Citizens' Issues
Corruption: A challenge for managers

Corrupt people take shelter under the age-old protection available to those facing allegations to the effect that “until proved guilty”. If we miss the opportunity to cleanse public life and allow our position in international assessments to drift further, it may take ages to redeem the country’s reputation

In November 2010 writing on “Demand and supply of corruption in India” Dr Bimal Jalan made the following observation on the working of the watchdogs of governance in India: “Investigations are carried out, guilt is established, appeals are filed but nothing much happens after that. Years pass; courts, people and the media soon move on to other cases.” The same feeling, in different situations has been finding expression through word of mouth, media reports and on faces of aam admi captured by electronic media and telecast across the world.

The simmering discontent in the minds of one billion people who toiled to make India rich and were denied any share in the end-product of their work is there for all to see. This discontent is finding expression in various forms, some peaceful, some violent, and most of the time as statistics on hunger deaths, increasing number of people going down the “poverty line” which itself is defective and designed to camouflage real situation. The political leadership is being blind to the realities when they are trying even at this late hour to resolve the issues being focused in well-intentioned movements like the one spearheaded by Anna Hazare. The issues get dodged or diverted by raising trivial differences of views, where the real problem is the fear of any ‘watchdog’.

India has an array of politicians, statesmen, businessmen and bureaucrats who do not face corruption charges. These eminent individuals have a moral responsibility to help the country pull out of the present crisis. UPA (United Progressive Alliance) chairperson Sonia Gandhi had exhorted for “zero tolerance” to corruption while addressing Congressmen in Allahabad sometime back. Her vision did not find takers even among her followers inasmuch as the government guided by her failed to take steps to ensure that at least people facing huge corruption charges did not hold public offices. While convalescing in the United States last year, Sonia Gandhi once again remembered the need to tackle corruption and on return to India promptly requested her party to do something about it.

Going by the dictionary meaning, the word corruption is associated with words like bribe, cheating, evil, badness, decayed, stinking, decayed, false, defilement, wickedness, violation, defective, spoilt, faulty, wrong, malignant, offensive, immoral, unchaste, vile and fallen (the list can go on). Suffice to say, anyone or any institution/organization having something attributable to any formations out of any of these words can be alleged to be corrupt. Luckily not so. It is generally accepted that what is legal is not corrupt. Then, like morality, the perception of corruption varies from individual to individual, society to society and country to country. Meaning, what is construed as legal in one context need not be so in another context.

For the rich and the powerful, there will always be legal remedies, as, historically, the laws are made and interpreted in their favour. No wonder, while really corrupt people take shelter under legal interpretations and the age-old protection available to those facing allegations to the effect that until proved guilty, the benefit of doubt would go in favour of the accused, eminent statesmen and innocent common man get dragged into controversies related to corruption, despite their efforts to maintain high moral and ethical standards in their own lives. In the deluge of corruption that the world is witnessing today, no Krishna will be able to float on a leaf unaffected by the deluge. The value system which is in disrepair globally needs a shock treatment. The initiative can come from India, if the nation decides to make every embarrassment an opportunity to correct and move forward. This can be done only by handling individual corruption cases on the basis of the facts of the case and not with reference to the impact such action will have on coalition government’s equilibrium or the immediate inconvenience or discomfort some individuals will face.

There are several ‘current’ corruption cases which compete between and among them as to which one has more quality ingredients of immense possibilities for multiplying personal net-worth without any value addition. While on the subject of corruption, one is reminded of a quote from Kautilya:

“Just as fish moving inside water cannot be known when drinking water, even so officers appointed for carrying out works cannot be known when appropriating money. It is possible to know even the path of birds flying in the sky, but not the ways of officers moving with their intentions concealed.” (Kautilya Arthasastra, 2.9.33, 34)

Leaving political in-fights and probes by various agencies to take their course, management institutes like IIMs and academicians should consider seriously studying the most ‘popular’ corruption cases of recent times such as 2G spectrum auction, Common Wealth Games and  the allegations against family members of former CJI K G Balakrishnan having amassed wealth disproportionate to their known sources of income. As, generally, management institutes have a soft approach to squandering of money by private sector enterprises, to protect the interests of private sector, subjects like a comparison between the managements of Air India and Kingfisher Airlines with their counterparts in India and abroad also could be done.

