Challenges of Corruption

Challenges of Corruption

This article deals with topic titled ‘Challenges of Corruption.’ This is part of our series on ‘Ethics’  . For more articles , you can click here



  • According to World Bank: Corruption is use of public authority for private gain.
  • (Transparency International – Misuse of entrusted power for private gain (wider definition covering both private and public sector)
  • India is ranked 78  in Corruption Perception Index prepared by Transparency International (Jan 2019)
  • There is also supply side of corruption . Eg  Crony Capitalism (ie nexus between Politico-Administrative Class & Business group). There is danger of state becoming Banana Republic (corporate driven state) if it is continued to go on
  • Corruption is an important manifestation of the failure of ethics.



Corruption can acquire various forms

Bribe It is the payment offered by a citizen either voluntarily or on demand to a public servant to perform his official duties in his favour , despite the fact that the public servant is paid salary for his duty
Extortion Practice of obtaining something, especially money, through force or threats.
Rent Seeking Use of the resources of  organization to obtain economic gain from others without reciprocating any benefits to society through wealth creation.
Nepotism Practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends
Clientalism & Patronage Client giving political or financial support to a patron (as in the form of votes) in exchange for some special privilege or benefit
Embezzlement It is theft of public funds and resources or causing loss to Public Exchequer.

In India, corruption has become habit. There is tolerance for corruption in India. People now don’t consider it unethical. Hence, we need both values and institutional support to change situation.



Reasons of high corruption in India

Moral Issues
  • Penetration of greed and materialism in society
  • Lack of moral values like honesty, integrity


Administrative & Legal  Issues
  • Complex laws and procedures
  • Acts & policies made in our country are such that they leave lot of discretion for Civil Servants.
  • Colonial Legacy of unchallenged authority with no checks
  • Enormous asymmetry of Power
  • Lack of accountability and Transparency
  • Lack of Independent investigation agency: India has no independent investigation agency . Existing agencies like CBI  is  named by the SC as caged parrot .


Political Causes Political Pressures on Bureaucrats to indulge in corruption


Type of Indian Society India being Soft Society : soft state is one which doesn’t have the political will to enact the laws necessary for its progress and development and / or not posses the political will to implement the laws , even when made .


  • Lack of protection to honest officers (Weak Whistle-blower Act)
  • Security of tenure for civil services.


Cost of Corruption

  • Corruption in developing countries like India hurt more because money earned via corruption goes out of country in safe havens and not reinvested in country (Flight of capital)
  • Harm to public perception towards government
  • Increases poverty : Corruption is anti poor . Take example of PDS & other welfare schemes  where money meant to reach poor are siphoned out  .
  • Destroys the moral fibre of society . People develop perception that anything that enhances your self interest is fine
  • Quality of policy making reduces
  • Destroys image of country in world : lower ranking given by Transparency International


Mehbub ul Haq on Corruption in South Asia

Mehbub ul Haq set out the ill effects of corruption in South Asian Developing Countries like ours 

    1. Corruption in South Asia occurs upstream (at top level) & not downstream . Corruption at the top distorts fundamental decisions about development priorities
    2. Corruption money in South Asia has wings and not wheels => money smuggled out to safe havens .
    3. Corruption in South Asia often leads to promotion and not prison. The big fish – unless they belong to opposition rarely fry .
    4. Corruption in South Asia occurs with 515 million people in poverty , not with per capita incomes above 20,000 $ .



Types of Bribery 

There are two kinds of Bribery prevalent in India

Coercive Bribery
  • Bribe giver is a victim of extortion
  • Compelled to pay for a simple service, because if he doesn’t pay, he ends up losing much more than the bribe.


Collusive Bribery
  • Bribe-giver and bribe-taker together fleece society
  • Bribe giver is as guilty or even more guilty than the bribe-taker.
  • These are cases of
        • execution of substandard works,
        • distortion of competition,
        • commissions in public procurement,
        • tax evasion by collusion, etc


Even though the general conviction rate in cases of corruption is low, it is observed that the rate of conviction in cases of coercive corruption is more than in collusive corruption.


