Corruption in India

Corruption in India is an issue that adversely affects its economy.[1] A study conducted by the Transparency International in 2005 shows that more than 62% of Indians had a first hand experience of paying bribes or influence peddling to get jobs done in public offices successfully.[2][3] In a study conducted in 2008, Transparency International reports that about 40% of Indians had first hand experience of paying bribes or using contacts to get jobs done in public offices.[4]

In 2015, India was ranked 76th out of 168 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, compared to its neighbours Bhutan (27th), Bangladesh (139th), Myanmar (156th), China (83rd), Nepal (130th), Pakistan (117th) and Sri Lanka (83rd).[5] The largest contributors to the corruption are entitlement programmes and social spending schemes enacted by the Indian government. Examples include Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and National Rural Health Mission.[6][7] Other sources of corruption include India's trucking industry which is forced to pay billions of rupees in bribes annually to numerous regulatory and police stops on its interstate highway.[8]

The media has widely published allegations of corrupt Indian citizens stashing trillions of dollars in Swiss banks. Swiss authorities, however, have denied these allegations, which has now been proven in 2015-2016. The Indian media is mainly owned by corrupt politicians and industrialists who also play a major role in most of these scams, thus misleading public with wrong information and using media for mud-slinging their political and business opponents.[9][10]

The causes of corruption in India include excessive regulations, complicated tax and licensing systems, numerous government departments each with opaque bureaucracy and discretionary powers, monopoly of government controlled institutions on certain goods and services delivery, and the lack of transparent laws and processes.[11][12] There is significant variation in the level of corruption and in the government's efforts to reduce corruption across India.


See also: Booth capturing

Corruption in India is a problem that has serious implications for both protecting the rule of law and ensuring access to justice. As of December 2009, 120 of India's 524 parliament members were accused of crimes, under India's First Information Report procedure wherein anyone can allege another of committing a crime.[13] Many of the biggest scandals since 2010 have involved very high level government officials, including Cabinet Ministers and Chief Ministers, such as in the 2G spectrum scam (1.7 lakh crore (US$25 billion)), the 2010 Commonwealth Games scam (70,000 crore (US$10 billion)), the Adarsh Housing Society scam, the Coal Mining Scam (1.86 lakh crore (US$28 billion)), the Mining Scandal in Karnataka and the Cash for Vote scam.


A 2005 study done by the Transparency International in India found that more than 62% of the people had firsthand experience of paying bribe or peddling influence to get a job done in a public office.[3] Taxes and bribes are common between state borders; Transparency International estimates that truckers pay annually 222 billion (US$3.3 billion) in bribes.[8][14]

Government regulators and police share in bribe money, each to the tune of 43% and 45% respectively. The en route stoppages including those at checkpoints and entry-points take up to 11 hours in a day. About 60% of these (forced) stoppages on road by concerned authorities such as government regulators, police, forest, sales and excise, octroi, weighing and measuring department are for extorting money. The loss in productivity due to these stoppages is an important national concern. The number of truck trips could increase by 40%, if forced delays are avoided. According to a 2007 World Bank published report, the travel time for a Delhi-Mumbai trip can be reduced by about 2 days per trip if the corruption and associated regulatory stoppages to extract bribes was eliminated.[14][15][16]

A 2009 survey of the leading economies of Asia, revealed Indian bureaucracy to be not only the least efficient out of Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, China, Philippines and Indonesia, but also that working with India's civil servants was a "slow and painful" process.[17]

Land and property

Officials are alleged to steal state property. In cities and villages throughout India, consisting of municipal and other government officials, elected politicians, judicial officers, real estate developers and law enforcement officials, acquire, develop and sell land in illegal ways.[18]

Tendering processes and awarding contracts A 2006 report claimed state-funded construction activities in Uttar Pradesh, such as road building, were dominated by construction mafias, which are groupings of corrupt public works officials, materials suppliers, politicians and construction contractors.[19]

Corruption caused problems in government funded projects are not limited to the state of Uttar Pradesh. According to The World Bank, aid programmes are beset by corruption, bad administration and under-payments. As an example, the report cites only 40% of grain handed out for the poor reaches its intended target. The World Bank study finds that the public distribution programmes and social spending contracts have proven to be a waste due to corruption.[20]

As an example, the government implemented the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) on 25 August 2005. The Central government outlay for this welfare scheme is 400 billion (US$5.9 billion) in FY 2010–2011.[21] After 5 years of implementation, in 2011, the programme was widely criticised as no more effective than other poverty reduction programmes in India. Despite its best intentions, MGNREGA faces the challenges of corrupt officials reportedly pocketing money on behalf of fake rural employees, poor quality of the programme's infrastructure, and unintended destructive effect on poverty.[7][22]

