A few days back I said that the corruption of the every day kind is more dangerous because it destroys the character of a nation, its people and sows the seeds of a powerless, frustrated, impotent people who can only get angry but do nothing. The effort that it takes to remove the cancer of such corruption is huge and the entire population has to stand up against it. It persists because we humans are very competitive and do not want to be left behind our next door neighbour. We believe that money can buy everything and hence are ready to pay our way out of tight situations such as breaking a law or getting a service out of turn.
On the other hand, the man in the chair feels that since without his approval things will not move in the bureaucracy, he wants his palms to be greased for doing his job.
There is another kind of corruption – the once in a while type.
More often than not, when we discuss about corruption, we make two statements:
- Corruption is omnipresent. Even USA has corruption.
- However the corruption in those countries (like the US) is not all-pervading – it is only at the highest levels of society.
In the US you will not find ordinary citizens breaking simple laws such as jumping traffic signals and an officer demanding bribe to let you off the offence. The corruption there is at very high levels and constitutes millions of dollars and sometimes even billion of dollars worth of kickbacks. In India too we have this kind of corruption in government. The recent 2G scam in the telecom which is supposed to be to the tune of about USD 40 Billion as per the estimates of the Comptroller Auditor General (CAG) of India is a case in point.
This kind of corruption, while in my opinion is not as bad as the every day variety, is still back-breaking.
For a country like India where the Union budget for the fiscal year 20100-12 has allocated less than USD 15 Billion for education, the 2G scam is worth almost 3 years of education budget. Imagine the kind of impact it would have had if that money was not lost on account of bribery and corruption.
Or take the case of food subsidy. India is placed 67th in the Global Hunger Index 2010 rankings of 122 countries prepared by International Food Policy Research Institute. As per the estimates of Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, India needs additional subsidy of USD 20 Billion annually to eradicate hunger from the millions of Indians who live in poverty. The 2G scam is thus equivalent to more than 2 years of food security of the Billion plus population of India.
The corruption of this kind cuts both ways:
- It robs the nation of money that it could have utilised for growth and improving the lot of the needy people, and
- It forces the government at best not to cut taxes or in worse cases to actually enhance taxes in certain areas to meet the growing money requirements to provide the basics to the nation and the poor.
Having said that it is also true that in order to eliminate the corruption of the once in a while variety as outlined above, you need to first remove the everyday type of corruption. The reason is simple – the character of people in general is a function of the every day variety corruption – it has to go first before you can eliminate the once in a while type of corruption.
If majority is corrupt, they can’t hope to make the corrupt minority honest! What I mean to say here is that the onus of eradicating corruption lies in the hands of people like us, who indulge in small value corruption.
I’d like to know your views on corruption. Do you also think that corruption wrecks national economy?