Combating Corruption

Moral & Value based interventions
  • Inculcation of values of honesty, integrity , impartiality etc
  • Code of Ethics for Civil Servants should be made
Administrative Interventions
  • Simplification of Administrative procedures and laws
  • Increasing transparency and accountability in administration
  • Use e-governance : e-tendering etc


Legal Measures Making laws more stringent

  • Strengthen Whistle Blower Act
  • RTI Act should be strengthened
  • False Claims Act (USA) – If you think that there is wrongdoing in some organisation, gather evidences & produce it before court. If fine is imposed on that organisation , some portion of money from that fine will be given to litigant .


Civil Service Reforms
  • Security of tenure of civil servant
  • Making promotions and transfers more transparent and objective .


Strengthening Institutions
  • Strengthening of CVC, Lokpal and Lokayuktas
        • Increasing their autonomy
        • Increasing their powers
  • Strengthening of justice system for speedy decision making


Social Interventions Society must be made more sensitive to corrupt practices. Peer pressure against corrupt people can be used to disincentivise corruption


Singapore Model : Civil Servants are very highly paid after administrative reforms undertaken by Lee Kuan Yew which decreased corruption there . This can be adopted in India too



Evolution of Anti – Corruption Laws in India

Before Independence
  • Indian Penal Code (IPC) Sections 161 to 165  dealt with corruption
  • At that time the need for a special law to deal with corruption was not felt.
2nd World War & Aftermath
  • Second World War created shortages led to large scale corruption.
  • Situation continued even after the war=> Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 was enacted .
Why present Amendments
  • Bring it in line with UNCAC (UN convention against Corruption) .
  • Bill incorporates the recommendations given by Law Commission



Analysis of Prevention of Corruption Act


  • It seeks to punish bribe givers as well as bribe takers


  • Protection to Public Servant
      • Police Officer cant begin probe without prior approval of relevant authority  (except when caught red handed)
Favour Earlier limited to  joint secretaries and above and  was struck down by SC . This universal inclusion will provide protection to all honest officials
Against Prior sanction requirement already exists for prosecution, => incorrect to create  another layer of protection


  • Sanction for prosecution of Officials
      • Sanction needed for prosecuting serving as well as former officials for offences done while in office

(Earlier sanction was required for Serving Officers only)


  • Giving Bribe is offence
      • Giving bribe is also made a punishable offence (Earlier just taking bribe was offence)
        • Punishable by 7 years prison
        • Except when one is forced to give bribe and  reported it within 7 days.


  • Distinction made between  collusive bribe givers and coerced bribe givers
        • Coerced : If person is coerced to give bribe, he can report it to the enforcement authorities within 7 days.
        • Collusive : No such exception
Favour Empower the public to make complaint in case of Coercive Corruption without fear of prosecution
Against Anti-corruption law has been brought in line with the UN Convention Against Corruption.


  • Redefined the Criminal Misconduct
        • Criminal misconduct covers only two types of offences ie Misappropriation of property entrusted to public servant and intentionally enriching oneself illicitly.

(Earlier there were 5 kinds)

  • Will help Public Officials to take bold decisions in policy making without fear


  • Amended law would protect honest officers (and that is laudable), but the flip side is that many dishonest ones would slip through the cracks because of it.


  • Trial Time Line = Speedy Justice
        • Guidelines will be setup to resolve cases within 2 years . In case of delay, reason has to be stated every 6 months
        • Total time period cant exceed 4 years in any case


  • Forfeiture of property
        • Section introduced for Special Court to attach and confiscate property

Analysis : This helps to avoid a fresh procedure to confiscate property obtained through corruption



Whistle Blowing

  • Whistle blowing is the act of disclosing information by an employee or stakeholder on illegal or unethical conduct of an organisation.
  • Whistle-blowers can help Public servants who work in a department know more about unethical practices going on in the organization. But they don’t come forward due to fear of reprisal. If  protection is granted, it can help to get substantial information about corruption.
  • Whistle-blowing  came in lexicon post Watergate Scandal in US . After that Whistle-blowing was not only encouraged but considered as ethical duty on part of citizens
  • India is also a signatory to the UN Convention against Corruption, which includes provisions for protecting whistle blowers.


