Even blind are witness to bribery in India: Bhagwati

Thursday, December 2, 2010

NEW DELHI - Eminent economist Jagdish Bhagwati said Thursday that corruption was so rampant in India that even a blind man could say that bribes were being given and accepted.

“It is easy to exaggerate the corruption we have today. In India, public figures are considered to be corrupt unless they prove to you otherwise. A blind man will tell you how he saw ‘with his own eyes’ a bribe being given and accepted,” Bhagwati said while delivering the third Hiren Mukerjee Memorial Annual Parliamentary Lecture in the Central Hall of parliament.

He said institutional reforms can reduce the corruption in the country.

“The abolition of the permit raj has eliminated that important source of corruption. But that also means that we have removed from our system the way in which politicians could raise money for their campaigns which, while not as expensive as in America, are still large enough to matter.

This means that other forms of corrupt ways of raising political funds have proliferated. We need therefore legal ways to raise campaign finance. Americans have done this; we need to do so as well.

The 76-year-old professor, who was educated at Cambridge and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, narrated an anecdote here.

“A most distinguished Indian bureaucrat once told me that his mother said to him ‘I believe you are not corrupt only because you are my son’.”

Bhagwati said India could use science to get at corruption in several areas and praised Nandan Nilekani’s project of a national database of identity details of Indian citizens as “the most important innovative reform in recent year.

“This should take the political corruption out of the public distribution system and in the employment guarantee scheme, for instance, and will also reduce bureaucratic corruption by bypassing the low-level bureaucrats who refuse to give you what you need unless you grease their palm.”

Filed under: Politics

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