by Rashi Srivastava
Before heading towards what political corruption is and how it affects a country’s economy, it will be first important to know what corruption is. The word ‘corrupt’ has been derived from the Latin word ‘corruptus’, the past participle of the word corrumpere meaning to abuse or destroy. Corruption in Indian society has existed time and again since earlier times. Its basic origination has been the people in the past times that used to take bribery for getting the wrong things done as compared to the present days, where bribes are being paid for getting the right things done and at the right time. Political corruption is the abuse of public power or the legislated powers by the elected government officials for gaining illegal private gain. Basically, any illegal act was done by a person who is an officeholder, and if the act is done related to the official duties, then that act would be categorized as under political corruption. The state of political corruption is the worst in India. In the words of Transparency International, “Corruption is one of the greatest challenges of the contemporary world. It undermines good government, fundamentally distorts public policy, leads to the misallocation of resources, harms the private sector and private sector development and particularly hurts the poor”[i]
As said already, political corruption is the misuse of powers by government officials for their private gain[ii]. The power that was assigned to him/her was for the public good. Political corruption takes place at higher levels of the political system. This type of corruption not only leads to the misuse of resources but also has an impact on how the decisions are made. Political corruption is basically the interpretation of the norms of procedure and of the political institutions, thus affecting the governmental institutions and the political system, which frequently and gradually leads to institutional decay[iii].
Political corruption in India is at an all-time high. The politicians try to remain in power and for fulfilling their objective; they violate all the rules, ethics, and morals and also break certain laws. This is what leads to political corruption. The major cause of worry is that political corruption is weakening the body of the political system which is very harshly destroying the structure of law governing the society. Nowadays, it seems like politics is only for criminals. Elections in many parts of the country are associated with a host of criminal activities. These activities include threatening the voters to vote for a specified candidate or, more than that, physically stop the voters from entering the polling booths, especially the weaker sections of society, including the tribals, Dalits, rural women, etc. Political corruption is mostly practiced by the government officials and the politicians who lead to the collection of black money, which ultimately destroys and damages the morale of the people. The Central Bureau of Investigation had registered over 1450 cases of political corruption during the years 2010, 2011, and 2012[iv]. The cases were registered under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988[v].
If there have been any reforms regarding political corruption, then that had come from the Judiciary and the Election Commission. Firstly, in the case of PUCL vs. Union of India[vi], the Supreme Court opined that all electoral candidates should submit an affidavit disclosing their assets, liabilities, and criminal records. Secondly, the Election Commission said that the use of electronic voting machines (EVM) has majorly helped in handling vote-rigging. Yet, the orders and directives given by the Election Commission and the Supreme Court are not sufficient enough. In the year 2008, the order given by the Chief Information Commission declared the political parties as public authorities and said that the parties must submit detailed balance sheets indicating the availability of funds, income, and expenditure incurred by them.
The electoral system relies on black money obtained by dubious means, including tax evasion[vii]. Though the politicians are always involved in major corruption scandals, investigations are done regularly, and very few politicians have been convicted. According to The Economist[viii], more than a fifth of the Federal Parliament members has faced criminal charges. India’s lower house of Parliament, i.e., the Lok Sabha, has 545 elected members. As of May 2011 report, approximately, 30 percent of them have criminal cases pending against them.
As per Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index[ix] (CPI), India is ranked at the 86th position among 180 countries. On the other hand, India was ranked 80th out of 180 countries in the year 2019.
During the current pandemic time, the rate of political corruption has increased with the politicians conducting panchayat elections in the peak periods of the Covid-19 crisis. The politicians were engaged in gaining popularity and the votes, while on the other hand, the health of many was affected. Covid-19 is not only a health and economic crisis but also has become a corruption crisis, with countless lives lost due to the beguiling effects of corruption while achieving a fair and equitable global response.
Suggestions and Conclusions
From the above analysis, it can be concluded that political corruption has itself rooted since the earlier times from bribes being taken and given to achieving an objective employing an illegal manner. For preventing and eradicating political corruption, investigations should be made on a vast scale so that the civil servants and the government officials by whom the corruptions happen. This will firstly, create fear in the minds of the people and they will think before creating any such kind of act, and further, it will also help the country to progress towards a better path.
For achieving such an objective, the oversight institutions need to be strengthened. Also, it should be ensured that there is open and transparent contracting to avoid wrongdoing, identifying conflicts of interest, and also ensure fair pricing.
[i] Transparency International, http://www.transparancy.de/mission.html (Dec. 15th, 1998).
[iv] Till March 2012.
[vi] (1997) 1 SCC 301.
[vii] Freedom House’s Report 2008 titled ‘Understanding Corruption In India: Promoting Transparency’.
[ix] 2020 report.
[x] Picture: Medium
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