Corruption in India

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No one questions the prevalence of corruption in India. The politicians of the two principal parties may blame each other but the fact of corruption is inescapable. What is more, corruption in India is not news. It has been around since the early years of Independence. Nehru was appalled to notice the behaviour of Congress legislators in UP as early as 1946. He thought they had violated all the provisions of the Indian Penal Code in one way or another!

India also has a lot of laws to fight corruption. There have been inquiries and commissions on corruption going back more than fifty years. There have been several attempts over the last forty years to pass the Lokpal legislation and the latest one is still pending. The Anna Hazare movement has waxed and waned. Across India, be it mining scams in Karnataka, housing scams in Maharashtra, 2G, Taj Corridor, Bihar fodder scandal etc; there are corruption scandals, some pending, some abandoned, some yet to come up for prosecution everywhere you look.

It cannot be that India needs another law to fight corruption. India has from the colonial days a tough legislative structure on proper behaviour in the public services very much on the old British model. B K Nehru in his memoirs relates how as a young ICS officer, he was chewed out by his superiors for accepting a free cinema pass from some cinema owner. He was told he was not to accept even unsolicited gifts, let alone ask for under-the-table cash. Gulzarilal Nanda, twice interim prime minister, retired to his two-room flat in Ahmedabad and lived in modest circumstances till he died. Over twenty plus years in office, including ministries which have subsequently become ATM ministries, he retired without taking a penny illegally. What has changed?

It cannot be the laws but behaviour which is the key to the tolerance of corruption. India's system of governance has been inherited from Western sources; it is based on what one might call after the great sociologist Max...
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