Corruption has unfortunately become an all-encompassing feature of India. Indians are all too familiar with it. For citizens dealing with all levels of government, routine abuse of power has lost its ability to shock or even to evoke comment. Most people accept corruption as a fact of life. What should truly disturb us is corruption in the public sector. The telecom scam is a terrible example of public sector corruption which Transparency International (TI) defines as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.”
The magnitude of the telecom scam is massive, but it is hardly unique. In resource-rich states, scams involve mining rights; in major cities, they often deal with real estate. The details vary but the underlying story is the same.
Just in the last few months, the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi were marred by allegations of massive financial corruption amounting to billions of dollars. Another case of high corruption that recently came to light — called the Adarsh Housing Society scam — involved politicians, builders, and defence top brass. These financial misappropriations are nothing new. The Washington, D.C. based Global Financial Integrity report, The Drivers and Dynamics of Illicit Financial Flows from India: 1948-2008, released this month estimates that the present value of India’s total illicit financial flows is at least US$462 billion, an amount that is twice India’s current external debt of US$230 billion.