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Policing Corruption

By Dr. V. Raghunathan

I live in Bangalore. The other day, a couple of young police constables visited my residence for some verification purposes related to company law formalities. In the course of our conversation, I asked them their educational qualifications, whereupon both of them (batch mates) stated that they had an MA in political science. I then asked them that in that case, why they had not enlisted for direct entry as an Assistant Sub-Inspector? Weren’t they over-qualified to enlist as constables?

Their answer saddened me deeply, even though we all know that this is probably the standard story in virtually all our states and not just Karnataka, even if the state ranks among the most corrupt states in the country. We recognize of course that the difference between the most corrupt or least corrupt may be relatively fine.

The two constables smiled sadly at my question and seemed diffident. When I pressed them one more time, they said, in 2010 when they had enlisted as constables, the “going rate” for ASI’s position in the State Police department was about Rs. 8 lakhs. They couldn’t afford the sum. And today, even though they are now part of the police force, they are still not exempted from the speed money, and the “rate” has gone up to about Rs. 25 lakhs and they still can’t afford the rate. Their only bet may be to clear the IPS examination if they are good enough!

I didn’t press them further, but it was evident that even the entry as a constable wasn’t exactly free, but it had been more “affordable”. What also follows is that if they have to have any chance at the ASI’s position ever, or even for routine promotions, they have to cough up the appropriate rates. It’s the same for the ASIs! What they pay at the time of entry is just that – the entry fee. Any subsequent promotions have their respective rates.

So is it any surprise that a typical policeman we encounter is often corrupt? Can you even “blame” him (or her) for being corrupt? After all, isn’t he “officially” expected, nay, blessed to recover his investment on the job? Why would the job hold even an iota of service orientation, when the public is not as much a constituency to be served as a clientele to be milked?

More often than not, the police department ranks among the most corrupt departments (TOI, Nov 27, 2014), nipped on their heels by other departments like Transportation, Land Revenue (Stamps & Registration), Octroi, Customs, Electricity Board et al, in virtually any order! In many of these departments, key positions are known to be auctioned to the highest bidder!

We all know all about corruption and nobody needs to be educated by me on how corrupt we are as a nation. But we are fatalistic. After all, what can I alone do? Isn’t everybody corrupt? So why not me? After all, I can’t set the nation right all by myself. So our fatalistic nation waits for someone like Anna Hazare to come along, hoping this eleventh avatar of Vishnu would somehow rid the nation of corruption. But we do not necessarily add our weight to the momentum he builds. It is his revolution. It doesn’t bother us that not one single step in the direction of curbing corruption, whether by way of the political will for starters, and then electoral reforms, Lokpal Bill, application of information technology for reduction of corruption, tweaking of sundry processes and systems, have been taken in the States, even though corruption was the main electoral plank in 2014. Somehow we are supposed to believe that Prime Minister Modi (the twelfth Vishnu?) has reduced corruption, even when it stares us in the face all the time — 24×7 — in every aspect of our lives.

Our fatalism serves the political class well. In fact, they love us for our fatalism which keeps us miles from any semblance of any real revolution for reforms. After all, we are a people who if we live on the ground floor, will not want to pay for the lift maintenance in our own housing society. The country, after all, is way more amorphous an entity. Too big and too diverse for us to feel any real sense of patriotism to improve its plight. So we are all happy delinking corruption from patriotism. After all, it is easier to link patriotism to our willingness to chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ or ‘Vande Matram’. We find a little disconnect between those chants and our abuse of our Mata or Matr in every conceivable way through corruption, which is rotting the country from the core.

I do apologize for the tone of this post. After all, we are growing at 8% and I should, therefore, shut up. Never mind that growth rate is on a real per capita income of less than $1,400.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

The article first appeared in Times Of India.

Dr. V. Raghunathan
Dr. V. Raghunathan

Written By Dr. V. Raghunathan

V Raghunathan is Director, India campus of Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto & a corporate CEO. He is a former professor of IIM, Ahmedabad and former president of ING Vysya Bank. He is an adjunct professor at SDA Bocconi, Milan & Schulich School of Business. He is also an author and a columnist, with over 12 books and 500 papers and articles. His latest book is Beyond the Call of Duty (Harper Collins, 2015), others being Duryodhana; Locks, Mahabharata and Mathematics; Don’t Sprint the Marathon – from Harper Collins, and Ganesha on the Dashboard; Corruption Conundrum; and Games Indians Play – from Penguin. He is listed among the top 50 global Indian thinkers of Thinkers50.

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