Walking into a session on the dais for a discussion on corruption in India and possible solutions, I was expecting the usual cliché — politically correct statements that won’t be anything we don’t already know about. But this wasn’t the case. Rajeev Chandrasekhar and Jayaprakash Narayan presented a very structured and informative debate for and about the Indian political scene, not as politicians but as citizens of India.
The corruption in India today is not quiet, under-the-table, behind-the-closed-doors activity. We are living in a country where collusive corruption has pretty much become a part of our DNA. The bribe giver and bribe taker collude and benefit at the cost of the society. What is the solution to this kind of unabashed corruption? Here are the few enlisted by Chandrasekhar and Narayan:
- Competitive bidding for state properties. This might not always be feasible, but should be practised whenever and in whatever capacity possible.
- Transparency. No sector should be allowed complete state (or corporate) monopoly. The combination of competition and technology enhances the economy and gradually eliminates corruption.
- Windfall profit tax. When any industry or company makes abnormal profits, not due to innovation or performance, but due to environmental policy or global factors, it should be eligible to share a part of that profit with the state in the form of windfall profit tax.
- Swift and sure punishment. Not only cease the liberty of those guilty, but also their property. Because in India, property matters more than liberty!
The problem is that there is a deep-rooted reluctance among politicians when it comes to corruption. They live with the belief that once they are elected, they have the freedom to do whatever they want for the next five years without being accountable to anyone. We have to change this, make politicians more accountable and make that accountability more frequent. The feeling of ABSOLUTE authority that our politicians are nurturing is very dangerous and has to be changed through legislative and electoral reforms. We have to strive towards creating a political system that’s less corrupt at the very basics. Honesty and survival in Indian public offices are incompatible. There is something dysfunctional about how public policies are made.
Having said that, we as citizens must also strive to change our mindset towards politics in general. For the past two years, all kinds of ‘debates’ and discussions India has witnessed have been only about corruption. This is great, it’s a sign of being a democracy, but why just talk about corruption and not reforms? We must try and change this. As moderator Shoma Chaudhury pointed out, we cannot continue to grow as an economy if our general mindset of ‘hatred’ towards politics doesn’t change.
Are we on the right track to fighting corruption? Let’s just say, the road is right but the destination is way too far.
By Nidhi Thakur for Thinkworks.in