Bank accounts and Toilets: India’s corruption markers


San Francisco: Bank accounts and toilets—these are the places to look at to figure out where India stands in its fight against corruption, said Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s minister of state for commerce and industry, while speaking at the Fortune Global Forum conference on Tuesday.

190 million Indian citizens have opened bank accounts for the first time, and that too in little over a year, even though the average account balance is just about $21 or Rs 1380.

“Financial inclusion” has been one of the prime areas of concentration for the Modi government, said Sitharaman. Apart from improving the finances of India’s poorest, this step can also help combat corruption.

When pensions are paid, or government officials are paid in cash, in most cases, middle men take a portion of the wages. But now, with the government wiring the money directly to the employees’ bank accounts, incidents of fraud have gone down to a large extent.

The simple act of counting toilets can give a glimpse into India’s journey towards a corruption-free nation, said Sitharaman.

The government has poured in money for 60 years towards the installation of toilets in small villages around the nation, but most were never installed, she added. However, the past year has seen a major push by the government to improve sanitation. This in turn has reduced corruption.

“India was spending money to put toilets in schools, but god knows where the money went,” says Sitharaman.

McKinsey managing director, Dominic Barton said that a recent report from the consulting firm found that apart from making a difference in the lives of its citizens, Indian government’s reforms were also attracting foreign businesses to the country.

“Three years ago, when clients would ask about doing business in India, I would say, ‘Don’t waste your time. It’s too complicated and too difficult,’” said Barton. “That’s changed dramatically.”

(Quotes and inputs from