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Observing anti-corruption day not enough, root out ‘corruption within’

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By Nithin Sridhar

Since 2003, December 9 has been observed annually as the ‘International Anti-Corruption Day’. And, as part of this anti-corruption day, various awareness programs are carried out across the globe.

Corruption is a multi-headed monster. Though, the menace is prevalent across the globe, in many a sense, it has created more troubles in India than at most other places owing to India’s huge population, the majority of whom are middle class or poor.

Corruption in India exists at all levels: Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary. In 2014, India was ranked at 85th position in the global corruption index with a score of 38 by the corruption watchdog Transparency International India (TII). This score was only slightly more than 2013 score of 36.

India has witnessed some of the largest corruption scandals in the world: Coal allocation scam (Cost around Rs 186000 crores), 2G spectrum scam (Rs 176000 crores), Common Wealth Games scam (Rs 70000 crores), and Adarsh Housing scam (Rs 18978 crores).

Then, there is the raging issue of black money. The magnitude of black money stashed abroad has been estimated from a few billion dollars to few trillion dollars. According to the industry body Assocham, around 2 trillion dollars of black money are likely to be stashed overseas. A huge amount of black money is also estimated to be present within India itself.

Corruption, bribery, illegal nexus, money laundering, misuse of power, and nepotism could be observed from the lowest clerical level to highest bureaucracy and judiciary. Be it real estate, construction, multi-nationals, or defense, in every sector one can witness the menace of corruption. Just yesterday, on December 8, Karnataka Lokayukta, Y Bhaskar Rao- the anti-graft ombudsman- was forced to resign after allegations of extortion surfaced.

Corruption has become so much deep-rooted, people have come to accept it as part of a norm. And those who refuse to pay bribes to a government officer or some other private broker end up facing innumerable difficulties due to the obstacles being thrown in their paths.

Internal corruption 

This monster of corruption, with many roots and branches, cannot be rooted out by simply observing an anti-corruption day. No doubt, the observance of such days will go a long way in creating awareness, but such awareness will have a very minimal impact as long as there are no efforts to bring about internal transformation among the people.

Corruption must be countered at all levels, from lowest to highest, but more important is to first root out internal corruption present within the hearts and minds of the people. Unless and until this internal corruption is addressed, no external solution will have lasting value.

The root cause of corruption and nepotism is human desire and greed. Greed is nothing but unrestrained desire. This greed in turn leads a man to become selfish and blind towards his larger role and responsibility towards the society.

Most of the present efforts are concerned only with implementing stringent laws to prevent corruption and creating awareness about problems caused due to corruption. In other words, corruption is being portrayed as a vice and honesty as a virtue. Of course, honesty is a virtue, but it is something more. It is a universal duty and not just an option. The current efforts at removing corruption have been ineffective at bringing any internal transformation simply because, honesty and dishonesty are being portrayed as choices.

On the other hand, the ancient Indic seers who had examined the human nature in all its dimensions had rightly concluded that human greed is a powerful force that drives human actions and such actions, invariably, lead to sorrow and suffering for the person as well as for the society.

Thus, they realized that the only way to cleanse the human heart and mind of this greed is to restrain the desires and regulate the actions. This restraining and regulation of human actions later came to be known as ‘duties’ or obligations. Thus, virtuous actions became ‘duties’ that people were obliged to perform and vice actions became ‘prohibited’ that people were ought to avoid.

This ‘sense’ of honesty as an obligated duty and ‘corruption’ as a prohibited vice is completely missing from the current narrative on corruption. The awareness campaigns and observation of anti-corruption day will not be able to bring in any real and long-term transformation, unless and until a ‘duty’-based narrative is stitched into the current discourse on corruption. Only a sense of duty will ultimately be able to root out corruption from the hearts and minds of the people.

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World’s Anti-Corruption Day

The U.S. Statement Department said in its Friday statement that it pledges "to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide."

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Anti-Corruption
Bulgarian anti-corruption protesters march during a demonstration in downtown Sofia, VOA

Corruption costs the world economy $2.6 trillion each year, according to the United Nations, which is marking International Anti-Corruption Day on Sunday.

“Corruption is a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies. No country, region or community is immune,” the United Nations said.

The cost of $2.6 trillion represents more than 5 percent of global GDP.

The world body said that $1 trillion of the money stolen annually through corruption is in the form of bribes.

Patricia Moreira, the managing director of Transparency International, told VOA that about a quarter of the world’s population has paid a bribe when trying to access a public service over the past year, according to data from the Global Corruption Barometer.

Moreira said it is important to have such a day as International Anti-Corruption Day because it provides “a really tremendous opportunity to focus attention precisely on the challenge that is posed by corruption around the world.”

Journalist, Anti-Corruption
An activist places candles and flowers on the Great Siege monument, after rebuilding a makeshift memorial to assassinated anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, in Valletta, Malta. VOA

Anti-corruption commitments

To mark the day, the United States called on all countries to implement their international anti-corruption commitments including through the U.N. Convention against Corruption.

In a statement Friday, the U.S. State Department said that corruption facilitates crime and terrorism, as well as undermines economic growth, the rule of law and democracy.

“Ultimately, it endangers our national security. That is why, as we look ahead to International Anticorruption Day on Dec. 9, we pledge to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide,” the statement said.

Moreira said that data about worldwide corruption can make the phenomena understandable but still not necessarily “close to our lives.” For that, we need to hear everyday stories about people impacted by corruption and understand that it “is about our daily lives,” she added.

She said those most impacted by corruption are “the most vulnerable people — so it’s usually women, it’s usually poor people, the most marginalized people in the world.”

Anti-Corruption
Anna Hazare raised his voice against corruption and went ahead with his hunger strike at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Wikimedia Commons

The United Nations Development Program notes that in developing countries, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance.

What can be done to fight corruption?

The United Nations designated Dec. 9 as International Anti-Corruption Day in 2003, coinciding with the adoption of the United Nations Convention against Corruption by the U.N. General Assembly.

The purpose of the day is to raise awareness about corruption and put pressure on governments to take action against it.

Tackling the issue

Moreira said to fight corruption effectively it must be tackled from different angles. For example, she said that while it is important to have the right legislation in place to curb corruption, governments must also have mechanisms to enforce that legislation. She said those who engage in corruption must be held accountable.

“Fighting corruption is about providing people with a more sustainable world, with a world where social justice is something more of our reality than what it has been until today,” she said.

Anti-Corruption
It is important to have the right legislation in place to curb corruption

Moreira said change must come from a joint effort from governments, public institutions, the private sector and civil society.

The U.S. Statement Department said in its Friday statement that it pledges “to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide.”

It noted that the United States, through the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development, helps partner nations “build transparent, accountable institutions and strengthen criminal justice systems that hold the corrupt accountable.”

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Moreira said that it is important for the world to see that there are results to the fight against corruption.

“Then we are showing the world with specific examples that we can fight against corruption, [that] yes there are results. And if we work together, then it is something not just that we would wish for, but actually something that can be translated into specific results and changes to the world,” she said. (VOA)