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.