The India against Corruption Movement

The India against Corruption Movement

M. V. Rajeev Gowda (Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, India) and Purnima Prakash (Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8195-8.ch046


Activists demanding the establishment of an anti-corruption watchdog or “Lok Pal,” launched the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement. This chapter documents how IAC's leaders made astute use of mass media and social media to draw India's urban middle classes out onto the streets to protest against corruption in government. IAC succeeded in pressurising the Indian government to involve its activists in an effort to formulate an anti-corruption bill. A section of IAC has since launched the Aam Aadmi (Common Man) party, which has met with initial electoral success.
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The Backdrop: A Cascade Of Corruption Cases

India liberalized its economy in 1991, cutting taxes and reducing restrictions on market forces that had been in place for four decades. While well-intended, the earlier governmental control regime (“license-quota-permit-raj”) had spawned a corrupt nexus between corporate actors and contractors on the one hand and bureaucrats and politicians on the other. Excessive bureaucratic controls also led to a decline in government efficiency and public service delivery. Liberalization was expected to end government corruption and inefficiency. Paradoxically, however the magnitude and extent of corruption seems to have increased after liberalization (Mohanty, 2011).

Corruption flourishes because the government still controls key aspects of the economy, e.g., the allocation of natural resources such as mines or electromagnetic spectrum. Preferential allocation of such resources can enable politicians and bureaucrats to generate substantial kickbacks. Political parties use such allocations to raise party and election funds because India’s flawed system for party financing and electoral expenditure makes it difficult to raise and spend resources legally (“Its Anna vs Aruna as rift in civil society shows”, 2011). The ensuing corruption has now become so widespread that the political class has seen a precipitous drop in its moral legitimacy. The year 2011 saw many instances of corruption coming to public notice. They revealed that a range of governmental institutions were compromised, thus creating an appropriate environment for the launch of an anti-corruption agitation.

The diversified portfolio of corruption cases included: (1) The revelation by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) that the Minister for Telecommunications had allocated 2G spectrum to companies in a manner that caused the government to forego $5 billion in revenue. The Minister was forced to resign and spent a year in jail while the case went to trial. (2) The resignation of a state high court chief justice accused of corruption to forestall impeachment proceedings in parliament. (3) The Supreme Court’s rejection of the government’s choice of Chief Vigilance Commissioner (the official charged with policing the bureaucracy) as he was facing corruption charges himself. (4) The resignation of the chief minister of Maharashtra state after he was accused of colluding with army and government officials to reallocate prime real estate meant for war widows to his family members and ineligible officials. (5) The arrest of the chief organizer of the Commonwealth Games, a Member of Parliament, on charges of misusing funds meant for the Games.

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