind be it the case of Bhagwati Prasad Dixit of Kanpur or  Satyendra Dubey, K. Manjunathan and Manoj Gupta, who became victims of this corrupt system.

This prevalence of rampant corruption in public life is quite clear from our track record in Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). In the latest report published in 2008 India has retained the position of being in the big league of the most corrupt having placed at 85th out of 180 countries. It is one of the bottom most amongst 55 of the 146 countries where corruption is rampant. In fact except for some media reports and some discussions on TV and channels, nobody in the Government, like in the past, has shown any concern or expressed regret at the slide down. The result is that people have got to accept corruption as a part of their lives.  Even in the recently held general elections and assembly elections in various state corruption was never an issue of manifesto. Corruption as an issue is periodically raised invariably by the political parties in wilderness when they run short of any other idea or issues.

The report of Transparency International, indicates that Indians pay $ 5 
billions or Rs. 32000 crores, as bribes every year. This report only talks of the money paid by the contractors to the public servants, which includes both the political and bureaucratic executives.

Government rules are made, on the presumption that the general public is corrupt. They tend to create a web of complicated procedures, which gives birth to corrupt practices. A number of Chartered Accountants have been arrested by the CBI for acting as conduits of the revenue officials either for settlement of the cases or for getting them transferred to the juiciest of the prized wet postings, where such people can line up their pockets.

According to another survey, there is a price tag, which varies from person to person as per his or her capacity to pay to get the government services, which should be normally free. These include getting a ration card, birth & death certificates, driving licenses, admission to schools and colleges, bank 
loans, customs, excise and income tax or sales or pollution, or tax clearance, getting insurance claims passed, admission to hospitals, allotment of government or DDA built houses, escaping traffic violation or getting married the same day in the court compromising examination system. This list is 
only illustrative and not exhaustive.

Another reason for the diffusion and dispersal of corruption is that the 
corrupt people have no apprehension forget about any fear of being brought to the book. Public rightly questions as to why people involved in high profile corruption cases are not only free, but are calling the shots and in some places even ruling roost. The answer to this lies in the fact that a lot of political will is required to reform the criminal justice system, which unfortunately for one consideration or the other is lacking.

The corrupt on a grand scale have a habit of making life unpleasant and 
often short-lived for whistle-blowers.  There have been cases, where such whistle blowers - as happened in the case of an Engineer of National High Way Authority of India, Satendar Dubey- were killed to prevent exposure of 
corruption in the system.

Corruption in our country is hardly a new phenomenon.  Surveys after 
surveys, cases after cases in CBI have documented a widespread pattern of corruption and racketeering prevails in several departments of the Government. Corruption has been more than a problem for India. Recently, the Supreme Court of India had observed over how did efforts were made, to change the prosecutor in Bihar Fodder Scam case and it correctly found fault with how things had been done under the influence of the powerful politicians.

When it comes to rooting out corruption, it seems no matter how much 
liberalization or progress is claimed to have been made, nothing has really changed. It matters little to charge a few politicians with corruption when they have learned their tactics of attacking corruption cases launched as political vendetta.
Recently, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, addressing a conference of anti-corruption agencies, admitted that there is a perception that while petty cases get tackled quickly, the “big fish” escape punishment. He said that there is an urgent need to change this. He also said that "high level” corruption has to be aggressively denounced. He said that all such cases should be investigated on priority basis. Hopefully, the top level honest officers would be encouraged with Dr. Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister and they would be able to ‘trap’ a ‘big fish’ as early as possible. Perhaps, then only the common people would say ‘Jai Ho’.
Corruption has neither disappeared nor reduced but has only grown more sophisticated with the help of lawyers and accountants. The reason for all malaises in the country is that some wrong sorts of people are always in power. Perhaps they would not be in power, if they were not so. Many a times, people questions that what can be done to improve the situation and root out corruption. To this Carlyle replied; “Make Yourself an honest man and then you may be sure that there is one less rascal in the world”. There is no doubt that a straight line is the shortest both in morals in geometry. It is also important for our rulers to realize that people are fashioned according to the examples they see. Laws, rules and edicts are less powerful than the models, which our leaders exhibit. It is a matter of dishonour, ignominy and infamy to be branded as the 85th most corrupt country in the world. The onus for this situation as well as the responsibility to rectify it falls on our leaders, who need not be reminded that example is the school of mankind. Said Cicero, “Be a pattern to others and then all will go well, for as a whole city is infected by the licentious passions and vices of great men so it is likewise reformed by their moderation”.

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