TERMITE OF CORRUPTION

In his speech to the nation on Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked about the "termite of corruption" that weakens the country. He wanted the nation to overcome corruption. It would be outlandish to expect everyone in India to walk on a straight path of honesty and truthfulness. There will be deviations, no doubt but an atmosphere of honesty will go a long way in eradicating the termite of corruption that so badly rots the country. Every office, every public organization, every public service agency seem to be under the influence of this scourge. Politicians from top to bottom try to enrich themselves with public money. The hidden termite seems to be everywhere.

The use of public money for private purposes is the main source of corruption in India. The bureaucracy of the country is supposed to serve the masses. However, more often than not it puts a choke hold on the lives of ordinary people who are busy making a living. The ordinary folks could be small farmers, share croppers, small business owners, day labors or folks looking for work. Their combined frustration and united aspiration reflect upon their surroundings - small villages to big cities.

In order to keep tabs on all the black money stashed away in foreign banks by Indian citizens from various walks of life, the Modi Government is going after them. It is estimated that India's rich have kept nearly a trillion dollars' worth of money outside India. This money is earned within India's border. Yet, its benefit does not come to the people of India. That is why the government has given a window of time in which the owners of these accounts have to declare or else. Needless to say the rich also have access to good lawyers who will show them ways to outwit the government. For a while, it would seem that account holders are lining up to declare their stashed away money for which the government would take well deserved credit. Slowly, the program would lose its punch and come election time, all the black money would turn white through a contribution to Political Parties.

The current government is not the only one that is making efforts to capture India's money kept outside or unaccounted within its border. There have been similar efforts in the past. For example, for a while, the denomination of a thousand rupees note was taken away from the market. The thinking was that in that way people who have stashed away thousand- dollar- bills under the mattress or inside the walls would deposit those in a bank. Otherwise the notes will be worthless. In order to boost the economy, India also devalued its currency several times. It worked. More of India's goods and services were sold outside. Today, result of any devaluation of the rupee may do more harm than good. Because the cheaper money would push up the inflation. Yet, China has done exactly that. In order to capture more of the market outside, it devalued its money recently and is doing fine. But it has become a headache for others as they are forced to buy China's products cheaply whereas the Chinese do not buy theirs as foreign made products have become more expensive for them.

There are public figures in India whose acquired assets are way bigger than their known income. If one looks at their starting point in politics and their wealth today, one sees a straight line between power and money. Nobody says that making money is a crime. It is the use of public trust and public office to acquire wealth that makes one a criminal. Sudden wealth of the likes of Lalu Yadav, Jayalalithaa and Robert Bhadra is the tip of the iceberg in India who are both products and facilitators of a culture of corruption. The use of public money and position for personal enrichment has become a trait among some Indians regardless of what political Party they belong to or where they live.

The use of public service positions to make private gain monetarily or otherwise stand to sabotage the spirit of India by spreading a culture of corruption. Some may claim that they are supporting the government's program while shouting "Jai Hind" from the roof tops. However, their practice of spreading a culture of corruption is dangerous. A new spirit must be awakened to eliminate the termite that Mr. Modi has referred to. Can his Government do that?


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