Anti-Corruption Campaign in India
By Sajjad Shaukat
Although corruption is rampant in many Third World countries, yet it has rapidly increased in India where some families have good standards of living due to corruption, while the majority cannot get two meals a day.
In this regard, Indian activist Anna Hazare who incited the country last year with his hunger strikes against corruption, began a new fast on July 29, this year to press demands for a crackdown on official graft. Supporters of Hazare’s campaign want parliament to strengthen a pending anti-corruption bill and the creation of a powerful ombudsman to probe possible graft allegations against senior politicians, ministers and civil servants including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
India’s government faced fierce criticism by the media and the opposition on December 30, 2011, after it failed to pass anti-corruption bill in the Upper House. In this respect, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee described it as a “sad day for democracy.” The Indian Express daily reported that the ruling coalition had “egg on its face”, while the Mail Today indicated that the law was now “in cold storage.”
However, senior members of the campaign of Hazare had already started hunger strikes, while Hazare became a national hero last August when he led countrywide protests which showed public anger at India’s endemic corruption.
On October 6, this year, a new anti-corruption party accused Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of India’s politician, Sonia Gandhi of large-scale graft by benefiting from murky deals in real estate linked to property group DLF. It disclosed, “His wealth grew from five million rupees (S$110,000) to three billion in a span of three years?”
In fact, Manmohan Singh regime has been at the receiving end of middle-class frustration with everyday graft and multi-billion dollar scandals in Asia’s No. 3 economy, and India ranked number 87 in Transparency International’s index on corruption in 2010.
Nevertheless, enragement with India’s growing corruption and its dirty politicians is not confined to the urban middle classes which put aside political apathy to support the movement led by a self-styled Gandhian and now, movement led by Anna Hazare, attended by the country’s most powerful businessmen and industrialists.
Notably India’s former Army Chief VK Sing on November 2, 2012 stated that he will support Anna Hazare and could join his anti-corruption movement.
Indian political experts opine that corruption is widely blamed for the aggravated state of India’s infrastructure and its services, and it is a drag on an economy which has grown at around eight percent per annum over the last few years. They elaborated, “Growing malpractices indicate signs of a crisis of political credibility in India.”
The tragedy of India is its political system. That admission by a minister captured the frustration of delegates in November 2011 at India’s World Economic Forum (WEF) where blame had been heaped on corruption and the policy paralysis in New Delhi for a darkening economic outlook. The government was running scared just a few months ago when a group of activists whipped up popular rage over a rash of corruption scandals, bringing millions of people out onto the streets of the country’s cities in protest.
Indian economic analysts are of the opinion that GDP growth may come in at 7.2 percent in the current fiscal year, with a sharp fall from 8.5 percent. Industrial output has been slowing sharply, and consumer confidence is waning, while inflation remains near double digits despite 13 interest rate increases.
Mukesh Ambani, head of Reliance Industries and India’s richest man remarked, “The institutions of democracy are there, but we will be paralysed…there is an opposition and a party in power, we would do nothing. That’s what worries me.”
Even Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh admitted on November 3, 2012 that his government has suffered a difficult second term in power amid policy paralysis, worsening economic data and corruption allegations, saying that Indian exports have shrunk and the fiscal deficit has gone up. He explained, “Growth decelerated to 6.5 percent last year and may be only around six percent in the current year.
Nevertheless, there are several laws in India to control these malpractices, but the same have failed owing to their non-implementation.
It is mentionable that from time to time a number of plans and schemes have been launched by the Indian subsequent governments to improve the poor standard of living by ensuring food security, promoting self-employment, increasing wage employment and improving access to basic social services including raising the status of women, but all these proved unsuccessful owing to ineffective implementation coupled with endless corruption among the officials. In this context, even five years plans of New Delhi could not be utilised fully.
In a blunt assessment of his government’s failure to extend a social safety net for the poor, India’s rural development minister Jairam Ramesh revealed on November 17, this year that the country’s public health system had collapsed owing to corrupt civil officers.
Notably, corruption in India is not only confined to civil sector, even Indian armed forces are also plagued with this curse. In the past few years, high-ranking officers of the Indian Army like Chief of Army Staff, Gen. V.K. Singh, Lt. Gen. Surendra Kumar Sahni, Lt. Gen. S.K. Dahiya, Maj-Gen. Anand Swaroop, Maj-Gen SP Sinha, Maj-Gen. Anand Kapoor, Maj-Gen. Gur Iqbal Singh Multani, Brig. Guredeep Singh including a number of low-ranking officials were found involved in corruption of various forms such as irregularities in procuring meat and dry rations for the troops, stationed at Siachen, unauthorised construction of a golf club building at Ambala cantonment, possessing disproportionate assets, smuggling of large quantities of defence liquor etc.
All this gives rise to a feeling of discrepancy in a multi-cultural society of India where directly or indirectly, acute poverty in the country has resulted into ethnic riots, movement of separations and violence of various forms—social strife, economic crisis and political instability under the so-called democracy of India.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations