In the simplest form, Kleptocracy is defined as “a rule by thieves”. A kleptocratic government is one in which the leaders are corrupt and use their political power to exploit the people and natural resources of their own territory in order to extend their personal wealth and compound their political clout further. Most of independent India’s history has been tainted with high level scams coming to public knowledge every now and then which begs the question, is India in essence a Kleptocracy?
Ethical is the last term that comes to mind when one thinks of Indian politicians. From misappropriations of funds at the Gram Panchayat (local) level to receiving kickbacks from international companies for selling tenders short, our politicians have made their mark at all the levels of the government and in all the states of the country, sometimes even abroad.
The biggest problem here is that this sort of behaviour rarely gets reprimanded, in fact, it is encouraged within political circles. In fact, there even exists a Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2011, which provides a mechanism to investigate alleged corruption and misuse of power by public servants and also protect anyone who exposes alleged wrongdoing in government bodies, projects and offices.
This just means that if you were to expose a corrupt public servant, you will need protection from the goons of said public servant. This is a welcome law, but considering how each and every case in India takes many many many years to reach a judgment, by the time the court judgment comes, your murderer would already have died at the ripe old age of 99.
This just doesn’t affect the whistleblowers though, the Bofors deal was undertaken in 1980s and 1990s. Initiated by Indian National Congress (Congress party) politicians and implicating the then Indian prime minister, the extremely versatile nepotist Rajiv Gandhi, and several other members of the Indian and Swedish governments who were accused of receiving kickbacks from Bofors AB, a bank principally financed by the Wallenberg family’s Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken, for winning a bid to supply India’s 155 mm field howitzer. The scandal relates to illegal kickbacks paid in a US$1.4 billion deal between the Swedish arms manufacturer Bofors with the government of India for the sale of 410 field howitzer guns, and a supply contract almost twice that amount.
The chief accused in this deal was Ottavio Quattrochi, a man closely linked with the controversial Gandhi family. Using this leverage, Quattrochi was quick to flee India, helped by the then accused government, never to return back. He died in 2013 in Milan, yet the case is still going on in the Indian judicial system.
Another example of Kleptrocratic behaviour actually being encouraged are the non incarceration of Madhu Koda, who was accused of a mining scam worth of 144 crores (1.44 billion) in 2009. He was in a VIP jail for a while but released on bail way back in 2013.
Yet another example, probably the most well known, is Lalu Prasad Yadav. The man single handedly rid the Government of Bihar of all its funds through the fodder scam in his tenure as the Chief Minister since 1989. When he was accused and had to resign, he appointed his illiterate housewife Rabri Devi as the CM, just like that, essentially ruling the state himself behind the curtains. He has since gone to hold prominent portfolios, including being the Railways Minister from 2004-09. Even in 2015, a coalition led by him and Nitish Kumar formed the government in Bihar once again.
The above said example in particular, sheds light on another very important point. Not only is Kleptocracy encouraged within the political circles, but even the public turns a blind eye during reelections. The public will vote for anybody who feeds them a meal of chicken curry and rice (Yum!) and a pint of the freshest desi moonshine liquor, no matter how many millions worth of funds they might have misappropriated.
The ignorance of the public really undermines the true power of a democracy. In cases like these, the public should be proactive and not reactive to the current scenario. So people, please don’t fall in to the trap of promising election manifestos, please research about the candidates that are up for the election, and elect honourable candidates. It is a daunting task, for trying to find an honourable politician is like finding a Unicorn, but still, at least we can do our part. Then, and only then, we can get rid of the problem of Kleptocracy.
So what do you think of your government? How would you suggest we tackle such a problem? Do let me know in the comments section below. If you want to collaborate or would want me to write on a particular topic, do contact me.