A recent survey of Berlin-based Transparency International found India to rank highest in levels of corruption (least score). India ranks highest in terms of number of illiterate people, India ranks highest in terms of number of people living below $1 a day and now emerging shining India also bagged one more feather in its cap.
One may argue nothing wrong in it – we are now 2nd highest in the world; and soon we will be the highest in population too.
'Mera Bharat Mahan. Mera Corruption India Ltd. Mahan.'
Have we ever wondered that with one Indian out of every six people in the world, we struggle to get a reasonable voice in global forums like the UN or in the IMF?
We struggle and fight for years without any result in sacrificing our canon-fodder citizens and soldiers against adventurous terrorists and terrorism sponsoring neighbors of ours.
Bollywood has its unique style – 'Badshah' of Bollywood, Shahrukh Khan once said that even if he acts in the role of a dead man, there must be song and dance sequences there in any Bollywood movies.
It's another matter that gangsters control a significant part of Bollywood. We know them as gangsters. Where as our Government and policy makers also have many unique style of extracting its pound of lubricating flesh from Indian citizens.
We had Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh scams. We had Bofors and Kargil coffin scams. We now have Jessical Lal scam. We had fodder scams. We had and have stamp paper scams.
A list of scams would take pages – proven ones and punished ones would take lines, if not less.
There's a saying with which we are familiar which means what's not there in India is not there in the world. I think it originated from diversity of scams and corruptions equally, other than our geographic and cultural diversity. One won't find examples of corruption anywhere else if it's not found in India encompassing all fields of life.
To make the analogy with Bollywood complete, just like song an dance sequences are common there, whatever be the type of movie; corruption is common in India – whatever be the area.
It's deep-rooted; it's in our Indian gene. And like cancer, this gene is spreading fast all across Indian societies. More from the affluent ones to the less affluent 'have nots' of the society.
Without song and dance sequences, Bolywood releases face the chance of committing a hara-kiri; and without corruption – entities in the society commit the same hara-kiri.
Many of us expected an overhaul of bureaucracy from Dr. Manmohan Singh and his Government. We haven't seen any so far.
And judiciary lost all its accountability. Verdict of 1993 bomb-blast is yet to be completed whereas other nations dealt in matters of national importance in months.
Our parliament debates more and acts less.
Let's try and understand where from this deep-rooted corruption in our society began. Finding that root is important if we indeed are serious to, if not to eliminate, but to effectively reduce its impact on our society by a significant degree.
The starting point can ideally be Indian freedom, adaptation of our national sovereign democratic republic fabric through' our constitution. That was in 1950.
And there we see a surprising gap in the creation and adaptation of our Indian constitution itself. When India adapted republican democracy at the end of the British colonialism, literacy rate was less than 20%, population was less than half of what it is now. More surprisingly the constitution, that was put in place by the Government that time, was not an elected Government of free India. India had its freedom in 1947. The first general election of India was held in 1951.
And our constitution came into effect in 1950! Is it legally possible?
The opinion of a few – whatever great there intentions were – were more important than that of the nation, and it stands so even today.
At times I wonder on the whole heroism of Indian freedom struggle from the perspective of its effectiveness and contribution in getting our freedom. Colonialism ended from most parts of the world post World War II, and that too at a rapid pace, more so probably due to geo-political events globally.
Do all nations that attained freedom post world war II have such a colorful freedom movement and freedom fighters? Was Indian freedom more of a result of global geo-political movements of those years, or was it more of a result of our internal freedom struggle.
Many attained freedom without a surgery, we had a surgery but purpose of the surgery was never clear to us.
Don't get me wrong here. I have all the respect for our freedom fighters and that great movement. I am just raising points about their effectiveness – more so because we have seen the effectiveness of the policies – internally and externally of the same country and same people post the freedom.
For a large part, many of those leaders of our freedom fighters ruled the country.
India still has great policies – never attacked another country unprovoked, we still played it as a good neighbor even when provoked, talked about global nuclear disarmament, never made money of nuclear proliferation, have a great democracy – but none paid off to help India attain its due heights.
The world does not heed to our voices. Recent exit of Shashi Tharoor and failure in stopping reduction of our voting rights in IMF-Singapore round are small examples.
India still loves to play losing games.
Lately a section of society is attaining some heights. And in same news-paper that carries Page 3 journalism, we routinely see farmers committing suicide – all over the country.
Mao is being purged from Chinese text books now, Stalin and Lenin have fallen, world has changed, however our leaders – past and present never changed – in their faces and in their characters.
Without debating about it being right or wrong – can we ever imagine our textbooks being purged of Nehru or Ambedkar.
Rather than purging, we keep on adding to it – be it the constitution or our records in textbooks. Every Government comes and puts some more pictures of their leaders – starting from Narendra Modi to unique Lallu.
We don't purge – we add. And thereby we don't clean up corruption – we add to it. With every successive Government and bureaucracy.
Superficial reforms add to corruption – any deep rooted reform need to start from the basic, from the fabric of the nation. Probably with the constitution itself. Nothing is sacrosanct – not even the constitution. We need to respectfully revise it as and when situation demands.
And when it comes to the blame-game – don't blame the politicians alone, we need to blame it on our judiciary, our bureaucracy, our business practices and our very own life styles.
Breaking traffic signal and bribing the police is common, to get a proof of our Indian identity through' the passport, an obvious bribe is mandatory. We don't mind paying that.
In a word – blame it on us! If there's any single thing to be blamed, I would blame it on the constitution – created by a few thought to be leaders (remember not elected by free India) by a country hungry for freedom with less than 20% literacy and half of today's population not knowing what a constitution probably means. It was over exuberant policies without any practical road map of their implementability.
And since then corruption has only grown – and people in boardroom discussed and debated over the effects rather than the causes looking to be at a loss on why 'Mera Bharat Mahan' also had the parallel feather of 'Mera Corruption India Ltd. Mahan.'
Ranjit is a Research Scholar with Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur,
India; and is the author of the book Wondering Man, Money & Go(l)d. He can be reached at [email protected]