Those hoping to clean up our institutions imagine conducting sting operations, with hidden cameras, to catch the culprits in action. There is nothing wrong with such investigations. Governments should be afraid of the citizens. However, it is erroneous to think that the removal of bribery would solve the problems and defects of our institutions.
Survival in India requires paying bribes. Those who avoided paying bribes are not in the Indian gene-pool. While India is indeed one of the most corrupt places in the world, bribes in their simplistic forms can be seen as extra costs and mere transfers of purchasing power.
Financial corruption is merely the tip of the iceberg of corruption.
The Indian politician and the bureaucrat wastes enormous amount of time and energy on the drama that goes along with bribery. He wants you to kowtow before him. When the money has exchanged hands, he does not do the promised job. More importantly, he is utterly incompetent, indecisive, superstitious, and irrational. Without rationally applying capital and human energy, progress cannot happen.
Their incompetence, superstitious nature, and irrationality are where the real iceberg of Indian corruption is, which cannot be remedied through sting operations or the law.
What can you do about the rapid increase in preaching of Hindutva (politicized Hinduism), war against the real or imagined love-jihad, and illegal arrests of dating couples by the police? What can you do about wasting resources on enforcing national anthem on movie-goers, blocking roads to satisfy fragile egos of politicians, or time wastage and soul-destroying humiliation that every Indian must suffer at the government office?
Serious restrictions have been enforced on the ownership and use of cows. This means that a lot of poor people have lost their livelihood and cows face starvation. The apathy of the railway authorities means that day-trains leave with empty seats while desperate people cannot travel. Sidewalks are constructed in ways that they cannot be used. The list of unnecessary problems goes on.
The victim of government apathy loses his soul, self-respect, and is demeaned. The perpetrator gains nothing of real value. One very senior bureaucrat once told me that he enjoys when others suffer. These are loose-loose interactions. None of these issues are in the realm of conventional corruption and hence cannot be dealt with in the court of law.
When I lived in Delhi, I fought for many years to stop burning of garbage. The typical scene around the country is that the local sweeper whips dust off the roads, making the environment dusty, harming lungs of the kids, and the elderly. Dust then settles down all over the surroundings including inside people’s houses. The sweepers then collect leaves, heap them next to the trees and put the leaves on fire, which dries up leaves on the trees and the cycle continues. A much better solution would have been not to do anything.
Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh (MP), Shivraj Singh Chouhan, recently stated that roads in MP are a lot better than those in the US. He either has no clue what the US is like, is lying through his teeth to pander to the propagandized vote-bank, or is simply incapable of understanding the objective world.
Through the magic wand of legislation, MP now has more than 56% participation of women in the government. Because India has had more women in top positions in the government (Sushma Swaraj, Uma Bharti, etc.), Singh considers India to be superior to the US. When public schools cannot find teachers to hire, Singh has enforced 50% reservation for women in such jobs.
In this environment of utter irrationality, financial corruption is mere noise. I would like to see India becoming better than the US, but telling outrageous lies and feigning does not change the reality.
This isn’t about picking on two Chief Ministers of India. Across the spectrum of politics and bureaucracy in India, exactly the same problem exists. The problem of corruption is not just about the ever-present need to bribe, which is the mere tip of the iceberg, but a much wider and deeper corruption of irrationality, utter lack of competencies, propagandizing the citizens, indecisiveness, and tribalism.
Only an awakened society can address the deeply entrenched corruption by voting for rational, non-tribal, intelligent leaders.