It’s not about being clean, it’s about the country

Phew! Scam after scam and now journalists-businesspersons-politicians wheeling dealing: we have a roller coaster society going on here. There is “outrage” and this is really stupid, I mean, who are we fooling? We have always been in the list of the most corrupt developing countries in the world (and this is what keeps us “developing” and not developed).

The problem is not with our businesspersons, politicians and journalists: they have always been the way they are, and the nexus has always existed.  It’s just that due to the Internet and social networking websites the news spread like wildfire and people no longer have to depend on newspapers and electronic media to get news and exchange opinions.

The 2G scam (4G is already out, by the way) is one of the biggest scams the country has ever endured, and so is the Commonwealth Games scam (1,70000 crores – approximately $ 37570000000 — and more than 35000 crores, respectively). There has been a litany of scams under the present government and even the most tolerant are forced to point fingers at the Prime Minister who quite undeservedly enjoys a clean image.

What is clean?  Cleanliness can be of many types:

  • You just wear clean clothes but underneath you never wash your body
  • You wash your body but wear dirty clothes
  • You neither wash your body nor wear clean clothes
  • You appear very clean but from the inside, spiritually and mentally, you are unclean
  • You are totally clean, from the outside as well is inside but you operate in an environment that is totally unclean

Manmohan Singh probably falls under the last two categories. He has the saintly image and he draws a very miniscule amount of salary. But what is the reality?

The country witnessed a deluge of scams when he was the Finance Minister and now when he is the Prime Minister.  Of course the sudden gush of liberalization could have fuelled the corruption engine of the country, but what is the use of you being clean if everything and everybody around you is dirty? Are you really clean if people around you are unclean and you mingle with them and allow them to run the country knowing all the time what harm they are causing to your country?

In today’s The Pioneer column Swapnadas Gupta has written about how Nehru and Indira Gandhi tolerated, if not encouraged, corruption as a necessary evil bi-product of socialism. Is Manmohan Singh perpetuating this string of misguided philosophy? It sure looks so. But at what cost?

This mentality has cost the country billions of dollars. According to an international report discussed by Kanchan Gupta in the past 60 odd years the country has lost more than 20.85 lakh crores, and that’s a conservative estimate as most of the data is unavailable. Some excerpts:

The outpouring of moral outrage over Raja’s crime may have served the purpose of forcing one of the most corrupt Ministers (by no means was he the lone wolf in the Cabinet) in the present regime to quit office in disgrace although he remains defiant as ever. But it has also swamped a revealing report on Global Financial Integrity that was released last week. The details of the report indicate the extent of corruption in India and confirm what we refuse to accept: We are a corrupt society with a corrupt system; a nation that silently indulges in corruption while raucously protesting against it, as is being witnessed at the moment.

The GFI report says, “From 1948 through 2008, India lost a total of $213 billion in illicit financial flows (or illegal capital flight). These illicit financial flows were generally the product of corruption, bribery and kickbacks, and criminal activities.” Illicit financial flows pertain to the “cross-border movement (or transfer) of money earned through illegal activities such as corruption, transactions involving contraband goods, criminal activities, and efforts to shelter wealth from a country’s tax authorities”. The total of $213 billion is a misleading figure because “the present value of India’s illicit financial flows is at least $462 billion,” the GFI report explains, adding, “This is based on the short-term US Treasury bill rate as a proxy for the rate of return on assets.”

The GFI report provides some other interesting insights. For instance, contrary to the claims of successive Governments, more vociferously by the UPA regime, India’s underground economy, which is “closely tied to illicit financial outflows”, continues to expand with each passing day. The present value of illicit assets held abroad ($462 billion) “accounts for approximately 72 per cent of India’s underground economy — which has been estimated to account for 50 per cent of India’s GDP ($640 billion at the end of 2008)”. Just above a quarter of illicit assets are held domestically.

Go to his link for more juicy data.

Corruption has seeped into our very psyche. In fact people who are not corrupt are looked down upon. “Ooper ki kamayi” is a given. You’re termed as silly if you don’t pay a bribe and get your job done faster. Breaking rules and then getting away by bribing corrupt policemen has become an act of bravado. corruption has become a part of our daily lives and people have given up on the ideas of an upright society ruled by a principled government.  The common citizens have started following the philosophy of “if you can’t beat them join them”.

Well, that’s the problem, but what is the solution?

The solution against corruption is not a mystery, we all know what needs to be done.  As of now our politicians, businesspersons and bureaucrats will never let the rampaging dinosaurs of corruption go extinct. Too much money is involved.  Just imagine having 170000 crores stashed away somewhere in your account.  It will be mad to think that they will deal with the putrefaction when almost everybody is involved. People like Raja and Kalmadi are not so powerful that they could orchestrate scams of such proportions.  Some bigger people are involved and somehow our media and intellectual commentators are avoiding taking their names (understandable, actually). Even we know their names, but I’m not going to name them here for obvious reasons.

If ever we are going to see a resistance against corruption it is going to be as monumental as the independence struggle. Or by a miracle we may get a person at the helm  who follows a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to dealing with corrupt individuals whether they are in politics, bureaucracy or business.

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