Corruption can be defined as an act of wrongful exploitation and dishonesty undertaken by a person vested with a specific power, for one’s private gain.
Corruption can happen in numerous ways like bribery, nepotism, undue influence, embezzlement, theft, etc.
Although corruption has been seen as an unethical and immoral practice from biblical times, India still faces the menace of corruption leading to grievous consequences.
Successive governments have passed several legislations and launched many initiatives to reduce corruption in India but these acts haven’t had many effects on Ground Zero.
Why in News
Pre-Matric Scholarship Scheme Scam
The most recent act of corruption that has been unfurled happened in Jharkhand and it turned out to be so big that the administration had to involve CBI to track the perpetrators.
The Government of India launched this scheme to provide financial support to students hailing from poor families of minority communities namely Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains, and Buddhists.
Under the Scheme, the students (Class 1 to Class 10) from these communities who scored more than 50% marks in their class exams were to receive financial aid every year as support for their studies.
To facilitate one-stop access of the scheme for all the students, government-created National Scholarship Portal (NSP), as Mission Mode Project (MMP) under Digital India Campaign, where students can register themselves by providing personal details like ADHAAR number, Bank account details, etc. to get benefits from various Scholarship Schemes
Some Schools in collaboration with corrupt bank officials and middlemen scammed the poor students by registering them on the portal and giving them just a fraction of Scholarships.
The exact figure and extent of the scam are yet to be figured out but the government has spent over 1400 crore on the scheme, nationwide in the year 2019-20 out of which 61 crores was disbursed to Jharkhand.
Corruption Perception Index (CPI)
Prepared every year since 1995 by Transparency International, a Global Civil Organisation on the forefront in the fight against corruption, CPI is a composite index that ranks 180 countries all over the world in terms of public sector corruption, compiling its data from 13 different Surveys.
CPI has been regarded as an important tool of perception of corruption and it’s widely used by international businessmen and analysts.
Along with these 13 surveys, CPI also considers expert assessments and opinion polls.
It ranks countries on a scale of 0 (Least corrupt) to 100 (Highly Corrupt). In 2019, India slipped two places, from 78 to 80, scoring 40 out of 100.
The major reason for such a performance as stated by Transparency International was the unfair and opaque political financing in India along with innumerable forms of corrupt practices prevalent here.
The least corrupt countries in the 2019 list are Denmark (87), New Zealand (87), Finland (86), Singapore (85), and Switzerland (85).
Key reasons for Corruption in India
Black Money in Political Processes This reason has been specifically mentioned by Transparency International. In India, studies conclude that candidates end up spending way more than the specified limit of Rs.70 lakh for electoral campaigning. On the other hand, the majority income of political parties comes from unknown sources, and the declared assets of numerous candidates have seen an unexpected rise during successive years. This expenditure can be seen as an investment that can be recovered and multiplied after the candidate comes to power.
Economic Inequality In India, 1% of people hold 60% of the total wealth. This massive gap encourages corruption on both sides. While the rich pay off the authorities to get major economic gains, the poor have to bribe the officials even for basic needs.
Criminalization of Politics In Lok Sabha, according to Association of Democratic Reforms & National Election Watch data, around 30% of members (162 in number) have criminal cases against them, out of which, 14% are of serious nature. 31% of members of state assemblies also have pending cases against them. Due to the lack of legislation on this, many criminals continue to be in a position of power.
Exploitative Bureaucracy Scams like CoalGate, Adarsh Housing Society Scam, etc have revealed that even the protectors of law have been lured into the greed for money. If the people who are supposed to prevent the corruption become corrupt, the law dies.
Flawed Education System The Education System of India has failed miserably in inculcating ethical values in the youth and the young. Very little has been done to reinforce the moral fabric of the country.
Failure of Judicial System The Judicial System is responsible for punishing the law offenders but when it comes to politicians and civil servants, even the judiciary doesn’t have a good track record. Civil Servants and Politicians are protected under Article 309 and Article 310 of the Indian Constitution due to which they can’t be prosecuted without government permission.
Social Evils In India, the awareness among poor and marginalized communities is meager and the dependence on the government is high. This comes as an advantage to the corrupt persons and poor people become easy targets.
Initiatives taken by Government to curb Corruption
Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act 1988
This Act was passed to enhance transparency and accountability of the government towards the acts of corruption.
Under the Act, bribe was listed as a direct offense and many definitions and penalties were modified by the government.
This Act excluded key elements from the ambit of criminal misconduct such as the use of illegal means, abuse of position, obtaining personal reward by disregarding public interest, etc.
Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act 2016
The Benami Transactions are those transactions where the name of the person in whose name the transaction is done and the name of a beneficiary are different. Similarly, in terms of property, the ownership of property is held by one person and the payment for purchase is done by another
This Act got passed in August 2016 and the most vital provision was the establishment of at least a 3-member Adjudicating Authority by the Central Government chaired by a member of the Revenue Service or Income Tax Department. Any case that comes under the ambit of this authority will be decided within a year once it’s referred.
Appeals against this authority’s decision will be taken to Appellate Tribunal at Delhi.
Central Vigilance Act 2003
This Act provided for the grant of statutory status for the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) thereby increasing its power, reach, and functions.
CVC is a government body, which was created through a resolution in the Parliament in 1963, to address corrupt practices within the government and make the government better.
It’s an autonomous body that has been conferred with special powers to work independently without any control from the authorities.
It’s headed by a Central Vigilance Commissioner and two Vigilance Commissioners appointed directly by the President of India on the recommendation of PM, Minister of Home Affairs, and the leader of Opposition.
Right to Information Act 2005
This law was passed to make disclosure of information, a legal right of the public to promote accountability and transparency.
Several RTI Activists have used it to unleash irregularities in government functioning and figures.
Lokpal and Lokayukta Act 2013
It was passed after a nationwide protest against the prevalence of corrupt practices in government. This Act appoints a Lokpal at Centre and Lokayukta in states to investigate complaints of corruption against public servants.
Whistleblower Protection Act 2014
Due to the lack of protection, there have been several instances of violence against activists and many of them have been murdered.
This act provides for special protection of people who report acts of corruption or any irregularity in the functioning. The activists are kept anonymous and are protected from prosecution
Goods and Services Tax
The GST was a tax reform brought against corrupt practices like the collection of illegal tax and bribe on border check posts.
The GST system digitized and simplified the tax architecture of India, eliminating the exploitative middlemen.
The Government has been promoting e-governance to bring more accountability and transparency in governance. Through this, the physical interface between the center and states can be minimized which reduces the scope for incidences of bribery.
Restriction on Cash Donations in Election
The Government also has reduced the limit on cash donation from 20000 to 2000 so that the inflow of black money towards political parties is reduced
Although the reforms have been plenty, their effect on the ground hasn’t been satisfactory. Various bodies like CVC, CBI, Lokpal, Adjudicating Authority, etc either don’t have the power to take concrete steps or they succumb to the political pressure. There have been instances of bribery even to bypass these reforms too.
So, government, rather than bringing new legislation, should work for reinforcing the existing ones and keeping a tight check on the corrupt practices within the government.