Column: Tackling corruption seriously

Mar 31 2014, 04:46 IST
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SummaryJudicial reforms, treating political parties as corporations and demonetisation of existing currency could help

Every political party is promising to fight corruption. Corruption threatens to be the dominant theme of the election. There have been debates and discussions in the civil society and in political platforms about what to do about it. Kaushik Basu, when he was the Chief Economic Advisor to the Union government, tried to model it as a two-person game between the bribe-giver and the bribe-seeker and proposed methods of tackling it. The UPA has finally legislated for Lokpal. The Kejriwal government sacrificed itself for its own Jan Lokpal Bill. Thus, legislation is one route proposed for fighting corruption.

Yet India has one of the most overburdened judicial system, with 3 crore cases outstanding. The number of judges, at 10.5 per million population, is abysmal compared to any other country’s .One-third of the posts in the judiciary lies vacant. Why then does the AAP or the UPA think that to tackle corruption, all India needs is new laws? India has not lacked laws to fight corruption. It just does not have any culture of implementation.

The reason why no political party takes corruption seriously is that corruption is not only systemic but it is also functional. It may be illegal or even immoral but it is crucial to the democratic system India has. Elections are fought and won on black money. This is domestic black money on which all political parties are silent whatever they may bleat about black money abroad. India’s democracy would be crippled without black money.

Since elections are financed mainly by black money, corruption of every kind is necessary to the system. We all know that some ministries are regarded as ATM ministries. The ministers who are corrupt do it not so much for themselves (though they get their cut) but for their party. This is why A Raja is welcome in the DMK. Government expenditures contain within themselves built-in ‘Rajiv Gandhi leakages’ which will water the electoral system. Indeed, Kiran Reddy, while he was Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, said so openly. No need to complain about corruption; after all, that money re-enters the system, he said.

Corruption is not a microeconomic behaviour or a two-players game but a macroeconomic structural distortion which connects several parts of the political economy. These are the judiciary, the electoral system, the political party system and the almost ubiquitous reliance on cash transactions. It would require therefore, first of all, the reform of

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