THE criminality of corruption and black money are symptoms of a deeper social and moral malaise. Their scale may depend on factors like the law and its enforcement, but the bottomless greed of India’s elites, in a country where the overwhelming majority toil in grim poverty, poses poignant moral questions. Holders of the highest offices of state involved in huge malfeasance, from ex-Cabinet Minister A Raja and senior ministerial colleagues to wealthy business associates, exhibit no hint of remorse. And each day reveals more plunder, on a scale that recalls Nadir Shah’s seizure of three centuries’ accumulated Mughal treasure.
While the evidence of criminal misconduct piles inexorably higher the nation is subjected to the familiar refrain of India’s nominal premier, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s matchless integrity. He needs to recognise that the very claim to probity now adds insult to injury. It is a source of embarrassment for him and the many Indians that once felt genuine pride to have him as their Prime Minister. It is ironical that his diligent apologist, the Nobel Laureate, Amartya Sen, felt no compunction defending him by speciously referring to the compulsions of coalition politics. It has not occurred to either venerable gentleman that any man with a vestige of decency would have refused to provide shelter for such criminality and withdrawn from public life gracefully.
Accurate understanding of the phenomena of corruption and black money merits conceptual clarity and an historical dimension instead of the perplexing public debate in India. Corruption and black money are related to each other, but they are not identical and their dynamics differ. Black money is income and ownership of wealth that has evaded legitimate taxation. Evasion is different from avoidance of taxation, which is legal though it may be regarded as immoral. Evasion is a violation of the criminal statute and punishable by imprisonment, if sufficiently serious, which is also the case with corruption. The latter is absolute criminal delinquency, usually by public officials, but not invariably. The most common forms are taking a bribe to facilitate a contract or perform a task in the power of the bribe taker to delay or thwart.
Many are exercised about the scale of the black money held in foreign banks by Indians. But it would be well to remember that 40 per cent or more of the Indian economy is untaxed and therefore comprised by black money. All forms of tax evasion, including hiding illicit wealth abroad, will usually involve the bribery of public officials to facilitate concealment. Sensible taxation policies, though backed by sanctions, could address the problem of wealth hidden abroad. But why should politicians adopt measures to curtail it when they themselves own substantial illegal funds abroad or benefit from it by declining to punish its owners? There is also an historical dimension to the growth in scale of Indian black money, provoked by penal rates of taxation, imposed by deluded, half-wit leaders promising a socialist paradise.
Marginal rates of taxation of ninety per cent guarantee that evasion will occur and it is unrealistic to moralise about it instead of espousing more pragmatic taxation levels although the worst extortionate excesses are now in the past. The other unrecognised factor in the irate denunciation of black money is the blindingly obvious waste and misappropriation of revenues by government itself and on a scale equally reprehensible as tax evasion. The Indian state is a profoundly predatory state and its middle name is grand larceny and the ruled understandably seek to evade paying taxes to such venal rulers. And who can blame tax evaders who watch their hard earned money misspent on cockamamie schemes, so beloved of India’s completely uneducated, supreme political leader, and stolen outright by politicians?
Corruption is not synonymous with the reach of the state and bureaucracy, but they are incestuous first cousins in India. At every juncture of interaction between the state and citizens bribery is an unavoidable prerequisite. There is no need to catalogue the range and variety of forms that bribery takes except to note that everything from the request for a simple application form to permission to import prompt demands for bribes by government employees. Recourse to the law to resist such demands for bribes, as some are naively recommending, is quite unrealistic. It is far too costly and complicated to report a bribe taker and registering a complaint itself may require a bribe! Even more consequential, complaining can lead to a worse outcome for the complainant, often needing to deal again with the same corrupt bureaucrats! Corruption also occurs in the private sector and contracts for purchases are routinely facilitated by bribery! But this is a private cost and susceptible to appropriate remedy by the principal suffering the loss.
There is a partial solution to this pervasive phenomenon of official corruption. It requires drastic curtailment of the reach of government to eliminate the power of bureaucrats and their political masters to withhold administrative approval, introduce stringent transparency when it is unavoidable and also impose default settings that automatically guarantee permissions sought, within specified time limits. Unfortunately, all governments have signally failed to embark on meaningful administrative reforms though sensible proposals that do not require legislation have been suggested by many. One must therefore conclude that government itself is irretrievably complicit in perpetuating bureaucratic procedures that allow bribery, which is indeed the case since ministers and civil servants are usually co-conspirators in the crime.
