Com­bat­ing Cor­rup­tion

Southasia - - Comment - Syed Jawaid Iqbal

Sto­ries of cor­rup­tion in South Asia make world news, es­pe­cially when or­ga­ni­za­tions like Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional re­lease their sur­veys and the over-en­thu­si­as­tic news me­dia have a field day re­port­ing these sto­ries. Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est fig­ures re­leased by TI as part of its re­port, ti­tled “Daily Lives and Cor­rup­tion, Public Opin­ion in South Asia,” 7,500 peo­ple were sur­veyed be­tween 2010 and 2011 in Bangladesh, In­dia, the Mal­dives, Nepal, Pak­istan and Sri Lanka, on the fre­quency of bribes in these coun­tries. Ac­cord­ing to the find­ings, in In­dia some 54% of the re­spon­dents said they have paid a bribe. It was 66%, or two out of ev­ery three peo­ple, in Bangladesh, 50% in Pak­istan, 32% in Nepal, 32% in Sri Lanka and 5% in the Mal­dives. Bangladesh has thus emerged as the most cor­rupt coun­try in the re­gion. The study also found that most peo­ple in South Asia think cor­rup­tion is on the rise, with 62% of those in­ter­viewed say­ing they be­lieve cor­rup­tion has be­come worse in the past three years.

It is true that bribery has be­come a key part of the lives of peo­ple all across South Asia. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, po­lit­i­cal par­ties and the po­lice have been found to be the most cor­rupt in­sti­tu­tions in the re­gion, fol­lowed closely by leg­is­la­tures and public of­fi­cials. Ac­cord­ing to TI`S na­tional cor­rup­tion per­cep­tion sur­vey 2011 for Pak­istan, land ad­min­is­tra­tion and po­lice were the two most cor­rupt sec­tors while ed­u­ca­tion and mil­i­tary were the least cor­rupt.

There is no doubt that cor­rup­tion has ac­quired colos­sal pro­por­tions over the years, lead­ing to the re­al­iza­tion among the ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple that while their re­spec­tive gov­ern­ments, bu­reau­cra­cies and public and pri­vate sec­tor en­ter­prise are the main play­ers in the spread of cor­rup­tion and sleaze, it is the masses who must stand up and fight this men­ace. Strong voices have been raised against cor­rup­tion across South Asia as the main cause for all the ills. How­ever, both as a part of the agenda of var­i­ous public in­ter­est move­ments as well as a pop­ulist slo­gan of politi­cians in the heat of their elec­tion cam­paigns, noth­ing has ever emerged as a con­crete mea­sure to combat cor­rup­tion. There is, how­ever, one ex­cep­tion: the path paved by the veteran anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paigner Anna Hazare in In­dia. He con­tin­ues to wage a peace­ful, non-vi­o­lent move­ment against cor­rup­tion that has gen­er­ated tremen­dous sup­port from the peo­ple.

With the state of cor­rup­tion in South Asia be­ing at its dis­mal worst, per­haps it would make a dif­fer­ence if there were more Anna Hazares around, lead­ing sim­i­lar move­ments. It also needs to be em­pha­sized how­ever, that the is­sue of cor­rup­tion is very much in­ter-re­lated with other global is­sues. On the in­ter­na­tional level, the preva­lent eco­nomic sys­tem needs to be scru­ti­nized more closely as it has laid the roots of cor­rup­tion and this di­rectly and in­di­rectly im­pacts peo­ple around the world. It is only when the peo­ple’s ef­fec­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion and rep­re­sen­ta­tion in so­ci­ety is pre­vented from be­ing un­der­mined that the cur­rently preva­lent lev­els of cor­rup­tion will re­cede.

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