Hospitals & Health Care

In Government Hospitals, corruption is associated with non-availability/duplication of medicines, getting admission, consultations with doctors and availing diagnostic services.[3]

National Rural Health Mission is another health care-related government programme that has been subject to large scale corruption allegations. This social spending and entitlement programme hoped to improve health care delivery across rural India. The programme has been managed since 2005 by the Ministry of Health of the Indian government. The Indian government mandated a spending of 277 billion (US$4.1 billion) in 2004–05, and increased it annually to be about 1% of India's gross domestic product. The National Rural Health Mission programme has been clouded by a large-scale corruption scandal in which top government appointed officials were arrested, several of whom died under mysterious circumstances including one in prison. Corruption, waste and fraud-related losses from this government programme has been alleged to be 100 billion (US$1.5 billion).[23][24][25][6]

Science and technology

CSIR, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, has been flagged in ongoing efforts to root out corruption in India.[26] Despite being established with the directive to do translational research and create real technologies, CSIR has been accused of transforming into a ritualistic, overly-bureaucratic organisation that does little more than churn out papers.[27][28]

There are many issues facing Indian scientists, with some - such as MIT systems scientist VA Shiva Ayyadurai - calling for transparency, a meritocratic system, and an overhaul of the bureaucratic agencies that oversee science and technology.[29][30][31] Sumit Bhaduri stated, "The challenges of turning Indian science into part of an innovation process are many. Many competent Indian scientists aspire to be ineffectual administrators [due to administrative power and political patronage], rather than do the kind of science that makes a difference".[32] Prime minister Manmohan Singh spoke at the 99th Indian Science Congress and commented on the state of the sciences in India, after an advisory council informed him there were problems with "the overall environment for innovation and creative work" and a 'warlike' approach was needed.[33]

Income tax department

There have been several cases of collusion of officials of the income tax department of India for preferential tax treatment and relaxed prosecutions in exchange for bribes.[34][35]

Preferential award of mineral resources

In August 2011, an iron ore mining scandal became a media focus in India. In September 2011, Janardhana Reddy – an elected member of Karnataka's legislative assembly – was arrested on charges of corruption and illegal mining of iron ore in his home state of Karnataka. It was alleged that his company received preferential allotment of resources, organised and exported billions of dollars worth of iron ore to China in recent years, without paying any royalty to the state government exchequer of Karnataka or the central government of India, and these Chinese companies made payment to shell companies controlled by Reddy and registered in Caribbean and north Atlantic tax havens.[36][37]

It was also alleged that corrupt government officials cooperated with Reddy, starting from government officials in charge of regulating mining to government officials in charge of regulating port facilities and shipping. These officials received monthly bribes in exchange for enabling the illegal export of illegally mined iron ore to China. Such scandals have led to a demand in India for consensually driven action plan to eradicate the piracy of India's mineral resources by an illegal-political-corrupt government officials-business nexus, removal of incentives for illegal mining, creation of incentives for legal mining and domestic use of iron ore and steel manufacturing.[36][37]

Driver Licensing

A study conducted between 2004 and 2005 found that India's driver licensing procedure was a hugely distorted bureaucratic process and allows drivers to be licensed despite their low driving ability through promoting the usage of agents. Individuals with high willingness to pay make a significant payment above the official fee and most of these extra payments are made to agents, who act as an intermediary between bureaucrats and applicants.[38]

The average licensee paid Rs 1080, approximately 2.5 times the official fee of Rs 450, in order to obtain a license. On average, those who hired agents had a lower driving ability, with agents helping unqualified drivers obtain licenses and bypass the legally required driving examination. Among the surveyed individuals, approximately 60% of the license holders did not take the licensing exam and 54% of those license holders failed an independent driving test.[39]

Agents are the channels of corruption in this bureaucratic driver licensing system, facilitating access to licenses among those who are unqualified to drive. Some of the failures of this licensing system are caused by corrupt bureaucrats who collaborate with agents by creating additional barriers within the system against those who did not hire agents.[38]


Professor Bibek Debroy and Laveesh Bhandari claim in their book Corruption in India: The DNA and RNA that the public officials in India may be cornering as much as 921 billion (US$14 billion), or 1.26 per cent of the GDP, through corruption.[15] The book claims most bribery is in the transport industry, real estate and government delivered services.

Bribery and corruption are pervasive, but some sectors tend to witness a relatively higher degree of such instances. A 2013 EY(Ernst & Young) Study[40] reports following sectors, perceived as the most vulnerable to corruption: Infrastructure & Real Estate, Metals & Mining, Aerospace & Defense, Power & Utilities. There are a range of specific factors that make a sector more susceptible to bribery and corruption risks than others. Factors like high use of middlemen, large value contracts, liasioning activities etc. drive the depth, volume and frequency of corrupt practices in vulnerable sectors.