It is absolutely correct to focus on Congress Party and its vast retinue of hangers-on for the shocking levels of corruption exposed recently. It is they who have ruled India during almost all its independent history and must take disproportionate share of the blame. However, they are not alone in the propensity for this infamy though the ambiguous racial and national allegiances of their imported, presiding deity might explain the abandonment of all caution in the multiplicity of frauds taking place. The Congress Party is also contaminated by the values of a society that have allowed corruption to infect virtually every aspect of its functioning. Indians at large cannot escape blame since they elect known criminals and remain indifferent to the parlous state of affairs, however much they affect to decry it.
But the main culprit in the issue of corruption remains government since the levers of power it wields are the most potent means available to alter behaviour by enacting appropriate laws, procedures and enforcing them vigilantly. However, the apparent motivation of the Indian Supreme Court in assuming direct control of investigations into black money and corruption is the conviction that politicians and government officials are unwilling to do it themselves. It seems politicians are the critical players in the colossal plunder increasingly revealed and other parties involved are, in fact, junior partners. Most importantly, the Congress party and its bankrupt secular ideology, intentionally designed to harm Hindus, has created a wider moral vacuum that nurtures public apathy, allowing corruption to flourish.
Corruption is not a new phenomenon in India and has a very long history and worsened by the 1950s, once the idealism of the Independence struggle waned, as retired senior civil servants noted in the early 1960s. The many facets of corruption were unavoidable in a conquered society, ruled by fear and condemned to perpetual hunger, the fate of Hindus enslaved under Islamic tutelage. Cheating and dishonesty became a necessity for victims of grotesque violence to survive. In India countless generations of subjugation made cheating and corruption the societal norm, almost an evolutionary socio-biological necessity encoded in the DNA of individuals and society at large.
Unfortunately, when society is composed of a prodigious variety of ethnic, linguistic, caste or religious groupings selfishness is a regrettable proclivity and concern for those outside the immediate circle of community exceptional. People are instinctively loyal to their own parochial cluster and rather indifferent to others and sustained efforts are needed from leaders to infuse a sense of unity amongst people. The structural disunity of India has a long history, by virtue of sheer size and subsequently owing to prolonged foreign occupations that cultivated extant divisions to rule more easily. Loss of sovereignty to outsiders is also more likely when ruling elites are corrupt because of vulnerability to the blackmail of public exposure. In addition, since time immemorial the tactic of divide-and-rule has dictated that minorities should be cultivated because collaboration with powerful outsiders enhances their local political fortunes. Hence, the clamour of suborned Indian Christian activists for US intervention on their behalf and the unsurprising solicitude of the latter towards Muslim jihadis within India since both are members of minorities.
Unfortunately, Jawaharlal Nehru and his successors found the pre-existing divisions of India rather useful for assuring their own political ambitions. By trying to expunge the faith of the overwhelming majority, which other sectarian communities could have partaken without violence to their own convictions, the sense of collective identity necessary for uniting Indians was grievously undermined. Instead the Congress party and the Indian state they have long controlled aggressively banished all expressions of ethical Hindu concerns from the public sphere. The same vile Congress party is now engaged in a gigantic conspiracy, in conjunction with foreign missionaries and militant Islam, to root it out altogether. However, every government of independent India has been complicit in the corrupt plunder of Hindu temples. This phenomenon given legal basis by Jawaharlal Nehru though, unfortunately, no attempt was made to end it when the NDA was in power.
India’s secular pretensions would be laughable if their consequences were not so tragic. It had begun with the typical, half-baked intellectual inspiration for which Jawaharlal Nehru was notorious and soon became a deadly weapon of choice for assault against Hinduism. Christians use this demonic secularism to cultivate aggressive indifference and hostility towards all manifestations of the culture of India, anchored in its Hindu past. Muslims found in it an excuse for espousing a petrodollar-fuelled, vicious intolerance, in preference to any possible alternative. Today, Sonia Gandhi and her criminal retinue are implementing a Final Solution against Hindus, earlier used by Nazism to destroy European Jewry, by sponsoring the biggest wave of religious conversions by Christian imperialists since the darkest days of India’s thousand-year Islamic subjugation.
India’s public space has long been a void, emptied of ethical and moral sensibilities that in the final analysis might have restrained egregious misconduct. A distancing from unbridled materialism and universalistic compassion towards all living creatures might have mitigated the reckless pursuit of worldly goods, symptomatic of corruption and bribery. Instead India’s ruling order is totally in the thrall of a professional class of criminals masquerading as politicians and the country is being surrendered to foreign imperial interests determined to destroy it.