Saturday, November 11, 2006

Corrrrrupt Indians.

In one of the short stories in Jeffrey Archer’s collection, “Twist in the tale”, an incorruptible Nigerian finance minister visits a Swiss bank in the hope of obtaining the names of all its Nigerian clients. The banker refuses; the Nigerian insists on the information and persists till the story reaches its climax. The Nigerian minister even meets the 'Chairman' and threatens international sanctions, but is met with the standard reply:

There are no circumstances in which we would release the names of any of our account holders without their authority. I'm sorry to be of such little help, but those are, and will always remain, the bank’s policy’

(Spoiler warning: Story ending details follow)

Finally, the Finance Minister pulls out his pistol and threatens to blow the Bank Chairman’s brains out, if the latter doesn’t reveal the details. The Chairman doesn’t flinch even then. Convinced now that the Bank could be trusted not to part with the information, the Nigerian puts down his gun, grins sheepishly and asks the bank to open an account in his name, to deposit his money.

I was reminded of this story when I read that India had been ranked 70th in the corruption perception index (CPI) published by Transparency International in November 2006.

Corruption is, to paraphrase Shakespeare, twice cursed. It curseth him that gives and him that takes. The briber is as much guilty of the crime as the bribee. So, there’s no point in lamenting about corrupt politicians, bureaucrats or police officials in India, when all of us are willing accomplices.

Transparency international believes that ‘keeping corruption in check is only feasible if representatives from government, business and civil society work together and agree on a set of standards and procedures they all support. TI also believes that corruption cannot be rooted out in one big sweep. Rather, fighting it is a step-by-step, project-by-project process. Where institutional checks on power are missing, where decision making remains obscure, where civil society is thin on the ground, where great inequalities in the distribution of wealth condemn people to live in poverty, that is where corrupt practices flourish’

Even among the few incorruptible persons in India, I suspect that the reluctance to accept bribes is more because they don’t want to risk being caught, rather than out of true integrity or adherence to principles. If like the Nigerian Minister, they can convince themselves that they will not leave any paper trail or face the risk of exposure, probably their conscience will not stand in the way or pose hurdles.

But, as you readers know, I hate to sign off on such a cynical or gloomy note. So, here’s the good news. India has moved up significantly from a position of 92 in the CPI index of 2005 to 70 this year. So, we are getting to be more honest.

Or, is it that we remain as corrupt as ever, but higher-ranked nations in the CPI 2005 are getting to be more dishonest, pushing us up on the relative scale, this year?


Shruthi said...

One of my favourite Jeffrey Archer stories!

Usha said...

Or perhaps we dont have money anymore to pay the bribes as it is all already with the corrupt officials.

Raj said...

Shruthi, mine too.

usha, no, no. That's too dismal a scenario. There's always some money left to bribe people with.

Sigma said...

Or is it that we bribed our way up in the list ? ;-)

I have just found your blog, and I am hooked already ... so going through your older posts. Great blog, really ! :-))

Raj said...

Sigma, thanks.

I confess that I didn't think of the possibility of us bribing our way up the list!