About a day or so ago, I was with a group of friends and we were having a discussion on the topic “Corruption is the main outcome of democracy in India”. Corruption as an issue comes up almost every day in India, however, I’d never associated it with democracy in a cause-and-effect manner.
Corruption to me is power and wealth balancing each other out. For example, a government employee has the power to delay documentation and introduce red tape into any process under her/his direct control. Another person (businessman, professional, etc) wants his work to be done quicker, but only has wealth and not the power. In this situation, the government officer leverages his power to appropriate wealth, while the person who wants his work done will (in most cases) gladly hand over some cash to grease the wheels. So basically, those that have wealth try to buy more power, while those with power try to appropriate greater amounts of wealth.
Now what does this have to do with democracy? Initially, I thought democracy should be discouraging corruption. After all, a group of people elect a leader, who is then accountable to them. If he doesn’t perform or is given to under-the-table dealings, they put up someone else the next time around. Unfortunately dear reader, as nice as that sounds, that’s not how people work.
You see, it’s about power and wealth all over again. Wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few; according to this report, the top 1% of India’s adult population holds 15.9% of its wealth; the top 5% own 38.3% and the top 10% own 52.9%…..the bottom 20% hold just 1% of the country’s wealth.
The poorer masses only have numbers and voting rights, which they use to appropriate power, electing their own to the higher government echelons (which is also reason for the high incidence of caste politics in India).
Now this one elected minister is the SPOC (single-point-of-contact, I still am an MBA) for all those wealthy people and the power/wealth balancing that we spoke of earlier, ensues. Only this time it’s on a much larger scale. Why is this so? There could be many answers; stakes are much greater, all those who helped the person become a minster have to be compensated, being the SPOC the minister has to be paid an amount equivalent to all the various smaller people who would have to be paid off in the earlier situation, etc.
If you feel I might be incorrect in my analysis or may have missed out something, then, dear reader, kindly pen down your thoughts in the comments section below.