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Corruption, can education help?

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

Recently Berlin-based non-profit organisation Transparency International released its report on the Global Corruption Perceptions Index for 2021, and according to the report, India stood at 85 out of 180 countries. As an Indian, it does concern me, and I am sure it is a matter of concern for you as well.

Corruption is not something new or unique to India; we find references to corruption in history and the phenomenon of corruption plagues developed and developing worlds alike. Without getting into the rigours of academic definitions, corruption for an ordinary citizen is a public official taking a bribe for doing his job or in the course of performing their officially mandated duties. The bribe might be a small “chai-pani” change, or it might be a large stream of funds offered as a kickback for a defence contract.

Gerald Caiden, in his article “Toward a General Theory of Official Corruption” listed the following forms:

  1. Non-performance of duties; desertion; parasitism

  2. Treason; subversion; illegal foreign transactions; smuggling

  3. Kleptocracy; privatization of public funds; larceny and stealing

  4. Misappropriation; forgery and embezzlement; padding of accounts; diverted funds; misuse of funds; unaudited revenues; skimming

  5. Abuse and misuse of coercive power; intimidation; undeserved pardons and remissions; torture

  6. Deceit and fraud; misrepresentation; cheating and swindling

  7. Perversion of justice; criminal behaviour; false evidence; unlawful detention; frame-ups

  8. Bribery and graft; extortion; illegal levies; kickbacks

  9. Tampering with elections; vote-rigging; gerrymandering

  10. Misuse of inside knowledge and confidential information; falsification of records

  11. Unauthorized sale of public offices, loans, monopolies, contracts, licences and public property

  12. Manipulation of regulations, purchases and supplies; bias and favouritism

  13. Tax evasion; profiteering

  14. Influence-peddling; favour-brokering; conflicts of interest

  15. Acceptance of improper gifts and entertainments; “speed” money; blackmail

  16. Protecting maladministration; cover-ups; perjury

  17. Black market operations; links with organized crime

  18. Cronyism; junkets

  19. Misuse of official seals, stationery, residences and perquisites

  20. Illegal surveillance; misuse of mails and telecommunications Caiden wrote the above in 1988; coming to the present, I remember reading “China’s Gilded Age: The Paradox of Economic Boom and Vast Corruption” by Yuen Yuen Ang. In her book published in 2020, she talks about four broad typologies of corruption:

  21. Petty theft

  22. Grand theft

  23. Speed money

  24. Access money

  25. From an Indian perspective, petty thefts are committed by low-level government officials, for example, a tehsildar, a head constable or even a small-time politician. In contrast, grand thefts involving larger embezzlement of public money falls in the domain of powerful bureaucrats or politicians with considerable power over decision making. Speed money is something that most of us witness when we access public services, for instance, “chai-pani” given for speeding up your license renewal or papers. While “access money” is the massive bribes paid by the corporates or business houses for getting tenders or lucrative government deals. I wonder which of the above four hurts our body politic the most (would like to hear your thoughts on it).

Global interest in ethical conduct has increased exponentially since the beginning of the 21st century. The United Nations Convention against Corruption came into force in 2005, and it specifies multiple forms of corruption and provides a legal framework for criminalising and tacking the “cancer of corruption.”

For a moment, let us keep the anti-corruption laws, conventions, regulations and institutional mechanisms aside and focus on making the “individual” morally responsible & sensitive to the issue of corruption by educating them. The question for you is, “can education play a role in containing or eliminating corruption?”

*GS IV, Ethics Mains Question 2017 “If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher.” – Abdul Kalam

Father, Mother & the teacher are the primary educators. As educators, they can play a crucial role in educating the next generation about the ills of corruption & the importance of ethical conduct!

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