The cases cited are illustrative meant to indicate that they are multi-dimensional in nature as stakeholders include politicians, ministers and government officials and a dispassionate study by academicians may bring out socio-economic issues that may have to be addressed as part of the fight against corruption. The study should aim at unearthing the connections or nexus between and among stakeholders at various levels and come out with suggestions/recommendations about the safeguards that can be built into the system to minimize recurrence of similar instances. The safeguards could include, stricter penalties for economic crimes, denial of party tickets to ‘tainted’ politicians for fighting election, periodic publication of names of individuals/organizations involved in economic offences involving, say, Rs100 crore or more and voluntary/automatic vacation of public offices by individuals occupying high public offices and facing allegations which courts or government agencies like CBI admit for investigation.

If we miss this opportunity to cleanse public life and allow our position in international assessments to drift further, it may take ages to redeem the country’s reputation.

(The writer is a former general manager of Reserve Bank of India. He can be contacted at [email protected].)




5 years ago

An excellent analysis of corruption, the main reason being electoral politics,i.e., money to win elections. The fact that the feudal system is still prevalent in another form needs to be noted, and this system is supported by police and judiciary, and sometimes by media too. It is thought that the right education will rectify the blunders, but it has proved to be untrue and the fact is it is aggravated exponentially for the sociological reasons. The need of the hour is bringing the or amending the legislation to bring all the political class and the government servants under strict law which must involve capital punishment, confiscation of ill-gotten wealth, jailed for life etc. This must be part of LOK-PAL, and only then the system gets rectified. Second reason is the ritualistic hindu way of life which has got a lot of flamboyancy and self-esteem to demonstrate leading to accepted grade of corrupt practices. The historic mental attitude has not yet changed. And they presume as their right to enjoy the position entrusted by GOD, very much unfortunate.

ashok sen

5 years ago

A very well written article on corruption,and how our standing in the world is poor on this count.

The problem is that corruption is so endemic, people in all spheres of life have taken it as a part and parcel of daily life,and have by and large lost hope of any change,as the rule makers,who are supposed to be above all the corruption,are the most corrupt.

People have not forgotten the scams - Bofors, CWG, 2G, Adarsh, Lalu Ghotala, e.t.c. They see for years no real action by those in power,who could bring the guilty to face punishment for these massive scams; why should they then listen to Mrs. Gandhis preachings,when her familys involvement in Bofors still lingers in peoples minds.There is total despair/disillusion among the people,and only if a few more upright persons of the calibre of Dr. Abdul Kalam's coming to the fore, can possibly change the perception that we are finished on the matter of corruption and there is no hope.

Competition Commission approves Birla group's stake buy in Living Media

The CCI while approving the deal observed that both Aditya Birla group and India Today Group are engaged in the retail business, but the transaction is not likely to have an appreciable adverse effect on competition in India

New Delhi: Competition Commission of India (CCI) on Tuesday said it has approved Aditya Birla group's purchase of 27.5% stake in Living Media India Ltd, the holding firm of media giant India Today Group, reports PTI.
The stake is being purchased through IGH Holdings Private Ltd, an investment company of industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla-led business conglomerate. The two groups had announced this transaction earlier in May this year.
In its order, dated 14th August and made public today, CCI observed that both Aditya Birla group and India Today Group are engaged in the retail business, but the transaction "is not likely to have an appreciable adverse effect on competition in India", and therefore it has approved the deal.
The CCI said it received an application for its approval to the deal on 18th June, after which it had sought certain information and documents from IGH Holdings.
The proposed transaction involves an initial acquisition of 24.9% stake in Living Media India by IGH and an additional purchase of 2.6% stake, resulting into a total purchase of 27.5% equity.
The companies said in their applications to CCI that the said purchase of shares of Living Media by IGH may go up to a maximum of 49%, and the proposed acquisitions and valuation adjustments should be completed within six months from the end of the financial year 2015-16.
As per the CCI order, the companies had further said that the initial purchase of 24.9% stake and the subsequent acquisitions, including the purchases due to valuation adjustments, are inter-related and inter-dependent and the CCI approval has been sought for the proposed acquisition of equity shareholding of up to 49% of Living Media by IGH Holdings.
As per the details provided by the companies to CCI, there are certain conditions precedent in the share subscription and purchase agreement (SSPA) which related to certain transfer to and from Living Media, pursuant to which some businesses of Living Media, including Thomson Press (India), its subsidiaries and some other businesses would be hived off.
After such transfers, the subsidiaries and associate firms of Livin Media would include TV Today Network, ITAS Media, Today Retail Network, Today Merchandise, Harper Collins, Mail Today Newspapers, India Today Online, Universal Learn Today, Integrated Databases India and Automotive Exchange Pvt Ltd.
After the transaction, IGH would have certain statutory rights in Living Media, along with the contractual rights of the shareholders agreement.