In India

Two most important cases of Whistle-blowing in India

Manjunath Shanmugam
  • working with Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) | graduate of the IIM, Lucknow.
  • Whistle-blowing on adulteration by the petrol pump owners.
  • He was shot dead in 2005
Satyendra Dubey
  • National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), exposed the rampant corruption in construction
  • Found dead on 27th November, 2003.




Types of Whistle-blowing

  • Raising voice within organisation
  • Presenting wrongdoing to Internal Ombudsman
External Leak of information in public domain




Different Ethical Dilemmas of Whistleblower

First Dilemma : Loyalty to Organisation vs Public Interest

  • Should be loyal to Organisation ordinarily but when issue involves  people’s lives like corruption in defence procurement; toxic leaks from a chemical factory etc, Whistleblowing becomes duty
  • An individual may be an employee but he is also a citizen  and member of society


Second Dilemma : Personal Safety vs Larger Public interest

  • Whistleblowing can lead to departmental victimisation  or  threat to life and property
  •  eg : Satyendra Dubey and Manjunath Shanmugam were murdered


Third Dilemma : Whether to go for Internal Whistle blowing or External Whistle-blowing




Features of good Whistle-blowing

  • Intention should be larger public interest
  • It should be adopted as last resort
  • Whistle-blowing should be backed by objective evidences
  • Right to privacy of anyone shouldn’t be hampered


Case Study

Rameshwar successfully cleared the prestigious civil services examination and was excited about the opportunity that he would get through the civil services to serve the country. However, soon after joining the services, he realized that things are not as rosy as he had imagined.


He found a number of malpractices prevailing in the department assigned to him. For example, funds under various schemes and grants were being misappropriated. The official facilities were frequently being used for personal needs by the officers and staff. After some time, he noticed that the process of recruiting the staff was also not up to the mark. Prospective candidates were required to write an examination in which a lot of cheating was going on. Some candidates were provided external help in the examination. Rameshwar brought these incidents to the notice of his seniors. However, he was advised to keep his eyes, ears and mouth shut and ignore all these things which were taking place with the connivance of the higher-ups. Rameshwar felt highly disillusioned and uncomfortable. He comes to you seeking your advice.



Indicate various options that you think are available in this situation. How would you help him to evaluate these options and choose the most appropriate path to be adopted? 250 words.

Case study presents dilemma that whether my friend becomes a mute spectator to all wrongdoings happening in Department which are jeopardizing the public interest or act against the wrong doings even if his personal security is threatened .


Accept the orders and do nothing

  • Safety of career and no personal harm
  • Dissonance which can result in depression
  • Against value of Public Service



Resignation or getting transfer

  • He will not be part of wrong doing and hence there will be no burden on his conscience
  • Running from duty
  • Although honest but shows lack of courage and fortitude



Leak of information to public domain anonymously

Merit Will check the wrong doing
Demerit Will tarnish image of organisation. Should have exhausted all other options before whistle-blowing



Collecting the evidences, informing the Internal Ombudsman and if nothing happens blow the Whistle

  • Will end wrong doing
  • In line with procedure because after exhausting all options to redress the problem, he has no other option than to blow whistle to protect public interest
  • Objective evidences will ensure that his case looks legitimate
  • In line with the values of public service, courage and selflessness


In any case, I will advise my friend to raise the voice against wrong doings and don’t be a mute spectator . But at the same time, I will advise him, before going outside organisation to stop wrongdoing , he must exhaust all internal redressal mechanism because he is part of that organisation and has duty of loyalty towards organisation too. If after exhausting all mechanisms, issue is not addressed than he has higher duty towards humanity and public at large and blow the whistle .




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