OPINION
CORRUPTION
By Mohan Shenoy
ADYAR GOPAL PARIVAR
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CORRUPTION
BY MOHAN SHENOY
 Corruption is basically giving and taking bribe. This
is what a common man will understand. Other kinds
of corruption do not bother us because they are
subtle and ill-defined. For example the presentation of
a false caste certificate by a candidate to obtain
favourable government employment in India is a
major kind of corruption that plagues our present
society. Another example is stealing a brand name to
mark products manufactured by a different company
than to which the brand belongs. Piracy of books,
music, videos and other intellectual property is also
corruption. There are many other forms of corruption
which individuals suffer because of the circumstances
they encounter in their life.
Corruption has been there through the ages in every
society affecting every government. If we study the
history of the nations and cultures we will come
across the incidents of corruption even during Vedic
times. But giving bribe was not considered equal to
the present day corruption but treated more or less as
a kind of tax that had to be paid to get work done or
get some favours from the officials. The officials
routinely asked for ‘some amount for their personal
use’ from the people who dealt with them. A story in
the Bible tells us of the demands by the guards at the
gates of cities Jesus Christ entered to preach his holy
messages. The guards did not issue any receipts and
the amount demanded was arbitrary. Most of the time
the amount of cash the guards demanded depended
upon the appearance of the traveler. If the traveler
carried any goods for sale or for gift then there would
be additional charges to be paid. This was a common
occurrence in all the communities in those olden
times.
There are accounts written and published by many
travelers who visited India during the past two
thousand years. There are accounts of gold, silver
and other valuable articles that were given as gifts to
port authorities upon embarkation. Foreign goods
were much desired by the officers and the rulers alike
as the compulsory gifts from the travelers who came
to India for trade or tour. If there are no gifts brought
by the traveler then he will not be allowed normal or
free entry.
There was no restriction to give or take such
valuable gifts between the hosts and the guests.
Every European or Middle Eastern visitor to the
Mughal courts was expected to present gifts of
appropriate value and interest to the emperor during
the audiences with the emperor they wished to see.
For every official work done by the subordinate
officers such as Mansabdars, Subedars, Jagirdars
and Amaldars, the client was expected to give money
or gift articles to the officers.
The commonest revenue to the exchequer prior to
the British rule was the land tax in the form of a
certain percentage of the produce that the land-
owner got by working in the fields. Sometimes the
land-owner had to part with up to 50% of the produce
as tax. Most of the officers retained a large portion of
such tax for themselves before handing over the
account to the ruler, the chieftain or the king as the
case may be. The latter were not in a position to
dictate many terms to these tax collectors since they
often belonged to the family of the head of the
government. The heads of the government in those
days had large families with many wives and
concubines. The male members were inducted into
the administration as the staff. The family of the
Mansabdars, Subedars etc., were also inducted as
tax collectors or other officers. The land-owners and
the peasants were at the mercy of these tax officers
for both peace and for protection from bandits that
roamed the country-side.
India was conquered by the British using the greed
that Indians displayed for money and gifts. Many
battles were won not by fighting in the battle fields but
by giving bribes consisting of loads of gold coins,
trained elephants, high pedigree horses, canons,
guns, muskets, slaves, beautiful women, eunuchs
and herds of cattle, to the army generals and
chieftains that fought on the side of the local king.
The battle of Plassy and of Buxar were won by this
method of giving bribe to the army commanders who
rebelled against the local prince.
After India came under the administration of the East
India Company there were many states that
continued to be ruled by the Indian King chosen from
among many claimants to the throne. Arrangements
were made and treaties were signed between the
conquered and the conqueror for sharing the state
revenue as well as for the method of supervision that
the British wanted to keep over the state. There were
so-called Residents appointed to oversee the state’s
administration by the vassal King. These states came
to be known as the princely states. The King gave a
fixed amount of money to the British Resident to be
deposited into the English treasury. In addition the
prince paid the hefty salaries of the Resident and his
large staff draining the royal treasury by more than
half.
In the princely states the king in turn appointed tax
collectors for every village and often a fixed amount
of tax was collected at every quarter or six months
regardless of the produce the land-owner got in that
period. The practice of retaining a certain amount of
the taxes to themselves by these tax-collectors
continued during the British rule in these kingdoms.
The amount of tax imposed on the land-owner or
businessman was whimsical and was based on the
bribe in the form of gold or goods offered by the
payer. Mysore kingdom was one of the princely
states. There were about 600 different princely states
in British India when the country was partitioned and
a Pakistan was carved out in August 1947.
Apart from the princely states, there was direct
British rule clamped on large Indian lands in many
areas which the Company conquered. These
territories were ruled directly by the officers whom the
company appointed. The areas were named as
Provinces. Madras Province was one of the first big
provinces that were to be ruled by the company
directly. Collection of revenue in these provinces was
through an elaborate network of officers appointed by
the Company. A town with surrounding villages was
known as a Taluka. The villages or graam had local
governing body known as the Panchayat. A few
contiguous towns together formed a district.
Contiguous districts with natural boundaries were
gathered together to form a Province.
As the administration took hold in the provinces the
British ensured that there was no bribes either
offered or accepted by the Indian subordinate staff in
the government offices. Therefore the British rule of
about a hundred years in these provinces eliminated
the practice of bribery. This became the normal
discipline among the people living in these provinces.
They did not give bribes and the officers did not take
bribes.
But the administration in the princely states under
the Indian rulers was not averse to giving or taking
bribes. The government staff at every level took
bribes to perform their official duties. The civilian did
not complain because he got his work done that
much easily. The people living in the princely states
were quite used to both taking and giving bribes.
There was no talk of any menace of bribery and no
complaints of corruption.
After India became independent and the states were
reorganised, the culture of bribery that existed in the
princely states hit the people living in the provinces.
Also the bribery caused substantial loss to the
exchequer. The revenue payable by the citizen as tax
to be deposited in the treasury was short by the
amount which the bribe-taking tax-officer reduced the
tax. The revenue collected as stamp duty was short
by the reduced amount of sale price. The customs
officer permitted goods to be imported by taking
lesser duty as opposed to the actual. The amount of
concession the customs officer gave to the importer
was a loss to the government revenue. There are
many such occasions the government officers caused
loss to the government and at the same time enriched
themselves.
The practice of bribe taking and of giving is
considered as a blot on the society, but it is only that;
a blot on the nation. The fact is the bribe giver is
immensely satisfied in the process.
TO READ LIST
READ BOOKS AUTHORED
BY MOHAN SHENOY
Minimum Hinduism
Practice
Innu Nanage Beda
(Kannada)
Find Yourself,
Young Man
Karnaataka
Rajyotsava
and Other Essays
Konkani Book in
Devnagari script
by Mohan Shenoy
Hindi language Book
by Mohan Shenoy
English language
Book
by Mohan Shenoy
KONKANI BOOK BY
MOHAN SHENOY
HODU ANI SAANU
KANNADA SCRIPT
KONKANI BOOK BY
MOHAN SHENOY
SECULARISM IN
KANNADA SCRIPT
KONKANI BOOK BY
MOHAN SHENOY
KANNADA SCRIPT
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