Back To Reason
By : Pankaj Yadav
A couple of months ago, The Indian Telegraph celebrated its 9th anniversary. A gala dinner was organized in Sydney, to which I was fortunate to be invited. Over a scrumptious dinner, and a glass of red, sitting at a large round table with ten or so other guests, I found myself involved in a rather animated discussion about why there is such rampant corruption in India at virtually all echelons of the social and economic landscape.
Everyone at the table had something to say. I asked the gentleman sitting next to me, and the loudest contributor to this raging debate. Why did he think, Indians were so corrupt? Was it that we were somehow genetically preordained to be corrupt? Or was it simply a consequence of our circumstances? The opinionated gentleman was quite emphatic in his reply. “It is in our genes,” he said. “So,” I asked him further, “suggestions by the racists, that Indians are inferior to white people, are correct, you think?”. The gentleman suddenly wasn’t all that sure anymore. “No, no, we are not inferior. It’s not in our genes”!
So why are Indians corrupt? Is it in our blood? If it is, then racism against Indians is justified. But then, why is it that the same corrupt Indians turn into the most law-abiding citizens when they move abroad? Where do those “corruption” genes suddenly disappear to, when Indians leave India?!
The Elephant in the Room
So if it’s not genetic, then what is the cause of the endemic corruption that is such an integral part of the Indian society? To understand this, let’s consider an analogy. Let us compare two households. House A has 8 rooms. 23 people live in this house. The income coming into this household is $1,340 every week. House B has 3 rooms. 1,252 people live in this house. The income coming into this household is $2,074 every week. Residents of which household, do you think, will be more corruptible? The numbers above are the exact land, people, and GDP differentials that exist between India and Australia!
In the Indian subcontinent, in Africa, and in Asia, the original inhabitants of these lands have been living there for thousands of years. Over these years, they have multiplied exponentially. The entire world population of humans in 3,000 BC is thought to have been only 14 million. As the populations in subcontinental India, Asia, and Africa have increased hundreds of times over the last 5,000 years, the limited resources of these lands have needed to be shared by more, and many more people, every year.
Imperialist Strategy – Europe Turns the Tide
500 years ago, Europe was a rather barbaric and harsh land to live off. Who hasn’t heard of the great bubonic plagues, or the great fire of London? India, on the other hand, was a relatively prosperous, comfortable land to live in. Need, is the mother of invention. And humans always seek greener pastures – as you and I have done, by emigrating to Australia. There was a need in Europe to seek out new lands, and that is exactly what the Europeans did. The warring European nations and their marine traders had already led to the development of firearms of various sizes and powers of destruction. Armed with these, and a certain capability to be cruel and ruthless that comes from living off a hard, unforgiving land, the Europeans were able to colonize vast swathes of the habitable land in the world. They were able to annihilate – or subdue by other means – the natives of these lands. All of North and South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as Europe of course, are now inhabited by the descendants of Europeans. All the resources of these lands belong to them too.
Human populations grow in an exponential fashion, rather than at a steady rate. This means that the rate of growth too continues to increase as populations rise. The populations in parts of the world now occupied by peoples of European descent have not grown as much as have the populations in the Indian subcontinent, the rest of Asia, and Africa. Today, about 75% of the habitable land in the world is occupied by about 18% of the world’s population – that with a European heritage. The balance 82% of the world’s population lives on – and off – only about 25% of the livable parts of the earth. This also, obviously, applies to resources. The 18% humans of European heritage own 75% of the planet’s resources, while the other 82% make do with only 25%!. Is it any surprise then, that this 18% is much richer – and as a result, much more educated as well as “evolved” – than the other 82%? Would you likely be more corruptible, if you and your family were destitute and just trying to eke out a very basic living, or if you were well to do and had much more than you needed of everything?
Uneven Distribution – Moral Conflict
Of course, this is a very simplistic analysis and many other, much more complicated factors are at play too. Culture, history, religion, politics, etc. also have a role to play. But this uneven distribution of the world’s resources is, logically, the biggest contributor to the problem of corruption in poorer parts of the world.
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