Life Exclusive
Gen-Y sees totally cashless shopping coming, says survey

A Visa survey found that eight in 10 Millennials believe that they will one day be able to do all their shopping and bill payments online, while 73% believe this will be possible with a mobile phone


Thriving on a diet of online shopping, mobile banking and virtual games, young generation or Gen-Y believes that in future, new technology will allow them to dispense with cash totally, says a survey.


The research was conducted between June and July 2011 and more than 5,500 Millennials from across 11 countries including mainland China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan and the UAE were interviewed by Visa.


According to Visa’s “Connecting with the Millennials” study, which featured interviews with over 5,500 young people across Asia, Russia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), eight in 10 Millennials believe that they will one day be able to do all their shopping and bill payments online, while 73% believe this will be possible with a mobile phone. Visa defines ‘Millennials’ as those born between 1981 and 1991 and aged between 18 and 28 years at the time the survey was conducted.

We believe the Millennials play a significant role in boosting electronic payments in India: they have an active digital lifestyle and are constantly embracing new payments technologies. At Visa, we see mobile/online payments as a game changer and are providing the Indian Gen-Y with advanced and robust electronic payments technology to drive growth towards a cashless and a more efficient environment," says Uttam Nayak, Group Country Manager for India and South Asia, Visa.


According to the survey, a high proportion of Indian Millennials have an active digital life today and use their personal computer or laptop extensively for internet banking, online shopping, and bill payments. “Online shopping is becoming increasingly popular among young Indian consumers—they spend about 16% of their monthly disposable income online. Among those who purchase online, four in 10 make online purchases at least monthly, indicating a healthy appetite to buy online. However, 24% of the Millennials prefer cash on delivery as the most preferred payment method for online purchases, followed by debit card which is preferred by 21%," the survey said.

Debit cards are a preferred mode of payment for four out of every 10 Indian Millennials, and 47% prefer using it for high value payments of over Rs1,000. This shows a strong opportunity for growth of debit cards in the country in general.


The survey also identified an increasing inclination of Millennials towards electronic payment methods. 71% of the respondents look for security over convenience, acceptance, and flexibility when comparing different payment methods. The ability to pay after banking hours, usage while making unplanned purchases, maximizing rewards program, getting discounts and the convenience they provide over cash are the key drivers motivating the Millennials to use credit cards.


Interestingly, 38% of the Indian respondents who did not already own a payment card at the time of survey cited having a strong desire to own one in the near future, whereas 33% showed interest in owning a debit card and 24% in owning a prepaid card in the future.


Despite the steady growth of electronic payments in India, high inclination towards usage of cash is still seen as a key barrier in growth of non case transactions. According to the survey, Millennials still pay for 56% of the total expenses by cash. This is mostly true for payments of low-value products. Issues like low acceptance, uncomfortable for small purchases, apprehensions around mischarges and safety are among some of the barriers.


The future holds an enormous opportunity especially for mobile payments and online payments in India as 76% of the Indian Millennials wish that they could make all their payments using their mobile phone and 79% wish they would be able to make all purchases and pay all bills online, hence, driving the move towards a cashless future, says the survey.



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