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Breaking Down the Basics

What is corruption? 

  • Corruption refers to the act of misuse and abuse of power especially by those in the government for personal gains either by pecuniary means or as a favour.

  • According to the Indian Penal Code, 1860, “public servant” is defined as a government employee, officers in the military, navy or air force; police, judges, officers of Court of Justice, and any local authority established by a central or state Act.
    Section 169 – Public servant unlawfully buying or bidding for property – The public servant shall be punished with imprisonment of up to 2 years or with fine or both. If the property is purchased, it shall be confiscated.
    Section 409 – Criminal breach of trust by a public servant – The public servant shall be punished with life imprisonment or with imprisonment of up to 10 years and a fine.

  • In the Corruption Perception Index of 2018 India stands at 78th place out of 176 countries; while in 2019 it stood at 80th, showing the steady decline in perception of corruption among people.

  • From petty bribes to multi-crore scams such as the 2G scam, the menace of corruption is all pervasive.

Current Affairs POI -

  • A study conducted by Transparency International in 2005 recorded that more than 62% of Indians had at some point or another paid a bribe to a public official to get a job done.

  • In 2008, another report showed that about 50% of Indians had first-hand experience of paying bribes or using contacts to get services performed by public offices.


Causes of Corruption

  • Excessive regulations:
    complicated tax and licensing system (License Raj!);
    forces people to overcome the red-tapism through bribery.

  • Lack of transparency in laws and processes:
    opaque bureaucracy;
    criminalization of politics.

  • Social discrimination.

  • Lack of awareness and education.

Effect of Corruption on Society

  • Severely degrades morals of society and credibility of Government;

  • Erodes Ease of Doing Business;
    Disincentivizes investments causing reduced inflow of money;
    Reduces job creation;
    Increased brain-drain as more citizens choose to migrate to countries with better opportunities.

  • Leakage of resources to ghost beneficiaries in schemes such as NREGA resulting in reduced actual benefits to sections of society that are in need of such resources;

  • Tax evasion that further generates black money, a result as well as catalyst of corruption;

  • Poor quality of public services and criminalization of politics, etc.

Significant Anti-Corruption Movements in India

Jan Lokpal Movement/India Against Corruption Movement –

2011 Anti-Corruption Movement

  • The Indian anti-corruption movement in 2011 led by Anna Hazare, was a series of protests across India which aimed at establishing a strong legislation and enforcement against perceived endemic political corruption via the introduction of the Jan Lokpal Bill.

  • It also aimed, under Baba Ramdev, at recovery (repatriation) of Indian black money from foreign banks.
    Movement had no political affiliation, it was nonpartisan, nonviolent, and persistent.

  • Demands –
    Joint committee for drafting anti-corruption legislation with members of civil society and government.
    Hunger strike until enactment of legislation.

  • Government agreed to establish joint committee with a government official as chairman and a civilian as co-chairman in April 2011.
    Shanti Bhushan, Hazare, Justice N. Santosh Hegde, advocate Prashant Bhushan and RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal, originally drafted the Lokpal Bill.
    Disagreement by mid-June decided that both versions of draft will be presented to Cabinet.

  • Anna Hazare declared second hunger strike on 15th August but was arrested and subsequently put in Tihar Jail before he could start. He was released on 19th August.

  • There was a string of protests in December as well, leading to another debate on the Bill in December.

  • Bill passed by Rajya Sabha however it failed to receive 2/3rd majority.

2012 Anti-Corruption Movement

  • Failure to introduce legislations led to recommencement of movement.
    Hazare launched into hunger strikes in March, one of them in memoriam of whistle-blowers who lost their lives for the anti-corruption cause.

  • In August, Team Anna announced their withdrawal from any protests and negotiations with Government, as the latter did not seem ‘ready to enact the Jan Lokpal Bill.’

  • 2012 movement led to split of Team Anna, and formation of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which won second largest number of seats in Delhi elections.
    On failure to pass Bill in Delhi assembly, they resigned a few days later, and the Capital was under President’s Rule for a year.

  • The Parliament of India enacted The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 few days after the Delhi election in December 2013.

Important Anti-Corruption Constitutional Provisions


Anti-Corruption Reforms

  • Administrative:
    E-governance initiatives;
    Citizen Charters and Public Service delivery and Grievance Redress Acts in states
    Holds bureaucracy legally accountable.

  • Economic:
    Liberalization and Privatization (LPG)
    Erodes power of bureaucracy over markets.
    Removal of State border check posts reduces chance for corruption

  • Electoral
    Cap on Cash Donations
    Disclosure norms
    Increasing transparency between candidates and voters.

The principle actors in combating corruption at the national level are the Lokpal, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

To access the note on Lokpal, CVC and CBI, click here.

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