Transparency International defines corruption as ” the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.” Transparency International  is a non-governmental organization that monitors and publicizes corporate and political corruption in international development. It publishes an annual Corruption Perceptions Index, a comparative listing of corruption worldwide. According to the statistics (2010) released by Transparency International, India’s Corruption Perception Index is 3.3, which means ‘high (perceived) corruption’.

Corruption is not a new menace but has been rampant in India since times immemorial. It is being believed that the implementation of the Lokpal Bill will hopefully reduce corruption in India. The basic idea of the Lokpal has been borrowed from the office of the ombudsman in other countries. The recent movement for the implementation of the Bill is  gaining momentum but  is still pending after 42 years when it was first introduced in 1968. Each time, after the bill was introduced to the house, it was referred to some committee for improvements , a joint committee of parliament, or a departmental standing committee of the Home Ministry  and before the government could take a final stand on the issue, the house was dissolved. Several flaws have been cited in the recent draft of the Lokpal Bill,again.

They see nothing peculiar about corruption in India, except that it is everywhere. They see many corrupt individuals in a system unable to correct itself. The media reports corruption episodically. One independent incident of greed follows another. Why is corruption and bribery a part of Indian culture? But can a race be corrupted by its culture? What patterns and practices distinguish Indians? Let us set that aside and look at the menace differently. No race can be congenitally corrupt. To know why Indians are corrupt let’s make an objective inquiry into the nature and causes of corruption in India.

Firstly, it is the religion in India that makes the Indian  corruptible. Religion is transactional in India. In India they give God cash and anticipate an out-of-turn reward. Their plea acknowledges they aren’t really deserving. The cash compensates for their lack of merit. In the world outside the temple walls, such a transaction is called “bribe”. In India God accepts cash from them, not good work, for which there is no reward. They don’t expect something from God in return for sweeping their neighborhood streets. They go with money.

Let us see this differently. Why does the wealthy Indian give not cash to temples, but gold crowns and such baubles? To ensure his gift isn’t squandered on feeding the poor. Their pay-off is only for God. It’s wasted if it goes to man.

In June 2009, The Hindu published a report of Karnataka minister G. Janardhan Reddy gifting a crown of gold and diamonds worth Rs 450 million to Tirupati temple in India. According to the temple’s website, Tirupati got 3,200 kg silver and 2.4 kg of diamonds in just one year. The temple encourages such giving, according to a report in The Telegraph in April 2010. Those who gifted a kilo of gold, worth over Rs 2 million, got the “VIP darshan” (which means cutting the queue) of the idol. In 2007, Vellore’s Sripuram temple was built with 1,500 kg of gold. By weight alone it is worth Rs 3250 million. In May 2010, according to The Economic Times, 1,075 kg of gold was deposited by Tirupati with the State Bank of India (SBI) for safe keeping. In 2009, 500kg was deposited with the Indian Overseas Bank. In June 2004, Business Standard reported that Tirupati couldn’t melt down 8,000 kg of gifted gold ornaments because devotees had stuck precious stones to their gift. This 8 tons of metal, worth Rs 16800 million but actually useless, was gathering dust in temple vaults.  According to The Hindu Business Line, 1,175 kg of gold was deposited with State Bank of India, and the temple trustees had yet another 3,000 kg of gold handy.

What will they do with all this metal? Gold-plate the walls of the temple (lending a  new meaning to the phrase “India Shining”). This work was halted by the Andhra Pradesh high court in December. Not because it was wasteful (such things aren’t vulgar to Indians) ­ but because it might have damaged wall inscriptions.

India’s temples collect so much of this stuff they don’t know what to do with it. In February, 17 tons of silver, worth Rs 1170 million, was found in an Orissa temple. The priests say they had no idea it was even there. But the devotee keeps giving. Tirupati alone gets between 800 kg (The Economic Times’ estimate) and 1,825 kg (The Telegraph’s estimate) of gold every year.

See what all this has produced in the Hindu Indian’s society. When God accepts money in return for his favors, what is wrong with my doing the same thing? Nothing. Their culture accommodates such transactions, morally. This is why Indians are so easily corruptible. The demonstrably corrupt Indian leader can harbor hope of a comeback, unthinkable in the West. This is the key. There is no real stigma.

Secondly, their moral ambiguity towards corruption is also visible in their history. Any number of books on Indian history tells them of the capture of cities and kingdoms after guards were paid off to open gates, and commanders paid off to surrender. This is unique to India. They read of battles won after battalions evaporated. Their corrupt nature has meant limited warfare on the subcontinent. It is striking how little Indians have actually fought compared to ancient Greece and modern Europe.

The Turks’ battles with Nadir Shah were vicious and fought to the finish. In India fighting wasn’t needed, bribing was usually enough to see off their armies. The invader willing to spend a bit of cash always brushed aside India’s kings, no matter how many tens of thousands peopled their infantry. Little battle was given at the “Battle” of Plassey. Clive paid off Mir Jaffar and all of Bengal folded to an army of 3,000. There was always a financial solution to taking their forts. Golconda was captured in 1687 after the secret back door was left open. In 1700, the fort of Parli, west of Satara, the headquarters of the Maratha government, fell after it took a bribe from Aurangzeb. In 1701, Aurangzeb invested the Panhala fort for two months without success. Then he bribed the Maratha commandant Trimbak, who let the Mughals in. Aurangzeb took the forts at Wardhangarh, Nandgir, Wandan and Chandan without fighting. Khelna fought the Mughals (led by the mercenary Sawai Rajputs of Amber) superbly till commandant Parshuram accepted his bribe and gave up the fort.

According to The Cambridge History of India, Torna was the only fort captured in that long campaign without bribes. Allahabad was taken by the Mughals in April 1720 when Girdhar Bahadur left the gates open after being promised governorship of Awadh. The same year Asir opened its gates to Nizam-ul-Mulk after a bribe. The Raja of Srinagar gave up Dara Shikoh’s son Sulaiman to Aurangzeb after a bribe. Shivaji took Kondhana (which he renamed Sinhagad) after the Mughal commander was bribed. The Mughals lost Penukonda to the Marathas in 1706 after the commandant was paid off. They must understand that this isn’t one man bribed alone. He must share that money with his officers, who must in turn pass it along to the infantry and cavalry. Everyone participated in this treason.

Now, the big question is, why do Indians have a transactional culture while other ‘civilized’ nations don’t? The answer to this is that they haven’t learnt to trust one another as Europeans (or other races in the West)  have. Indians do not buy the theory that they can all rise if each of them behaves morally, because that is not the message of their faith. Their faith assures them that ‘their‘God will deliver for them individually, but they must deliver to him too. This is the third reason for their corruptibility.

When Europeans came to rule India,  they built schools (there were no schools in Gujarat before Mont  Stuart Elphinstone built the first 10 in the 1820s). When Indians go and settle in Europe they build temples. Patels alone have built 12 Swaminarayan temples in Britain and many more around the world including one in Toronto, Canada.

Unfortunately, other races we are talking about are inherently tolerant but the Indian is quite shameless, though it’s true  that he’s unaware of what he’s doing. He’s practicing his magic in a culture where it isn’t needed. He doesn’t need God’s favors in a society that isn’t corrupt, that is moral, and that is equal. All he needs is hard work, which he’s quite capable of giving. Some might say the doctrine of their faith doesn’t support this behavior. That shouldn’t concern them here. They’re talking about its practice, the way they do religion, rather than its philosophy, which is ultimately meaningless.

Indians are up against everyone else, except God ­ and even he must be bribed.

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