Opinion

Corruption In Public Life | Rising, Needs Urgent Halt

Corruption has for long been a subject of much debate and ways and means of its eradication have been outlined by various organisations and experts. But unfortunately, political corruption in India has shown an upwards trend with centralization of power at the helm. Thus, it can very well be said corruption in public life is a means of obtaining personal benefit through illicit means and the abuse of public office and property.

 

This is demonstrated by the increasing wealth of political personalities all over the country. A few days back the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) survey revealed that the average assets of the candidates for the first phase of Gujarat polls have gone up by 44 percent this time from Rs 2 crore in 2017 to Rs 2.9 crore this year. Party-wise, the average assets increased from Rs 10 crore to Rs 13.4 crore for the BJP, from Rs 8 crore for Congress to Rs 8.4 crore and from Rs 1 crore to Rs 2 crore for AAP. The repeat candidates have reported a significant rise in their assets. This clearly reveals that being in power helps in increasing wealth and it is very much the case of India.

 

Another form of corruption has been the seizure of hundreds of crores of rupees in the homes of politicians in West Bengal, leading to possibly the biggest educational scam in recent years pertaining to the appointment of school teachers, non-teaching staff in schools etc. in the state. It needs to be pointed out here that all this has come to light only due to a meritorious and bold judge of the Calcutta High Court. The education system it seems has collapsed because the political class and even some professors and teachers are going all out to make that extra buck. It is also in this state that a top-level politician of the ruling party, engaged in cow smuggling to neighbouring Bangladesh and related illegal activities, was found to turn black money into white through forcibly grabbing the first prize lottery ticket from the genuine winner.

 

Thus, corruption in public life sadly has been very much manifest as politicians are indulging in unethical behaviour and there is abuse of public office and property. Similarly, private-sector corruption is all about making unjust profits by exploiting employees and consumers while skirting government regulations. It may not be wrong to say that corruption exists in every sector and at every level of government in the country. It has been manifest that the number of people in the public and private sectors employing corrupt methods and unfair methods has been on the rise and reports have confirmed it.

 

As per a research conducted by Transparency International way back in 2005, over 62 percent of Indians have paid a bribe to a public official at some time in their lives. Another report from 2008 found that about half of Indians had first-hand experience paying bribes or using contacts to get services from government agencies. The Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranked the country 78th out of 180 countries in 2018, indicating a steady decline in public perception of corruption.

 

India’s government, whichever it may be, and political parties are notorious in corruption scandals. The political class is entangled in corruption for a number of causes, which include the social fibre changing, a lack of good education, sincerity and work culture, lack of genuine involvement with the masses and little incentive to work honestly and diligently. In India, anyone can enter politics and form a political party, like perhaps other countries, and need not have educational qualifications as these are not part of the eligibility criteria. Ministers have been appointed who have never had school education and are not well-versed with the politics and the political system. Besides, there is a rise in number of people who are well-known political leaders who have been convicted of a crime.

 

Only candidates who meet minimum educational requirements and have a clean criminal record should be allowed to run for public office. After winning the election, the candidates should go through some form of training to be able to handle numerous roles and responsibilities that are given to them. A well-educated and well-trained individual in all probability could lead the country more effectively than others. For everything, there must be a set policy, and ministers’ activities must be watched by the higher authorities and ensure they are going by the rule book.

 

Corruption is less frequent in a society where people are educated, and the awareness level is high. The vast majority of people still does not recognise the value of education, which contributes to an increase in corruption, which is also a result of unbridled greed and increased market competitiveness. People have become exceedingly selfish, jealous and arrogant in recent years, all as a result of induction of materialistic values in society.

 

Corruption has well-established causes. It is believed that identifying the root of an issue is half the battle won. Rather than debating the issue repeatedly, it is now time to seek for answers. The government and civil society must rid India of corruption. It is easier said than done. Apart from the thrust on education, there’s a need for reigniting value system, which has over decades got eroded. We as a people need to fight corruption and not fall a prey to unscrupulous tendencies, which are rampant in society.

 

People and those in power, who engage in corrupt practices such as receiving and offering bribes, using unlawful means to build their enterprises, acquiring black money, and other advantages that they do not have legal access to, must face harsh penalties. They must be made accountable. Sting operations have in the past been successful in exposing the corrupt– whether politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen or individuals in various industries, and should be encouraged. These operations will not only expose corrupt individuals, butshall deter others from engaging in such behaviour. Each of us must accept it as a personal obligation to follow the proper procedure for getting things done rather than paying bribes to get things done or avoid fines.

 

There hangs a big question mark whether corruption can be reduced. There is a need for certain measures that could be taken for which strong political will and determination is necessary to transform the country. Only raising education levels may not help, unless the judicial system is strengthened at all levels to take up cases of corrupt practices and those indulging in fast track mode. Dispensation of justice must be prompt as it will act as a deterrent. The Election Commission must have its machinery in place too and ensure that its officers are not pliable or coerced.

 

While our political leaders and governments talk of transparency and accountability, the ground reality is different. Corruption is eating into the system. For an emerging economy like India, it stands in the way of a balanced development and inclusive growth. For if becoming rich is the aim, it is the masses who suffer. —INFA

 

 

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About the author

Dr Oishee Mukherjee

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