There is, of late, a revival of interest in Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, just a couple of days ago, the world’s tallest statue having a height of 182 metres, the “Statue of Unity”, befitting the leader got unveiled. Back in my school days, I found myself enraptured when my fifth class Anglo-Indian teacher, taught a small lesson titled the ‘Ironman of India’. Enthralling stories of Patel’s leadership during farmers’ movement in Kheda and Bardoli and the iron hand with which he coalesced India by integrating 600 native states captivated me to no end. Sardar Patel was one of the greatest leaders of our freedom struggle. Patel remained the treasurer of the Indian National Congress till his death. When it came to managing the funds, his honesty was unimpeachable.
As a Deputy Prime Minister of India, he regularly contacted the chiefs of provincial Congress committees on the phone, but he always paid the telephone bill from his own pocket, depleting more than half of his salary on it. Such was the honesty and uprightness of Sardar. Commemorating his probity, The “Vigilance Awareness Week” is observed in India every year during the week in which the birthday of Sardar Patel (31st October) falls. This year, the Vigilance Awareness Week is being observed from 29th October to 3rd November 2018 on the theme “Eradicate Corruption-Build a New India”.
Corruption is the use of public office for private gain. It flows from the basic human tendency of greed. Corruption in India is a phenomenon that pervades every level and every walk of life. Corruption being anti-national, anti-economic development and anti-poor are taking its toll by corroding the moral fibre of our country and eating into its very vitals.
Corruption is like cancer. Just as cancer due to wild uncontrolled proliferation devastates the systems of the human body causing death, corruption wreaks dysfunction and anarchy by destabilising the systems of good governance and the rule of law.
India is rated as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Perception Index ranks the country at 81st place out of 180 countries. A study conducted by Transparency International in 2005 recorded that more than 92 per cent of Indians had at some point or another paid a bribe to a public official to get a job done and about 50 per cent of Indians had first-hand experienc of paying bribes. In the recent Asia Pacific — Global Corruption Barometer survey, India was perceived to have the highest bribery rate of 69 per cent, which means about 7 out of 10 persons have to pay a bribe to get their work done. It is assessed that the lost opportunity caused by corruption in terms of investment, growth and jobs for India is over US $50 billion a year.
The reasons of corruption in India include profuse regulations, Byzantine tax and licensing systems, manifold government departments with opaque bureaucracy and discretionary powers, a monopoly of government-controlled institutions on certain goods and services delivery, and the lack of transparent laws and processes.
History has constantly demonstrated that human nature is unchangeable and human heart corruptible. To illustrate this, a set of people were asked - What they would do if they found Rs 50,000 bundle on the road and 90 per cent answered they would pick it up. When the same question was rephrased - What if there is CCTV watching, would you still pick up the money bundle and 80 per cent replied they wouldn’t. Human nature is such that 10 percent will be honest come hell or high water, 10 per cent will be dishonest no matter what, while the remaining 80 per cent will modify their conduct in accordance with the situation. This only goes to show that a system of supervision or laws, is imperative to curb corruption.
India has enacted several anti-corruption laws to grapple with corruption under which public servants can be penalised or imprisoned for several years such as - “The Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 “which was amended this year, “Indian Penal Code 1860”, “The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013”, “The Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Bill, 2015”, “The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002”, “The Companies Act, 2013” “Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2011”(yet to be notified) etc. India is also a signatory to the UN Convention against Corruption since 2005.
Policing, policies and laws cannot eradicate corruption. Changing the mindset, attitudes and values of people is the best antidote. Corruption will decline once society starts valuing wisdom and soul culture as success/superior goals, compared to money and material advancement.
(Dr K. Jayanth Murali, an IPS officer, is Director DVAC, Chennai)...