Wednesday 8 August 2012

India, In Transition and Corrupt

Hum agar rishwat nahin lenge to khayenge kya— Josh Malihabadi
Now that the Anna Hazare agitation has subsided, the time has come for some rational, scientific analysis of the problem of corruption.
There is no doubt that there is rampant corruption in Indian society at almost every level.
In Western society, too, there is some corruption, but it is only at a very high level, and it ordinarily does not affect the common man. Corruption there takes such forms as multinational corporations giving bribes to top politicians, generals or bureaucrats of underdeveloped countries to get contracts, etc. But in North America you cannot offer a bribe to a policeman if he catches you violating some traffic rule. If you attempt to do that it will be a second, more serious, offence. Similarly, you cannot bribe an income tax official or other officials there. But in India corruption exists at every level, for example, in registering a sale deed, getting mutation in revenue records, getting an FIR registered, getting permission from a municipality to build a house, tax matters, etc.
Everyone is harassed by corruption in India, but what is to be done about it?
Anna Hazare’s movement, in my opinion, was only an emotional outburst, but serious problems cannot be addressed in that manner. A scientific analysis of the problem is required.
I submit the following: first, corruption is the normal feature of the transitional period when a society (such as India’s) is passing from a feudal, agricultural stage to a modern, industrial stage. Second, it is only when the transition is over and the country becomes a fully industrial society, like that in North America or Europe, that things will get relatively stabilised, and corruption will be considerably reduced. This, in my opinion, will take about 15 to 20 years more in India.
This needs to be explained.
Feudal, agricultural society is a relatively stable society, with everyone knowing his place, with stable social and ethical values. In contrast, when the process of industrialisation begins, things become topsy-turvy. In this transitional period, before the process of industrialisation is complete, two things happen. First, old (feudal) moral values disintegrate, but a new moral code does not come into existence. Second, prices start shooting up, while incomes are broadly stagnant (or rise much slower than the price rise). For both these reasons, corruption becomes rampant. To maintain one’s lifestyle and to keep up with the Joneses, one must supplement one’s regular income, and this is only possible by corruption. Since the old moral code has largely disintegrated there is little check on one’s conscience to prohibit taking bribes.
I am not trying to justify corruption. I am only presenting a scientific analysis to show that corruption is inevitable in a transitional society like India in which industrialisation has commenced, but is incomplete. Historical facts support this conclusion. For example, there was rampant corruption in England in the 18th and early 19th centuries when industrialisation was going on but was not complete. Sir Robert Walpole, who was the first prime minister of Great Britain (from 1721 to 1742), openly used to say that he can purchase any person, including members of parliament. John Wilkes and Junius attacked the corruption of the governments of the Duke of Grafton (1768-1770) and of his successor, Lord North. Similarly, in America too there was a lot of corruption in the 19th century when the process of industrialisation was going on. The administrations of Presidents Grant, Harding, etc were notoriously corrupt.
It is only when the process of industrialisation is broadly completed that society once again becomes relatively stable and corruption subsides. A new ethical code has emerged, and people in the West are relatively more honest in their dealings than people in underdeveloped countries. Anyone who has been to the West and has interacted with people there can bear this out.
In view of this analysis, I submit that corruption will continue in India for another 15-20 years, but will considerably disappear when the process of industrialisation is complete after this period.
The writer, a former judge of the Supreme Court, is chairman of the Press Council of India
(Published in The Indian EXPRESS on 08th August,2012)


  1. sir, I agree to your points that it will take 15-20 years but only the reason that corruption will be subside when society will become stable. moreover as you also agree that it will subside but not end; i am not saying that it has to come zero percent but in my view Education will play important role in subsiding or ending corruption(i.e. to take it to almost 0. If there will be conceptual engineering, engineering of mind then it will help a lot and that can be done only by education. I really feel ashamed that still we have the same education policy which was started by Maculay who has a motive of breaking the culture and thinking of the Indian society.
    Ranesh Anand "National university of Study and Research In law , Ranchi , 2nd year student"

  2. Nice article sir. I think the reason why corruption is there is because of high cost of education and medical facilities. If government finds a way out, then there will be less corruption.

