ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Corruption as Spectator Sport

While exposing individual acts of corruption is to be lauded, and the guilty deserve to be punished, we need to recognise that this is but a small part of the actions necessary for controlling corruption. We as citizens are ambivalent about corruption and, more than anyone else, politicians have sensed the mixed signals given by the people on corruption. Is it any wonder that they loudly demand the scalp of the corrupt while quietly ignoring the systemic reforms essential for controlling corruption?

The Tehelka.com expose has suddenly turned the drab phenomenon of corruption into a spectator sport in India, as exciting as cricket. The media, commentators and politicians of all hues have expressed much righteous indignation and a sense of betrayal on the theatrical events in the corridors of power that have now been captured on videotape for both entertainment and agonising reflection. The shock and dismay expressed by political leaders and their parties are understandable. The opposition parties would no doubt want to drive out the corrupt coalition government that now stands exposed. They are anxious that the guilty are punished forthwith in the great tradition of past governments. More importantly, they would like to replace the failed coalition and give the long suffering people of India an opportunity to experience good governance and high standards in public life.

Though the media and its commentators and experts are for the most part independent and devoid of political ambitions, they have been equally vociferous in demanding the removal of the government and severe punishment of the guilty. It is difficult to imagine that this reaction stems from the sense of shame, shock and injustice felt by these people. After all, there have been many cases of this kind in the past, including those involving defence deals, in the country and several of them are still languishing in courts. And every time the public reactions to the exposes are predictable. The individuals should be caught and punished. The governments and parties involved must be brought down. There is abiding faith in the thesis that corruption is basically an individual act and it will be controlled when the individuals involved are trapped and exposed. Hence, punishing those caught is all we need to do. This seems to be a widely shared view in Indian society.

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