Comment Pieces

So what is corruption?

Posted on July 23, 2010

Most of us have a broad understanding of what corruption means. We also know it is widespread – ask anybody on the street. Most of us have a personal story to tell, and it often makes you angry and frustrated. However, the edges of bribery are quite fuzzy! Giving a tip is not considered bribery; in fact it is considered quite civilized! But if a government official demanded a ‘bakseesh’, you would certainly consider it to be a corrupt action, won’t you? So what does the law say? Nothing! Read India’s Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and you won’t find a definition of corruption. It only describes several punishable offences that amount to acts of corruption; first, taking a bribe for performing an official act and second, misusing ones official powers to secure a monetary advantage. Discussing corruption evokes a familiar pattern of reactions. Most people accept it as inevitable and unavoidable. Many even say that nothing should be done about it; that it’s a form of gift giving and that at least, the corrupt deliver efficiently. Most people also see corruption to be a social trend arising out of an erosion of value systems. 7 common excuses for accepting & condoning corruption • Excuse 1: corruption is everywhere, • Excuse 2: corruption always existed, • Excuse 3: concept is vague and culturally determined, • Excuse 4: cleansing will require whole change in attitudes & values, • Excuse 5: corruption is not harmful; it is the grease that moves the economic engine, • Excuse 6: Nothing can be done if the top is corrupt and corruption is systematic, • Excuse 7: Don’t worry, with free markets, it will eventually go away So what do you think? Do we do anything about it, or live with it? Even if we do, don’t we need to know what are the many ingenious ways in which we get pressurized, threatened, intimidated, persuaded, fooled, or seduced into paying a bribe? Go on, tell us!