A 2011 KPMG study reports India's real estate, telecommunications and government-run social development projects as the three top most corruption plagued sectors. The study found India's defence, information technology industry and energy sectors are the most competitive and least corruption prone sectors.[11]

CMS India claims in its 2010 India Corruption Study report that socio-economically weaker section of the Indian society is most adversely affected by government corruption – these include the rural and urban poor. The study additionally claims that corruption perception nationwide has decreased between 2005 and 2010. Over the 5-year period, significantly more number of people from the middle class as well as the poorest segments of Indian society surveyed, in all parts of the India, claimed government corruption had dropped over time, and they had lesser direct experiences with demands for bribes.[41]

The table below compares the perceived anti-corruption effort across some of the major states in India.[12] A rising index implies higher anti-corruption effort and falling corruption. According to this table, the states of Bihar and Gujarat have experienced significant improvements in their anti-corruption efforts, while the conditions have worsened in the state of Assam and West Bengal. Consistent with the results in this table, in 2012, a BBC News report claimed the state of Bihar has transformed in recent years to become the least corrupt state in India.[42]

Index trends in major states by respective anti-corruption effort[12]
State 1990–95 1996-00 2001–05 2006–10
Bihar 0.41 0.30 0.43 0.88
Gujarat 0.48 0.57 0.64 0.69
Andhra Pradesh 0.53 0.73 0.55 0.61
Punjab 0.32 0.46 0.46 0.60
Jammu & Kashmir 0.13 0.32 0.17 0.40
Haryana 0.33 0.60 0.31 0.37
Himachal Pradesh 0.26 0.14 0.23 0.35
Tamil Nadu 0.19 0.20 0.24 0.29
Madhya Pradesh 0.23 0.22 0.31 0.29
Karnataka 0.24 0.19 0.20 0.29
Rajasthan 0.27 0.23 0.26 0.27
Kerala 0.16 0.20 0.22 0.27
Maharashtra 0.45 0.29 0.27 0.26
Uttar Pradesh 0.11 0.11 0.16 0.21
Odisha 0.22 0.16 0.15 0.19
Assam 0.21 0.02 0.14 0.17
West Bengal 0.11 0.08 0.03 0.01

Black money

Main article: Indian black money

Black money refers to money that is not fully or legitimately the property of the 'owner'. A white paper on black money in India by the Government of India suggests two possible sources of black money in India.[9] The first includes activities not permitted by the law, such as crime, drug trade, terrorism, and corruption, all of which are illegal in India. The second, more likely source is that the wealth may have been generated through a lawful activity but accumulated by failing to declare income and pay taxes. Some of this black money ends up in illicit financial flows across international borders, such as deposits in tax haven countries.

A November 2010 report from the Washington-based Global Financial Integrity estimates that over a 60-year period, India lost US$213 billion in illicit financial flows beginning in 1948; adjusted for inflation, this is estimated to be $462 billion in 2010, or about $8 billion per year ($7 per capita per year). The report also estimated the size of India's underground economy at approximately US$640 billion at the end of 2008 or roughly 50% of the nation's GDP.[43]

Indian Black Money in Switzerland

India was ranked 37th by money held by its citizens in Swiss banks in 2004 but then improved its ranking by slipping to 61st position in 2015 and further improved its position by slipping to 75th position in 2016.[44] [45] According to a 2010 The Hindu article, unofficial estimates indicate that Indians had over US$1,456 billion in black money stored in Swiss banks (approximately US$1.4 trillion).[46] While some news reports claimed that data provided by the Swiss Banking Association[47] Report (2006) showed India has more black money than the rest of the world combined,[48][49] a more recent report quoted the SBA's Head of International Communications as saying that no such official Swiss Banking Association statistics exist.[50]

Another report said that Indian-owned Swiss bank account assets are worth 13 times the country's national debt. These allegations have been denied by Swiss Bankers Association. James Nason of Swiss Bankers Association in an interview about alleged black money from India, holds that "The (black money) figures were rapidly picked up in the Indian media and in Indian opposition circles, and circulated as gospel truth. However, this story was a complete fabrication. The Swiss Bankers Association never published such a report. Anyone claiming to have such figures (for India) should be forced to identify their source and explain the methodology used to produce them."[10][51]

In a separate study, Dev Kar of Global Financial Integrity concludes, "media reports circulating in India that Indian nationals held around US$1.4 trillion in illicit external assets are widely off the mark compared to the estimates found by his study." Kar claims the amounts are significantly smaller, only about 1.5% of India's GDP on average per annum basis, between 1948 and 2008. This includes corruption, bribery and kickbacks, criminal activities, trade mispricing and efforts to shelter wealth by Indians from India's tax authorities.[43]

According to a third report, published in May 2012, Swiss National Bank estimates that the total amount of deposits in all Swiss banks, at the end of 2010, by citizens of India were CHF 1.95 billion (92.95 billion (US$1.4 billion)). The Swiss Ministry of External Affairs has confirmed these figures upon request for information by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs. This amount is about 700 fold less than the alleged $1.4 trillion in some media reports.[9] The report also provided a comparison of the deposits held by Indians and by citizens of other nations in Swiss banks. Total deposits held by citizens of India constitute only 0.13 per cent of the total bank deposits of citizens of all countries. Further, the share of Indians in the total bank deposits of citizens of all countries in Swiss banks has reduced from 0.29 per cent in 2006 to 0.13 per cent in 2010.

