May 082013

Corruption in India

The corruption has not stopped tumbling out of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s closet. With every passing year, the charge that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has lost his midas touch — the force with which he led the UPA government in the first term, scoring one success after another — has gained a lot of intensity.

The question arises why the Prime Minister — who is known as the architect of the economic reforms in India — lost control over the wheels. Political pundits say the answer is simple: lack of political management. Each new day seems to bring fresh charges against one or another minister with the Prime Minister barely escaping the heat. If the UPA does not recognise the public anger against corruption, respect the ideals and values of democracy, and take concrete steps that inspire confidence, there will quite likely be a heavy political price to pay in the next general elections.

Given the dismal state that the Manmohan Singh-led government is in, it will be surprising if Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi manages to help his party win back the trust of the nation before the general elections that are slated to be held in 2014.

Corruption is usually seen as a moral failure, a fall from grace, on the part of some individuals whose numbers, it is lamented, have grown rapidly of late. Rampant corruption takes place despite the many investigative agencies — the police, the Central vigilance commission, the comptroller and auditor general, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the enforcement directorate, apart from the judiciary and the media. In 2009, 128 of the 543 members of parliament faced criminal charges, including 84 cases of murder, 17 cases of robbery, and 28 cases of theft and extortion. About a fifth of the representatives of the two major parties have been under investigation for criminal activity.

Railway minister Pawan Bansal is the latest on a long list of political heavyweights who suffered embarrassment, and often setbacks to their careers, over charges of misdeeds against family members. Last week, the CBI arrested Bansal’s nephew Vijay Singla in Chandigarh on the charge of receiving a bribe from a Railway Board member, apparently to change his posting. Although no direct link has been established so far between the railway minister and the alleged bribery, the development comes as a blow to a government grappling with numerous corruption allegations.

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