India is one of the most corrupt countries the world. This isn’t just a general opinion but it is a fact that has been stated by various corruption related studies by independent bodies. Take for instance, the Corruption Perceptions Index 2004 as published by Transparency International, an NGO based in Berlin. It ranks India 90 out of 145. And after eight years of this study, the rank has not changed much. Corruption is the main cause of poor governance in India.

According to the World Bank, corruption is the use of public office for private gain. Corruption is the lack of moral integrity, whether in matters of finance or intelligence. Corruption not only leads to poor governance, it is anti poor and anti national. It leads to a tremendous wastage of resources and the creation of a huge volume of unaccounted money or what is more commonly called as black money.

Corruption encourages terrorism as corrupt officials permit illegal entry of arms, bombs and funds to militants. It affects the poor who are deprived of facilities, which were meant for them. Rajiv Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India, had once observed that out of every rupee 1 that was spent on Public Distribution System for Food grains, only 15 paise actually went to the poor; the rest after deducting the necessary distribution cost went into the pockets of shopkeepers and government officials. It retards economic growth.

The Human Development Report for South Asia as published by Mahbub Ul Haq Centre in Islamabad in 1999, had stated that India’s GDP could grow by 1.5 per cent and its Ft)I by 12 per cent if only it could reduce its corruption levels to those of the Scandinavian countries. It even costs lives, with spurious drugs and contaminated food items being sold by profit conscious traders. Most of us have faced corruption at some point of our lives in India, be it in the ration card office, the transport authorities or the passport office. Let us find out why we are so corrupt.

The social structure and poverty is one of the greatest causes of corruption in India. Individual values and the system of governance are the other factors that may cause corruption. We are a very caste conscious society, even our states are divided on the basis of language which again is community oriented. Different development stages between states lead to nepotism and undue patronage. We always want to earn and amass wealth not just for the immediate family but also for next couple of generations too. We want our kinship to flourish at the cost of our integrity.

Social practices like dowry system add to the pressure of having lot of wealth. The poor are tempted to be corrupt in a bid to improve their lives. Increasing consumerism make people desire for luxuries that they may not be able to afford. This again leads to financial corruption. Excess population with too many people vying for too few resources always leads to conditions that encourage corruption.

The cancer of corruption is too deep rooted to be erased in a short period of time. Fighting the malice has become all the more difficult because most of us have begun to accept corruption as an inevitable fact of life, something that we cannot avoid. We have even stopped looking down upon corrupt persons; instead we just accept them as a part of the society.

Consistent and long-term efforts are required in combating corruption. Besides having anti corruption bodies like CVC, CBI and vigilance commissioners, there is a need for more direct action by NGOs and people’s organization. More consciousness has to be shown by media.

Self governance by involving people from the grass root level, stressing on accountability, publishing citizens charters, e-governance that brings transparency into government functioning, establishing the right to know are some of the agencies that we can apply in reducing corruption. Must the foremost change that we need to bring is in the value system of our society through education and awareness.