  3. I second you sir, in fact, i was also thinking of this but was not sure whether it is a valid i got it...

  4. Dear Sir,

    Corruption is an integral part of every system and will remain matter how much we try....till the day our very own vedic system of education is brought in can corruption be tackled...else it is fundamentally enshrined in the Western Education system.....the western education system is backward, irrational and breeds corruption at every stage...the foremost reason being so is in its lack of propagation of virtues of honesty, integrity...the western education system is not a creation of India and hence we will not gain the most out of it....only an Indian system can be a soln to that extent...i would be like to quote Swami Vivekananda at this point.."An education which doesnt distinguish between right and wrong is of no use"...Regards

  5. well..india may become an industrial nation 20 years from now but the way it's going towards that goal is the point to take note of.
    major part of the industry is controlled and run by few who have actually become too big to fall. as long as corruption shall prevail ,the masses will never be able to uplift their social status and until the common man and the farmer at the grass root level is made a part of the journey towards industrialisation ,this won't change much. we are neither in america nor we live in 17th or 18th century and not to forget the imbalance between the resources available and the population of india after 20 years.
    corruption will never allow that process of industrialisation to complete as it will keep on fuelling the policy of digging and building again and again...and just be in the process to never let it complete which according to the honorable jurist will end corruption.....the big question is will the corrupt let it be completed.....

  6. so well said..

    i think that will only happen if in 15~20 years the literacy substantially increases.. well and similar basic needs of the lower income groups are met if the issue of unemployment is resolved but that would mean that the process of industrialization is completed in the particular span of time.. but that just cover only one subject... and then there issue of strengthening the legal system (stuff like piling up of the cases but that's because of the population) and increasing the basic wages of government workers and by that i mean the people like the police...

    if people could be bought why not increase the prices... and literacy would bring rationalism

    i think the main question would be 'how to control and maintain the population'

  7. Sir,
    I have a question, even if we agree on your scientific analysis than also are you sure that India is on the same track as west i.e I have a doubt that India is on the same transitional phase like west and the in 15-20 years corruption would be any less. My simple point is that our state is not doing hard efforts to eradicate corruption like done by western states.

  8. Govt must try to build the bridge between have and have-nots. Feudalistic mind-set prevalent in political and social arena will not allow it to happen.

  9. Excellent incisive Article. You are great Sir..!!

  10. Your Lordship being a former Supreme Court Judge, we are no one to comment or criticize your views in an way. But I would like to highlight a point which is of utmost importance while considering tackling of corruption in India.

    Though huge Population of India is shown as an asset in many ways, it is a major hurdle in equitable distribution of all resources and hence corruption stems.

    If we compare 21st century with 17th century, then population was far less as compared to resources so, very less opportunities for corruption and even as Your Lordship has stated in the article, Indian economy was a feudal and agrarian system and hence less corrupt.

    But today we are not only in a midst of transitional phase but we even have an ever increasing and uncontrolled population.

    Without tackling it, its very hard for us to achieve the goal in 15-20 years.

    We should see the gradual development China has achieved over a period of 30-40 years, after implementing various population control measures. It is long a wait before a Mango tree actually starts bearing fruits.

    Hence we need to find ways to control population without any authoritarian measures and at the same time achieve development and a gradual DECLINE of CORRUPTION.

  11. Justice Katju is serving the establishment
    When Anna and his fasting team did not get much media back-up this time and withdrew from Jantar Mantar arena on anti-corruption issue for want of mass support, Justice Katju has come out for his ‘ rational, scientific analysis of the problem of corruption’, to give a parting kick. His preference for the ruling establishment is well known since the days he got re-employed as chairman of PCI after retirement from the Supreme Court. Since then he is doing his best to provide ideological back-up to the present dispensation from the left flank. He may be having his own reasons for this continuous campaign on a set pattern.
    The issue of corruption in Indian society came into focus thanks to a series of scandals that tumbled out one after the other around Commonwealth games held here and 2G spectrum case shocked the country for once when Anna movement seized the opportunity to give it an organised voice last year. The ruling coalition at the centre was caught on the wrong foot and it tried its best to wriggle out of the mire with more ugly spots on its face. When Anna came on the scene people were wild in support, rightly or wrongly. By then they were not aware about the credentials of the leading lights of the agitation and the support was to the issue.
    Now, Justice Katju has opined, let me quote: “corruption is the normal feature of the transitional period when a society (such as India’s) is passing from a feudal, agricultural stage to a modern, industrial stage. Second, it is only when the transition is over and the country becomes a fully industrial society, like that in North America or Europe, that things will get relatively stabilised, and corruption will be considerably reduced. This, in my opinion, will take about 15 to 20 years more in India.” He is asking to tolerate corruption for next two decades with the implication that those who are crying against corruption are hampering the industrialisation crusade in the country.
    Fighting feudalism in the country for smooth consolidation of capitalism and speedy industrialisation is the pet theme of CPI (M) as also with Justice Katju. Even while serving on the bench he acted as crusader for the same and never faulted to bring in the question of fight against feudalism. Such is his conviction of the logic. In this article he faithfully is following this political line of CPI (M) among some other left formations who subscribe to the same logic of industrial growth to be modern, but presently in support of the industrialisation crusade of the Prime Minister.
    Capitalism cannot flourish without industrialisation, which it has branded synonymous to modernity and sustenance agriculture with feudalism. CPI (M) describes India as semi-feudal, semi-colonial state. Hence, while mouthing socialism, its programmatic slogans are meant to smoothen the growth of capitalism with individualism as its philosophy of life. Katju is advancing the same absurd logic in the name of rational and scientific analysis.
    Corruption is the lubricant to the capitalist growth, as ever rising prices are in a ‘high cost economy’ like India. Political subscription to democracy and the rule of law make it more necessary to adopt corrupt means to circumvent the laws, though now Indian government is wedded to change laws to favour corporate capital. Capitalist growth cannot do without corruption. It is the story of capitalist growth everywhere, even in Soviet Union where erroneously it took to the path of industrialisation at the cost of agriculture and well being of the people in search of an illusory development that paved way for restoration of capitalism at a convenient stage, as is presently the case in Indian story. It is a myth deliberately cultivated by all those who have learnt development economics from Adam Smith, Ricardo to Marx, forgetting the philosophy of Marxism.

