From Gandhi to Anna. Photo by Deepankar Raj.
Anna Hazare is fasting against corruption in India. Specifically, he wants the approval of a toothy version of the Lokpal Bill approved, one that establishes and empowers an anti-corruption institution. Is this necessary? Can the existing system be made to work?
What’s The Problem
A 2005 study by Transparency International showed that around half of Indians had first hand experience paying a bribe or peddling influence (PDF). India has more black money stashed abroad than anyone else. The Washington Post reported that “Nearly a fourth of the 540 Parliament members face criminal charges, including human trafficking, immigration rackets, embezzlement, rape and even murder, according to Chhokar’s group.” Thus, is corruption a problem? For shizz.
Is A Toothsome Lokpal Necessary?
So, does Hazare have the solution? An independent body with broad oversight? The question is whether the current system is working, or could be made to work. I looked through some awesome data from PRS India. They have their own analysis of Corruption cases against government officials (PDF), which is better. This is just my mucking about.
My quick conclusion is that corruption cases simply pile up in the courts. Have a look.
As the PRS reports, “as of end-2010, there were 9,927 CBI cases pending in courts. Of these, 2,245 cases (23% of the total) were pending for more than 10 years.” As you can see from the graph, cases keep piling up. At the current rate, cases will simply never be cleared. Thus, if you are corrupt, a complaint is not a real disincentive.
According to the PRS, the Central Bureau of Investigations is understaffed: “As of December 2010, 21% of the sanctioned posts in CBI were vacant”. The courts, I assume, are as overburdened and slow as the ones in Sri Lanka. Is this a problem?
Seems like. The value of property recovered is rising, so the crimes seem big. The fines, however, stay about the same size. Throughout the data you see this pattern. Cases, complaints and costs rise, but the prosecution and punishment level remains about the same. So… it seems like it’s not working.
As per CNN, ‘In India “high-level corruption and scams are now threatening to derail the country’s credibility and [its] economic boom,” says a report from KPMG.’ More importantly, corruption erodes a nation’s dignity and the ability of people to get ahead in life. Which is the spiritual and human component I think Anna Hazare is latching on to.
Hazare’s argument is that the government as is cannot adequately police corruption within its ranks. His demand is that the new Lokpal Bill (highlighted differences) create real powers and real oversight because the current system isn’t working. On that point, I think the data bears him out.
Don’t take my word for it, the original data is presented here and the Excel file is available at bit.ly/corruptioncasesinindia. It’s statewise, which I summed into national figures on this spreadsheet here.