June 16, 2010
Recently, an article on corruption in India has been doing the rounds on the internet, particularly amongst the Indian Diaspora internationally. The article was written by a former Europe Director, of the Confederation of Indian Industries who now lives in Cologne, Germany. It was titled “Is the Nation in a Coma?” and had a byline that read: “Europeans believe that Indian leaders are too blinded by new wealth and deceit to comprehend that the day will come when the have-nots will hit the streets.” The author was in a panel discussion on mergers and acquisitions in Frankfurt, Germany and was extremely embarrassed by the discussions on the appalling corruption in India. This article was forwarded to me by several NRI’s (Non-Resident Indians – The Government of India’s term used to describe Indian Diaspora outside the country). Most of these emails were preceded by an introductory message of despair and despondency typical of NRIs. I was tempted to respond, but I held back until the negativity and the mood of doom and gloom started to hurt. Finally I responded to one such mail. This is what I wrote:
Yes, India is corrupt. I believe most stories of corruption in India are true. But there is corruption in hundreds of other nations too(Not that this is a justification). I used to feel bad about corruption in India until I came to the USA. Then I realized it is here too.
As I look back at the all the corruption in India, I cannot help but notice that even with all the corruption in the country, there is a:
- Cognizance and acceptance that the malaise exists
- Free and vibrant press and mass media that is regularly exposing incidents of corruption
- Democracy in the distribution of the earnings from corruption – even the Peon gets his share!
- Recognition amongst politicians that the nation is above their personal interest. I think Indian politicians first focus on getting their decisions right (even if it only to ensure that their decisions stand the scrutiny of opposition members trying to topple them from power); and then make sure that they get their cut.
- Growing movement to get rid of this cancer through peaceful and violent ways – Bharat Svabhiman, Maoists, Naxalists etc.
- Noticeable evidence of change. At least a few politicians are honest or less corrupt.
I know we will see a renaissance in India sooner or later – long before the USA will even accept that corruption in this country is huge portion of its GDP – more than many Banana Republics even though it may not be as widespread. Just because a corporation pays taxes legitimized kick-backs, it doesn’t change the fact that a decision was compromised to favor some interested parties, pay a lobbying fee, a referral fee, a consultation charge or share some of the wealth as sweat equity. In my eyes this is just another face of corruption, particularly if it is at the cost of poor citizens who have to bear the brunt of these decisions. Consider this:
- We have seen huge increases in the cost of living, cost of Insurance etc without a dime’s increase in the minimum hourly wage for 10 years between 1997 and 2007 and not a whimper of protest in ‘free press’ or a demonstration on the streets.
- We lead a group of nations to war against two hapeless countries to anhilate a terrorist group and destroy potential weapons of mass destruction – neither of which we have done after years of fighting with American Tax Payers money and American blood.
- We are world leaders in Medicine and Pharmacy and amongst the richest too, yet we have the most in-efficient Healthcare system in the developed world and the only developed country where every citizen does not have at least basic healthcare. In fact, 15% have none at all and another 35% are grossly under-insured.
Why? Do you expect us to believe that all this is justified, or a simple oversight or error of judgement? Should we believe that no one benefitted from it? Or is this nation in a Coma?
We who grew up in India can smell it easily. We grew up with the corruption around us. Many here still think it is preposterous to think this happens in the USA. Fortunately, the US is geographically isolated. But in an increasingly integrated financial world, we cannot afford to live like frogs in a well as the recent economic recession has just shown. We need to wake up too, just as India has started to.