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Crusading Corruption in India360°ANALYSIS

Populist uprisings against corruption, led by social activist Anna Hazare, should not be viewed as a simple crusade against bribes. They are intimately linked to the larger issue of managing “social change” within India’s burgeoning population, which is set to overtake China’s in a decade. Mishandling may be gauged with some 29 terrorist organizations operating within India, including the Maoist Insurgency, and a fault-line that affects 220 Districts in 16 States, providing a readymade asymmetric battlefield already being exploited by China and Pakistan.

Rajiv Gandhi once admitted that of every Rupee 1 spent by the government, only Paise 17 reaches the ground. Rahul Gandhi acknowledged three years ago that Paise 7 now reaches the ground level. In recent months, a chief justice of India heading the Supreme Court bench opined that benefits of the National Rural Employment Generation Scheme were not reaching intended beneficiaries. A cross section believes that if all the Garibi Hatao programs (designed to eliminate poverty) are dispensed with, the government will have enough money to send Rupees 8000 (about US $164) per month to every citizen of India. Compare this to the government terming only those Below Poverty Line (BPL) whose daily earning is less than Rupees 32 (about 3/4 of one US$ per day), a view that came under extreme criticism.

While claims have been made of reducing the number of BPL families, actual figures double those numbers. Food prices have been shooting up, not only because of increased demand, but also because of the hiked levels of reserves—far beyond storage capacity of the Central and State Warehousing Corporations—are resulting in millions of tons of rotting grain. It is no secret that almost 30% of fresh vegetables and fruit are wasted in India for lack of adequate storage facilities.

The administrative machinery demands bribes at every step, in complete disregard to the overburdened and overtaxed common man who becomes disillusioned and agitated while the creamy urban population portrays something different. Government intransigence is apparent everywhere—for example, the absence of teachers in government schools that is forcing some 56% of rural children to go to public schools at higher costs.

Even though the common citizen is being taxed more and more (with the rich not commensurately taxed) and pays more for fuel than his South Asian counterpart. India has fallen below economically poorer nations of South Asia in terms of the human development index. The average Indian is resigned to the thought that the true origin of the trillions of dollars in black money stashed away by the few Indians may never be traced and this loot may never be brought back. What troubles him more are the scores of scams, many of which have been proved but have resulted in only the temporary hibernation of the culprit(s)—and the loot never returns to the public coffers; individuals continue to free load on government expense. Coalition politics or otherwise, if India fails to take early corrective measures, much turmoil and accompanying violence may be in store.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.