What is Corruption, definition, meaning, Cause of Corruption, history

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Corruption is the unethical act performed by a person or the group of people using power of position or authority to acquire personal benefits. It is a social issue which adversely affects the economy of nation. Corruption is the use of unethical methods to get some advantage by others. It has become one of the big factors which obstructs the development of the individual and country. It is like a poison which has been spread in the mind of people of the society, community and country and is one of the big reasons of inequalities in the society and community.

Presence of Corruption from Ancient Age

Corruption is a very old social malady. It always existed in human society in one or the other form. It is vital to note that ‘Atharva Veda’ warns people to refrain from corruption. Kautilya’s ‘Arthasastra’ mentions forty modus operandi adopted by the corrupt people to misappropriate government funds.

The Sultan of Delhi, Alauddin Khilji had to considerably increase the pay of his land revenue staff to prevent them from indulging in corruption. Pandit Jawaharla Nehru, in his book “The Discovery of india‘ has written about widespread corruption during British rule in India

In primitive period, the scope of public administration was minimum, as a result the scope of corruption was also limited. After Independence, with the concept of welfare state coming into existence, the scope of being corrupt widened. At the juncture of Independence a statesman like C Rajagopalachari called the PWD (Public Works Department) as the first enemy of the country in terms of the corruption that prevailed in that department. Nowadays, every department has become a Public Works Department.

The corruption has crept into every fabric of society in such a way that it was th theme of speeches made by the President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of Lok Sabha during the Golden Jubilee celebrations of our Independence. Every Chief Election Commissioner since T.N. Sheshan holds the office, has advocated the dire necessity of electoral reforms to strike the corruption at grassroot level and some of the measures have already been taken by them to make elections fair.

Causes of Corruption

The causes of corruption are many and complex. Some of them are:

•Emergence of political elite who believe in interest-oriented rather than nation-oriented programmes and policies are responsible for the increasing corruption in politics.

•Acceptance of people towards corruption and the absence of strong public forum to oppose corruption allow it to reign over people.

• Vast size of population combined with illiteracy and the poor economic infrastructure lead to endemic corruption in public life.

• In a highly inflationary economy, low salaries of government officials compel them to resort to the road of corruption.

•Complex laws and procedures alienating common people to ask for any help from government.

•Big industrialist fund, politicians to meet the high cost of election. Bribery to politicians buys influence and bribery by politicians buys votes.

• The foremost reason of flourishing of corruption is the virtual change in the thinking of the people. A total disregard to the moral and ethical values and the feeling of attaining the things by any means whether wrong and right has encouraged most of the generation to adopt the means of corruption.

Forms of Corruption

Corruption is not only acceptance or giving of bribes. It has many other forms. Corruption can be categorised into various forms. These forms are

• Conventional Corruption

occurs when government officials, whether higher or lower ranks illegitimately receive or accumulate an undue advantage for their own personal use not regarding public interest.

• Unconventional Corruption

exists where a government public official acts without consideration for public interests but there is no clear monetary or other transaction between the two parties. It includes misappropriation, theft, breach of trust etc.

• Grand and petty corruption are sub-categories of conventional corruption. Pett corruption involves public administration officials taking bribes for completing works of the public that fall under their control. Grand corruption involves higher ranking government officials and politicians who are in power. They exploit opportunities presented to them by government works.

• Political Corruption is considered as a type of grand corruption due to its seriousness and higher officials involved. It involves politicians preferring certain companies and industries over other. Here, companies and organisations that shapes and influences legislations or government policies.

• Corruption is also distinguished by its public or private nature. Public corruption involves public officials whereas private officials are involved in private corruption. Public corruption involves misappropriation of public fund whereas private corruption involves corruption in private sector that hurts citizens’ interests.

•Systemic corruption exists where corruption is entrenched in a society. It exists where it is routine in dealings between the government and private businesses. In contrast to this, individual corruption exists where corruption is rare and consists of a few individual acts.

Eradication of Corruption

The basic question is ‘can the corruption be eradicated?’ It can only be possible if people understand and start to believe the values of ethics and morality in their life. To eradicate corruption from our society the fool proof laws should be made so that there is no room for discretion of politicians and bureaucrats. The role of the politicians should be minimised. Application of the evolved policies should be left in the hands of independent commission or authority in each area of public interest. Decision of the commission or authority should be challengeable only in the courts.

One of the common causes which enables corruption by public servants is to demand and obtain illegal gratification which is commonly known as speed money. To remove this in the administrative procedure, Madhya Pradesh Government passed a law known as the ‘Public Services Guarantee Act’ in 2010, laying down reasonable time limits for delivery of different Government services to the people. In 2011, Bihar Government also passed a similar act named as “Right to Services Act. All other State Governments should also arrange to get similar acts so that no government servant gets the scope to extract speed money.

Measures Taken to Control Corruption

The Jan Lokpal Bill was passed by both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha in December, 2013 which aims to effectively deter corruption, compensate citizen grievances and protect whistle blowers. Cooperation of the people needs to be obtained for successful eradication of corruption. People should have a right to recall the elected representatives if they see them becoming indifferent to the electorate. Electoral reforms are crucial to eradicate political corruption.

Several reforms like state funding of election expenses for candidates making political parties get their accounts audited regularly and filing income tax returns, denying persons with criminal records a chance to contest elections should be brought in. More and more courts should be opened for speedy and inexpensive justice so that cases don’t linger in courts for years and justice is delivered on time.

Many systematic efforts are being made in current times to achieve reduction of corruption like The Black Money and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015 for foreign black money, Income Declaration Scheme, 2016 for unearthing domestic black money, Benami Transaction Bill etc. The Central Government has set up the following four departments as anti-corruption measures: (i) Administrative Vigilance Division (AVD) in the Department of Personnel and Training, (ii) Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), (iii) Domestic Vigilance Units in the Ministries/Departments/Public Undertakings Nationalised Banks and (iv) Central Vigilance Commission etc. The government has also appointed the first Lokpal of India, Pinaki Chandra Ghose in 2019, March. The Lokpal (anti-corruption authority) will inquire into allegations of corruption against public functionaries. It will provide a new life to anti-corruption efforts in India.


The government has stressed on accountability now and India can be positive for future as making everything digital with programmes like Digital India will reduce corruption to greater levels as the middle man will have no place in the system and everything can be supervised directly by government. Yes, corruption is a big problem but it can be eradicated with systematic and right efforts.

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