A corrupt state maintains the facade of rule of law but does not permit any inquiry beyond that of individual deviance.
The corrupt love the government they can buy.
Why are we not shocked by the allegations that Anil Deshmukh, ex Home Minister of Maharashtra, asked his people to extort for him ? 50-55 crore a month from the bars and restaurants of Mumbai, or that Ajit Pawar, deputy CM of Maharashtra, asked his people to extort for him ? 100 crore a month from illegal Gutka sellers, or that Anil Parab, a cabinet minister of Maharashtra, asked his people to extort for him ? 50 crore to close a SBUT preliminary-enquiry against a Mumbai trust and to extort ? 100 crore from the fifty fraudulent contractors listed in the BMC -? 02 crore from each one of them?
Because the rapids of scams – Jeep 1948, Mundhra 1958, Maruti 1976, Bofors 1986, HDW Submarine 1987, Hawala 1991, Sukh Ram 1996, Air India 2006, Spectrum 2008, Coalgate 2012, INX Media 2013, … – have conditioned us to accept corruption as innate to politics.
What is corruption
Corruption is abuse of entrusted power. Corruption can happen anywhere, can involve anyone. It uses enablers, professionals, and shell companies to allow the corrupt to launder and conceal their illicit wealth. And corruption, like Corona, is infectious. And like Corona it can mutate to adapt to changed rules, legislations, and technologies.
Perception and Cost of Corruption
Public perceives corruption as a greater malady than any other such as extreme poverty, unemployment, the cost of living, crime, violence, and security. That is why corruption is more talked about the world over than any of these other problems. That is why World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said in December 2013, “in the developing world, corruption is public enemy number one.”
Corruption is estimated to cost about five per cent of global GDP (US$ 87.55 trillion in 2019), that is about US$ 4 trillion very year. Corruption harms individuals and societies and needs to be reduced. But anti-corruption measures since the early 1990s have been a major policy failure.
Types of Corruption
At the lowest end is petty corruption and at the highest end is political corruption.
Petty corruption is low-level bribery on a wide scale. Every person expects to be asked to pay a bribe at one point of time or the other. In India, estimated 70% of the people pay bribes. Petty corruption is institutionalised. Rates are almost fixed. Corruption requests are within the individual’s capacity to pay and are not crippling. This corruption may be thought of as a tax that the citizens must pay in addition to income tax and other taxes. This corruption tax may amount to about two percent of the citizen’s income.
Political corruption is misuse of power by public official for private gain. A power that was entrusted to him for public good. For example, a public official orders defence equipment from a company at a cost 50% higher than for identical goods available on the open market. To meet this additional cost, the country must impose on citizens an additional tax of say 5% in perpetuity. Clearly the cost of political corruption is much higher than the cost of petty corruption.
Political corruption involves not only politicians but also bureaucrats, businessmen and often criminals to collect and share the illicit spoils of office. The elected government then becomes subservient to the shadow government, that is, the private individuals who exercise power behind the scenes beyond the scrutiny of democratic institutions, moneyed interests, globalist elites, and supranational organizations. All of them seek to manipulate public policy in their own interest that is hidden from the general public.
Petty corruption is open. Easy to detect, catch, prove. Political corruption is layered, concealed behind many curtains, thus difficult to detect, and almost impossible to prove and to trace to the bigwigs. Between petty corruption and political corruption which is more debilitating to a country?
Corruption in India
Petty corruption is endemic to India. But political corruption erupted after independence and has gained strength as the country’s GDP has increased and its development driven requirements of technologies and infrastructure and security driven requirement of military and security ware have galloped. Political parties’ need for money for elections and for horse trading have added fuel to the fire of political corruption.
In India, just three scams where the govt was directly blamed – Air India, Spectrum, and Coalgate – amounted to ? 4.0 lakh crores. That is 20% of the total Revenue Receipts (income) of Indian Government during the three years when these three scams happened.
Other political scams where government was not directly blamed, like Commonwealth Games (? 70,000 crores), Nirav Modi (? 11,600 crores), Mallya (? 9,000 crores), Choppergate (? 3,600 crores), Fodder (? 900 crore), are far too numerous to list here.
Various scams in India between 1992-2004 are estimated at Rs 80 lakh crore. That is almost five times the Indian government’s Revenue Receipts (income) of ? 16.84 lakh crore in 2020.
Maharashtra Corruption Imbroglio
Were Anil, Ajit and Parab colleting hundreds of crores of rupees for themselves? Not sharing it with anyone. Not even with the bigwigs of their parties. Were the seasoned leaders of the parties in the ruling-coalition and the Chief Minister babe in the woods who did not get even a whiff of the corruption stink right under their nose? Do not ask these questions if you do not wish to be told lies.
India and world corruption
But let us end on an optimistic note. Notwithstanding Anil Deshmukh, Ajit Pawar, Anil Parab and others of their ilk, and helpers-turned-accusers like Sachi Waze, India, according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, 2020, is less corrupt than most of the countries in the world bar a few like Europe, Canada, Australia, and the US. And is far less corrupt than Venezuela, Libya, Iraq, Myanmar, and many other countries.
Some solace that.
“Instead of politicians, let the monkeys govern the countries; at least they will steal only the bananas!” ? Mehmet Murat ildan, Turkish writer, poet, playwright and novelist, author of ‘Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’
Views expressed above are the author’s own.