Corruption keeps India poor
<table align="center" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="90%"><tbody><tr><td class="DCText">By Joginder Singh</td></tr> <tr><td class="DCText">
According to a report published by National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS), a government-affiliated body, on the state of informal or unorganised employment in India, 394.9 million workers, or 86 per cent of India’s working population, toil in the unorganised sector. Nearly 80 per cent of these workers are among those who live on less than Rs 20 per day.
Agriculture, the report says, is a fertile ground for poverty, especially for small and marginal farmers, 84 per cent of whom spent more than they earned and were often caught in debt traps. “These are the discriminated, disadvantaged and downtrodden. People who live on Rs 20 or less per day are the real poor and vulnerable.” Technically, a large chunk of these 836 million Indians — 77 per cent of the country’s population — are above the poverty line at Rs 12 per day.
The dismally poor comprise largely STs, SCs, OBCs and Muslims. The report says that 88 per cent of Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes, 80 per cent of Other Backward Classes and 85 per cent of Muslims belong to the category of “poor and vulnerable,” earning less than Rs 20 a day.
A part of the period the report covers was the time when the previous government was in power and had used “India Shining” as election slogan. However, lessons learnt are soon forgotten and now the present government is making claims about “Incredible India.”
There is no doubt that dire poverty exists in our country. It was the late Rajiv Gandhi who had once remarked that out of every one rupee sent by Delhi, only 15 paise or 15 per cent reached the recipient or the intended destination. This observation was made in 1988, nearly 20 years ago. Since then things have gone from bad to worse, with all kinds of scams being unearthed. These scams generally involve people’s representatives who live on people’s money, and consider themselves to be India’s saviours. There is no dearth of money in this country, but a dearth of will to deal with the corrupt and to ensure that people’s money is spent for the people.
Although one scam may differ from another in name, the basic approach of all scams is to make as much money as possible out of public projects. Similarly, when it comes to covering up these misdeeds, the techniques are also similar. According to one estimate, the total amount of money stashed in the foreign bank accounts of Indian politicians and others is around US $410 billion.
Corruption is the single most major factor keeping India poor and backward despite having the best of natural and human resources. It is a major destabilising factor in politics as well as economics. Most government schemes have built-in scope for corruption. In fact no scheme ever stipulates the action that will follow in case of any malpractice.
The delivery system that is the Indian bureaucracy has let the country down, along with some corrupt politicians and rulers. Of course, there are honest politicians and officers, as otherwise, we would not have even a semblance of progress. But a report has shown that public servants received Rs 21,068 crores as bribe, apart from cuts from several government schemes last year. Between 1996 and 2000, the CBI and the Central Vigilance Commission investigated 13,265 individuals for corruption. And between 1998 and 2001, the CBI registered 2,256 cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Of these 41 were from administrative departments, four were from the police and 23 from the revenue department. This is a drop in the ocean, when the total number of government and public sector employees in the states and the Centre runs to 194 million.
Corruption in Indian bureaucracy has now come to be accepted as part of the machinery that governs India. Millions are at the receiving end of this phenomenon in their everyday lives, whenever they come in contact with any arm of government at any level anywhere in India. Unless corruption is checked, the vast majority of Indians who are not in a position to give bribes, will remain immersed in terrible and inescapable poverty. Any amount of funding to ameliorate their lot whether through employment guarantee or other rural development schemes, will be like throwing away good money.
The legal system is already overloaded as the following court pendency, as on February 27, 2006 will show: Supreme Court 33,635 cases; high courts 3,341,040 cases; subordinate courts 25,306,458 cases.
It is for this reason that the corrupt, the embezzlers and other criminals have no fear of the law. By delaying the process of justice, they keep punishment at bay. Quick justice is not the priority of any government, though they all talk about zero tolerance. If we can tackle corruption, we can tackle poverty as well.
William S. Halsey says, “All the problems become smaller if you don’t dodge them, but confront them. Touch a thistle timidly, and it pricks you; grasp it boldly, its spines crumble.” It is not the country, but the leadership, which is on trial.
Joginder Singh is a former director of CBI
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