Vol. 6 | Issue 4 |July 2012
democracy b n uniyal
Corruption means a soft state
HOW strange it is that, though admittedly a highly corrupt nation, we have no institution for corruption studies. Corruption, after all, is a serious matter that touches all aspects of our national life — social, political, economic, corporate, juridical, moral, and what not! No one or nothing is today free from corruption or its effects. It is, therefore, not merely an issue to rant about on public platforms. Corruption and its pervasive effects require to be studied with serious academic rigour. Isn’t it, therefore, time for somebody like Kapil Sibal or Montek Singh Ahluwalia to initiate action to set up a sort of multi-disciplinary institution to study corruption? Or, may be, to begin with, some central universities can introduce corruption studies in their humanities faculties.
Corruption scholars are broadly of the opinion that the more developed a democracy, the lesser should be the incidence of bribery, kickbacks and financial frauds and fiddles. This is, however, not true, for India is in no way any less developed a democracy than any other country low on the graft scale. We are a parliamentary democracy, have by-and-large free and fair elections, a largely free and independent network of institutions, an independent judiciary, rule of law and a free and enlightened media.
Why then is corruption so common here? Is it because, as some say, we are a soft state, i.e. a state soft on wrongdoers, one reluctant to act according to its own laws? Or, are reasons for this softness needed to be searched elsewhere? The Brahmanical culture values speech higher than action, reciting higher than doing, enacting a law higher than acting on it. Could this attitude have something to do with the pervasive corruption? Could the traditional Indian jajmani system or the caste identity and loyalty be one of the reasons? All such and similar issues can be studied to understand the complex social roots of corruption in Indian society.
When I first thought of an institution for corruption studies, I felt I had hit upon a smart, original idea. But when I checked on the internet, I found that there was hardly anything smart or original about it. Corruption has been a subject of serious study for more than six decades. I even came across a paper by one Mark Jorgensen Farrales of the University of California on ‘a history of corruption studies’. Every year, seminars, symposia and conferences are held on the subject. These academic gatherings have given currency to a lot of new terms like ‘corruptology’, ‘corruption scholars’, ‘corruption methodology’, ‘corruption literature’, etc. Elsewhere, corruption protests have bred an entirely new genre in music that has been variously labelled ‘corruption music’, ‘corruption art’, ‘corruption rap’, ‘corruption pop’, ‘corruption lyrics’, ‘corruption anthem’, etc.
Corruption has thus spread from politics to culture and the world’s young are now giving expression to their dismay and disenchantment against it. Isn’t it then time for my suggestion for initiating corruption studies in our academies “to be considered seriously at the highest levels?” That is how a bureaucrat will put it. No?
I am sure many must have felt smitten by Manimekalai’s playful eyes and impish smile on the cover of gfiles May issue. Indians do not usually see beauty in black and find it difficult to relate to dark complexion. This is often true even of those who are themselves dark. But who could have failed to appreciate the beauty and bountiful smile of that face? These days our world has become so murky-smirky and faces all around look so reeky and grimy that to come across a pleasant and pleasing face feels like a blessing. Bureaucrats especially seem to develop a certain artificial texture of smugness on their faces which make them look so unnatural and drained of all emotion. Therefore, for a bureaucrat, Manimekalai’s face had an attractive freshness that was difficult not to notice.
I saw this cartoon in the May issue of Private Eye, the long-established British satirical newsmagazine. The man standing naked is newspaper and television TV magnate Rupert Murdoch and the one kneeling is, of course, British Prime Minister David Cameron. Murdoch made the statement (in quotes in the cartoon) before the judicial commission set up to inquire into the murky relationship between his News Corp and the Cameron government. g