Is Political Corruption Worse in India than elsewhere? No, it’s no different than elsewhere
-- By Dr Ramesh N. Rao
No doubt the Tehelka episode has created quite a flutter in India and the BJP is embarrassed that the party president Bangaru Laxman was caught on tape accepting a hundred thousand rupees. Yes, a hundred thousand rupees, a mere $2, 200! The Tehelka tapes are so blurry and the transcript just a cut and paste job, that it is a tragedy the first Dalit president of the BJP has become the biggest victim of a shoddy, suspicious and criminal sting operation. Tehelka was not exposing corruption as much as doing a hatchet entrapment job. Moreover, there are genuine questions about Tehelka’s own credibility and its chief hatchet man, Samuel Matthew’s connection to the Congress Party. When on March 19, Rediff.Com invited Aniruddha Bahal, the “other” journalist involved in the entrapment job for an online chat with Rediff readers, he was posed the following question:
“Sivan: Bahal , Do you guys have any Political Connections and also what are your comments on the reports that your Partner Samuel has connections with the Congress.
Aniruddha Bahal: Samuel has no connects with the congress currently”.
I hope you noted Bahal’s comment carefully. Did you? He says Matthew doesn’t have a connection with Congress “currently”.
I use the Tehelka episode to argue that while corruption is widespread in India at present, it was not so in the past, even the recent past. Corruption was not endemic in India when the country became independent. It is only in the past thirty plus years, since the time when Indira Gandhi split the Congress and invited a variety of goons, criminals and the lumpen to join her party that the country saw the blight spread. From that point on, corruption seeped into almost every endeavor in India. But let us remember this: that it is a fairly recent phenomenon.
My father worked as a civil engineer in Karnataka. For the first two decades of his service, till about the mid-sixties, he did not have one complaint against his colleagues. He was not under pressure from any politician; his seniority was not being manipulated; and he was happy in his job. Then it all changed and almost within a decade he became an embittered, angry and cynical man. Corruption, nepotism and casteism had taken their toll.
Corruption may seem endemic now. But all that it takes to cure India of this blight is for one party, with purpose and a solid majority in Parliament, to shake up the system. The Tehelka tapes, instead of being lauded as good journalism, should be seen for what they are: a partisan hatchet job to foist on the country yet another election, continued corruption and perhaps Sonia as prime minister.
Originally published on May 03, 2001.