  12. Thought provoking article sir..but its not correct from our part to wait for 15 to 20 years to corruption come to an end.Why can't we impliment the policies which are implimented earlier and implimenting currently by developed countries ? Why can't the government go for proactive ideologies to end corruption instead of looking at history and waiting for tansition ?
    Please let us know your views to minimise the transition period for india to become a stable , developed and corruption free state as America, UK and Europian countries.

  13. in india, corruption did not come or emerge in 2012, in fact, if we study our PURANS and analyze properly, we can make out that they deal with corruption, RAM killing RAVAN was nothing but VICTORY of RIGHT/DHARM on EVIL/CORRUPT. BHAGWAAN PARASHURAM ji had WEEDED out CORRUPT KSHATRIYA/BUREAUCRATS/. So there is a message in itself that before the DHARM has to prevail, it comes in the form of BAD.

  14. corruption is an outcome of greed, which is a general notion. along with that what supplements it in growing multifold is illiteracy, our struggle to meet everyday needs and above all lack of moral values. moral values can only be imparted in a person with full stomach and shade above his head. according to UNDP-2013 around 60 percent population of India is suffering with multidimensional poverty. so, it appears that we are caught in a vicious circle where corruption wont let poverty be abolished and poverty wont let corruption go. we even don't have resources to eliminate wide spread poverty in this country so i don't see how we are going to tackle the problem in next 15-20 years or even beyond. to me it appears that the problem is gonna get sever and sever day by day.

  15. u said that d reason behind corruption is absence of moral code during transition phase. May be all dis agitation will built up an awareness and that moral code among people to be not corrupt. I have to admit that many times i go to a govt office in kanpur expecting that i will have to give some bribe but surprisingly it doesnt happen! I agree police does it but then how much they r paid in salary?!?

  16. In the Management Grid there is 1,1 at the left bottom-most corner which indicates "just do that much which is absolutely essential to survive, without getting kicked-out, not caring much for the Results or for the people working with you, everything will take care of it-self" And at the top-most right corner there is 9,9 which indicates maximum effort with fullest commitment to the end-objective and at the same time taking due care of the colleagues and workers. Justice Katju's views seem to indicate the 1,1, approach to solving the problem. It must first be fully recognised that the problem of corruption is there. And then get working on it's removal with firm determination. This is Arvind Kejriwal's approach. Today we work in team spirit and put-in our best skills to achieve the objective. In-between it's 15 or 20 years or other difficulties,will be tackled as the doer proceeds on his chosen path.

  17. media janti hai ki justic katju sahi hai, lekin media hi justic katju ke bayano ko jyada vivadit roop me dikhati hai, aur bad me katju ji se interview me puchhti h - aap aksar vivadit bayan dete h, aur media hi nahi samst budhijivi ye bat jante h ki justic katju sahi h lekin sabhi hawao ki disha me hi bahna chahte h, koi hawao se jhujhna nhi chahta, aur isi karan koi hamari samajh aur buddhimata pe sawal na uthaye isiliye ye justic katju par vivadit bayan dene ka aarop lagate hai....