In my view, the “War Against Corruption” needs to get more refined. We are at a carpet bombing stage, that suits the mega corrupt, because there are plenty of things to criticize easily while they have the tools to deter scrutiny on themselves. The fact is, while your bribe to a policeman or using influence to get some papers made is corruption, in terms of damage to the nation, they are nowhere near the more serious issues the country faces. A private citizen bribing a policeman who takes it and puts it into his private pocket is a concern in terms of quality and integrity citizens can expect, but it isn’t damage to the Nation in terms of actual harm. On the other hand, something like the KG Basin gas pricing scam, for example is not just about corruption in the sense of actions not allowed or documented. Most of the Reliance Gas issue is “legal” in the sense of the paperwork being legit. But then everything Hitler did was legal too. He created the process to bring about his designs legally.
What is needed at this stage is a deeper understanding of corruption. What is corruption? What is it that we are speaking of, when we talk of corruption as a political issue? Is corruption only about money or is it about the erosion of a role that is supposed to act in people’s interest but serves to harm them or chooses to collude with someone who would like to benefit at the cost of people?
Also notice, scam after scam happens, maybe media noise, maybe Parliament stalls (it costs about 2 lakh per minute of Parliament operating), maybe some people go to jail. When was the last time the money was returned? When was the last time the damage was repaired? The common man doesn’t care if a politician lives well in Tihar or at home. But did the suicide capital of India – Vidarbha – also hit by the Irrigation scam that saw zero added irrigation in a decade – get irrigation because the scam was exposed? Are emergency funds allocated? Last year was the worst drought in Maharashtra in 40 years. Orchard owners cut down healthy fruit trees so that they would stop needing water and a few could be allowed to survive in the water scarce ground. It will take them ten years to get replacement trees to start giving fruit crops. 3 months of drought after 10 years of theft of resources to develop irrigation will have them investing their life’s blood for another ten years to have fruit crops there again.
The irrigation scam was corruption, ok. Everyone agrees. Scammers got clean chit. All is well. Everyone knows nothing will happen. Everyone has moved on. What do we call the lack of emergency funds to create immediate water capacities in the region? Is that not corruption too, if the ROLE of a government is to look to the well being of the people and they did not compensate for 10 years of deprivation in spite of clearly visible desperate need?
In my view, if citizens look to the government for governance and safety and so on, then the government putting them in harm’s way is also corruption. Rigging up riots, giving free pass to rioters, using mob violence to make a point… is all corruption as well. And it is corruption that India pays with the very fabric binding us together. It isn’t something you can fix by recovering money. Trust broken is gone. A new trust must be built, which is unlikely, because if there was the intent, it wouldn’t be broken in the first place. But these are still obvious things.
Ever thought about what happens when a 32-rupees-person (as they are fondly called these days) buys a gas cylinder? The subsidized cost of the cylinder is the equivalent of 15 days of his survival money – that is assuming s/he earns 32 rupees – many earn less than that. What happens when the government asks this person to create a bank account and an Aadhaar card, attach Aadhaar card to bank account and gas consumer account and invest the commercial price of the gas? The train/bus fees to get the bank account made, Aadhaar card made, update bank account and Aadhaar card AND the mega fundraising to buy a commercial cylinder at price. Then part of the cost will be returned by the government, which will get spent by a person living in such poverty (or returned to where he took an informal loan from), so that this horror repeats every time they want gas. Of course, the poor do not have any sureties for loans, so if they want quick money to buy gas, unless they know well off people, they are going to end up borrowing from loan sharks who can charge interests to make credit cards blush. Where do they repay from? This would see the government pushing the poor into debt traps.
Who does this help? People who can give big tenders to first record an entire country’s data and then “sell” the data THEY OWN back to the government. It profits the banks, reeling under mammoth bad loans given to corporations. One lakh crore worth bad loans to corporations were written off. Surely it will help them if the entire country must have a bank account to receive essential subsidies? Even if 10% of them even attempt to maintain a balance, that is a hell of a lot of money. A country the size of India is a good fund raising place. Charge every citizen a piddly rupee and you’re a billionaire.
All this is legal. The Aadhaar Card project has spent phenomenal amounts of money from the public coffers, but hey, your Aadhaar Card is “FREE FREE FREE” and it will give you access to govt subsidies (which could just as easily be given without it)! But is it in the interest of people or does it profit someone else at the cost of the people, who are put at increased risk by those they trust in good faith to make their lives better?
Is it corruption? Corruption of money, corruption of democracy….