The total amount of money swindled by our Indian politicians, bureaucrats and other people in power or their aides in independent India is about Rs 910,603,234,300,000 which amounts to 20.23 trillion in USD. This is the amount that has been brought to the notice of the public. You can very well imagine the money that has not come to the notice of the public.
As I was browsing a website which has listed all the known scams I was surprised to learn that the first scam was an Rs 80 lakh rip-off related to the purchase of army jeeps in 1948 — just one year after our independence. It may be the first known scam in India, but the list has never ended. As I was wondering how corruption had got into our system I was reminded of an anecdote. Not many of us know that the late Gulzari Lal Nanda served as the Prime Minister of India twice but only for 13 days each time: once in 1964 after the death of Jawaharlal Nehru, and in 1966 when Lal Bahadur Shastri died. Concerned about the prevalent corruption, Nanda made a public announcement that anybody could approach him with complaints related to corruption. Quite a lot of people lined up to meet him. With every passing day, the queue became longer. People were not willing to wait that long to meet him so they bribed the constables who were there to manage the crowd. The cops, it seems, were happy and allowed people to jump the queue. This is the irony. Nanda’s good intention resulted in what he wanted to wipe out from the system.
Factual or not, this only shows how comfortable we are giving and receiving bribes. And people not willing to receive bribes are considered those who have not learnt the art of living. Corruption is a universal phenomenon. In most western countries bribing is done only to break the norms or do something illegal. But in countries like India, people expect kickbacks even to do their jobs. That makes a huge difference. According to a survey conducted by Transparency International, ‘about 40 per cent of Indians had first-hand experience of paying bribes or using a contact to get a job done in a public office.’ Though this data was collected in 2008 and it still has a lot of relevance — the 40 per cent must have gone up. Another study reveals that ‘in 2012 India was ranked 94th out of 176 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, tied with Benin, Colombia, Djibouti, Greece, Moldova, Mongolia, and Senegal’. As Indians, we cannot be happy with these statistics. We can only be embarrassed and feel guilty as we are part of the system. We as individuals do not hesitate to pay someone to get a driving licence or escape a traffic violation. But we don’t hesitate to express displeasure when the media bare several scams and swindles where our elected representatives are involved. We come together to support someone like Anna Hazare who wages a non-violent war against corruption. Such double standards must stop. Only then can we hope to have a corruption free society.
We can always make use of the RTI to seek information from the government agencies or join organisations which fight corruption. Unless we rise up and question, things will not begin to change.