A brief history of corruption in India

Dr William Gould in The India Site:

During India’s very first General Election in 1951-2, newspapers and party offices, particularly those of the Congress party, were bombarded with allegations about corrupt electoral candidates. The system of food and civil supply was subject to commodity controls and rationing – a legacy of the war years which had generated complex systems of patronage. These involved deeply entrenched black markets in lucrative industrial and agricultural concerns. This was the background to what was later known as ‘Permit-Licence-Quota Raj’ – the linking of business interests with political brokers. It is partly this nexus that underpins the protests in post-liberalization India.

But it wasn’t just the circumstances of war that generated concerns about graft in the 1940s and fifties. More broadly, the problem of corruption seemed to correspond to phases of rapid political transformation. The first, officially coordinated ‘anti-corruption’ drives, described as such, took place under the auspices of provincial Congress governments in the late 1930s, while the British still ruled at India’s centre. The Congress juxtaposed its democratic principles against ‘corrupted’ systems of colonial despotism.

The Congress governments of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in those years also aimed to project themselves as realistic alternatives to the Raj – regimes which took the notion of ‘public service’ seriously. The Special Police Establishment, which undertook to prosecute (albeit quite ineffectively) instances of government servant corruption, followed from 1941. And in March 1947, on the eve of independence, the Government of India passed the Prevention of Corruption Act. In the wake of Partition’s mass migrations, seizure of evacuee property and mob violence, state governments across India sought to ‘clean up’ their administrations. In Uttar Pradesh, this operation was described by the early 1950s state government as an ‘efficiency drive’ to ‘root out useless officers’. Conveniently, many of them were actual or intending evacuees to Pakistan. More:

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