AS STATED in an earlier article, the Prime Minister urged the Indian citizenry to come together and resolve: Filth — Quit India; Poverty — Quit India; Corruption — Quit India; Terrorism — Quit India; Casteism — Quit India; Communalism — Quit India.”
This note is about freedom from corruption. As an intro let me recap a bit from an article on the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew that has appeared in The Hindu of March 30, 2015 (The Legacy of the Architect of Singapore): “One major accomplishment of the founding Prime Minister was in practically eradicating corruption, which was the key ingredient in effective governance. Singapore stands at rank 7 on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2014; there are 167 countries below it on the index. India is ranked 85. How could Singapore do it? It was done not via endless litigation, but by demonstrating that corruption will not tolerated, come what may. For example, in 1975, the Minister for Environment, returning from a holiday, was arrested at the airport for accumulating some ill-gotten wealth, and in 1989, the Minister for National Development committed suicide after being informed about investigations into corruption charges.”
In 2016, Singapore retained its position at place 7. India improved to rank 79, better than in 2014, but still a long way to go. Of course, we can have some comfort from the fact that China too ranked 79 and despite its high growth rate and relative prosperity of its people, there was no effect on the corruption perception index.
How does one root out corruption? For those of us who are fondly attached to the little City State, the Lee method would look great. Most critics would tell me in great haste: Ha, Singapore is tiny; how can you compare the mole hill with a mountain? Also, how can a free nation implement authoritarian policies?
A few months ago, on August 2, the Supreme Court of India gave a clarion call to the public to rebel against corruption, no matter how big the odds are. “Unless people rise against bribery and corruption, society can never be rid of this disease. The people can collectively put off this evil by resisting corruption by any person, howsoever high he or she may be," a Bench of two Justices observed in a judgment pronounced that day. The verdict, dealing with the 1993-95 NOIDA land allotment scam, upheld the conviction of two officials: a former chief secretary and an IAS officer.
Punish the Bribe Payer?
In general, we hardly hear any bribe payer being punished. In 2011, Transparency International brought out the Bribe Payers Index (BPI) that provides an insight into businesses’ propensity for paying bribes. Here is how TI explains BPI. If a country has a score ZERO, it implies that business people around the world feel that companies from that country always pay bribes. The highest score 10 means the perception that companies from the nation seldom pay bribes. BPI data covered 28 countries. Netherlands stood at rank 1 and Singapore at 8. India ranked 19, China 27 and Russia 28.
Over two decades ago, I yielded to the temptation of paying a small bribe and saving a few rupees. I received due punishment from the divine in just a couple of days. It was then it dawned on me that this nations’ spiritual teachers can make a massive difference by publicly denouncing the bribe payers!
May be, it will transform the nation when supply of bribes is off limits.