Yatha Raja, Tatha Praja (The way the King is, so is the society)”. This is an old Indian saying. But there is a contradiction in modern India. “Neither will I eat (take a bribe), nor will I let others eat.” This was a promise that Prime Minister repeated several times, during his 2014 election campaign, and as the head of the country. However, during the 65 months of his reign, corruption hasn’t died down. Petty corruption continues – one can sit in one’s house and get a visa, or any other official documents, at the cost of an illegal payment. Low-level officials in key agencies, like the Police, continue to line their pockets. More importantly, systemic corruption thrives. People at the highest levels continue to receive tainted money in an organised manner – from the various mafias (liquor, mining, and drugs), Big Business, and large domestic and global government-to-government deals.
According to Transparency International’s annual global list on corruption, India has inched forward; its rank moved up from 85 in 2014 to 78 in 2018. This indicates that corruption has reduced marginally, but the journey was topsy-turvy – lower rank, followed by an increase, followed by a decrease. What is notable is that in 2018, India was at par with Pakistan in terms of the levels of corruption. This doesn’t augur well for Modi’s era as PM. More importantly, it indicates that the fight against the black economy has limited itself to a plethora of new acts and laws, with minimal changes on the ground. The rhetoric became more powerful than actions. Words overtook deeds. The propaganda worked.