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"scam-o-ramas"

Indian taxpayers received a stark reminder about the costs of official corruption last November when a report by the government's Controller and Advocate General estimated that public coffers had been fleeced of an estimated $40 billion because of a scam carried out from within the Telecommunications Ministry. On Feb. 2, 2011, Telecommunications Minister A. Raja was arrested for his role in the tainted procedures, which doled out telecommunications licenses at a fraction of their real value.

This scandal and others have since transfixed public debate in India, leading to a popular social movement, in the Gandhian tradition, aimed at ending corruption. But whether this is a transformative movement in Indian life largely depends on the middle class's continued engagement in the issue.

Corruption is hardly unique to India -- and it is not new there. Past cases that have risen to the level of public scandal have generally involved kickbacks or sweetheart deals. What distinguishes the present situation is the confluence of several major scandals at about the same time, creating an atmosphere of sleaze that appears to permeate all aspects of public life in India.

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