Perspectives of Corruption

  • It is a serious role

By Dr Rajkumar Singh

In India and abroad the issue of corruption drew the attention of both analysts and public from the time of the emergence of civil societies in ancient times to the complex politics of the present day. Corruption is a fact of life. It is as old as the human society itself. It exists in one form or another in every society as said by Ralph Braibaniti, ‘Governmental corruption is found in all bureaucracies and in all periods of political development. But its degree is not uniform at all times or under all conditions. It is also obviously more common in some societies than in others and more common at some times in the evolution of a society than at other times.’  In recent times corruption has assumed the shape of a “hot issue” and its tentacles have become not only widespread but also far more serious. The phenomenon has become very serious both in developed and developing countries. Even the international organisations are busy in arranging scholarly debates on the causes and consequences of corruption because corruption is not only a human issue but developmental as well as social and economic issue.

Rampant corruption is something which does not need any emphasis. Everyone of us knows it, everyone of us sees it, every moment of our life, wherever we go, it is present in some form or the other. The challenge facing corruption analysis begins with how to define it. Most people know corruption when they see it. The problem is that different people see it differently.  The word is often used loosely in a very narrow sense and often used with a wide connotation, but somewhat confined to morals or public offences. The etymology of the word can be traced back to a Latin word meaning “to break”, which means that something is broken, such as, moral or social code of conduct and more importantly the violation of any law or administrative rule. Apart from outright graft or bribery, the use, abuse and non use of power, legal or political, for personal or private gain to oneself or others not rightfully entitled to it, does cover the various hues and nuances of corruption.  Thus the term includes all improper or selfish exercise of power and influence attached to a public office or to a special position one occupies in public life.

Corruption inheres in all social systems, feudalism, capitalism, socialism, communism. It affects all classes of society; all state organisations, monarchies and Republics; all situations in war and peace; in all age groups; both sexes and all times; ancient, medieval and modern

At large there is no internationally accepted definition of corruption. It depends upon the state of awareness, education, customs and contention, ethics, culture, state of economic development and legal framework over the interest of the society. High level of corruption is the result of wide divergence between the attitudes, aims and the methods of the government of a country and those of the society in which they operate, in particular, of the procedures and aims of the government which put particular groups of the population at a special disadvantage. In political context the word corruption has two aspects – social and political. Social aspect includes social behaviour, moral and religious while political aspect implies political and administrative or politico-administrative. Social corruption includes breach of social customs, habits, creeds affecting people; sexual harassment, creation of social evils etc. The politico-administrative corruption generally defiles the entire structure of society much more than social aspect. The path of corruption has become clear and smooth when democratically elected people have come to constitute the administrative machinery and overtly or covertly indulge in corrupt practices.

India is rated as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. The global corruption perception Index of India is 87th out of 178 countries, slipping from 84th in 2009.  As a social phenomenon corruption has become so widespread that it has started eating into the vitals of our economy, our polity and our society. From top to bottom, prime minister to a peon, cutting across every office or organisation of all Governments, Central State or local, the vast majority of public officials in this country have become corrupt. From the practical viewpoint, corruption as defined by the 19th Conference of European Ministers of Justice, held in Malta in 1994, seems to serve the overall purpose, ‘Bribery and other behaviour in relation to persons entrusted with responsibilities in public or private sector which violates their duties that follow from their status as a public official, private employee, independent agent or other relationship of that kind and is aimed at obtaining undue advantages of any kind for themselves or others.  However the overall composition of phenomenon of corruption in case of India and other developing countries may be summarised as follows: 1. Driving force : Individual need and greed 2. Supportive environment: Political interference 3. Restrictive environment: Transparency and accountability 4. Opportunity: Secrecy and complex regulation 05.Corrective measures: Certainty of punishment.

There is also an attempt by some to explain corruption as a process by which members of society can manipulate a political system which is unable to cope with the demands made upon it. They explain corruption within the framework of the ‘leading’ and ‘lagging’ classes existing within any society undergoing rapid social change, and very much divided its values and allegiances.  In the situation of who gets what from corruption depends in large part on the nature of both the political system and the political elite. Corruption takes place where there is a meeting of opportunity and inclination. Three forms of corruption– parochial, market and systematic– are dominant in government organisations. Parochial corruption represents a situation where only ties of kinship, affection, caste and so forth determines access to the favour of power holders while the market corruption signifies a virtually impersonal process in which influence is accorded to those who can pay the most regardless of who they are. But systematic corruption is primarily a political phenomenon where those in power use the government to transfer illicit benefits to themselves or to the clients… that the governing elite will seek to expand the flow of illicit benefits through official channels.  The presence of corruption is an important hindrance to economic growth and progressive social change.

The problem is all the more important in developing countries because high political corruption would impede the establishment of a political order and the stability of political institutions and the legitimacy of the political class. In pre-democratic societies, where power rested on lineage and birth, corruption was not a salient issue because the actions of the rulers are perceived to be legitimate. But when politics emanate from the collective activity of the public and where the power of the politicians is based on public consent, corruption takes a newer dimension. Corruption, as agreed by all, is pervasive in all societies, though in different degrees and forms.

Corruption inheres in all social systems, feudalism, capitalism, socialism, communism. It affects all classes of society; all state organisations, monarchies and Republics; all situations in war and peace; in all age groups; both sexes and all times; ancient, medieval and modern.  To say that all was pure and idyllic in the early period of history will be travesty of a truth. Political issues  and related corruption remained prevalent during the ancient and medieval period in Egyptian, Babylonian and Hebrew societies where judges did not hegitate to receive bribes. In Greece the growth of corruption was attributed to the increase of economic activity and political apathy.

The writer is head of the political science department of the B.N.Mandal University, Madhepura, Bihar, India and can be reached at [email protected]

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