Domestic Black Money

Indian companies are reportedly misusing public trusts for money laundering. India has no centralised repository— like the registrar of companies for corporates—of information on public trusts.[52]

Business and Corruption

Public servants have very wide discretionary powers offering the opportunity to extort undue payments from companies and ordinary citizens. The awarding of public contracts is notoriously corrupt, especially at the state level. Scandals involving high-level politicians have highlighted the payment of kickbacks in the healthcare, IT and military sectors. The deterioration of the overall efficiency of the government, protection of property rights, ethics and corruption as well as undue influence on government and judicial decisions has resulted in a more difficult business environment.


According to Transparency International, judicial corruption in India is attributable to factors such as "delays in the disposal of cases, shortage of judges and complex procedures, all of which are exacerbated by a preponderance of new laws".[53] Over the year there have been numerous judges who have faced allegations of corruption, however in 2011, Soumitra Sen, a former judge at the Kolkata High Court became the first judge in the India to be impeached by the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the Indian Parliament for misappropriation of funds.[54]

Armed forces

The Indian Armed Forces have witnessed corruption involving senior armed forces officers from the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force. A number of scandals in the 2000–2010 period damaged the military's reputation; such scandals included skimming of armed forces money, re-selling of government property, and faking combat missions.[55]

Anti-corruption efforts

Right to Information Act

The 2005 Right to Information Act required government officials to provide information requested by citizens or face punitive action, as well as the computerisation of services and the establishment of vigilance commissions. This considerably reduced corruption and opened up avenues to redress grievances.[3]

Right to public services legislation

Right to Public Services legislation, which has been enacted in 19 states of India, guarantee time bound delivery of services for various public services rendered by the Government to citizen and provides mechanism for punishing the errant public servant who is deficient in providing the service stipulated under the statute.[56] Right to Service legislation are meant to reduce corruption among the government officials and to increase transparency and public accountability.[57]

Anti-corruption laws in India

Public servants in India can be penalised for corruption under the

India is also a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Corruption since 2005 (ratified 2011). The Convention covers a wide range of acts of corruption and also proposes certain preventive policies.[58]

The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 which came into force from 16 January 2014, seeks to provide for the establishment of the institution of Lokpal to inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries in India.[59][60]

Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2011, which provides a mechanism to investigate alleged corruption and misuse of power by public servants and also protect anyone who exposes alleged wrongdoing in government bodies, projects and offices, has received the assent of the President of India on 9 May 2014, and (as of 2 August) is pending for notification by the Central Government.[61][62]

At present there are no legal provisions to check graft in the private sector in India. Government has proposed amendments in existing acts and certain new bills for checking corruption in private sector. Big-ticket corruption is mainly witnessed in the operations of large commercial or corporate entities. In order to prevent bribery on supply side, it is proposed that key managerial personnel of companies' and also the company shall be held liable for offering bribes to gain undue benefits.

The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 provides that the properties of corrupt public servants shall be confiscated. However, the Government is considering incorporating provisions for confiscation or forfeiture of the property of corrupt public servant in the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 to make it more self-contained and comprehensive.[63]

A committee headed by the Chairman of Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), has been constituted to examine ways to strengthen laws to curb generation of black money in India, its illegal transfer abroad and its recovery. The Committee shall examine the existing legal and administrative framework to deal with the menace of generation of black money through illegal means including inter-alia the following: 1. Declaring wealth generated illegally as national asset; 2. Enacting/amending laws to confiscate and recover such assets; and 3. Providing for exemplary punishment against its perpetrators. (Source: 2013 EY report on Bribery & Corruption)

The Companies Act, 2013, contains certain provisions to regulate frauds by corporations, including, increased penalties for frauds, giving more powers to Serious Fraud Investigation Office, mandatory responsibility of auditors to reveal frauds, and increased responsibilities of independent directors.[64] The Companies Act, 2013 also provides for mandatory vigil mechanism which allows directors and employees to report concerns and whistleblower protection mechanism for every listed company and any other companies which accepts deposits from public or has taken loans more than 50 crore rupees from banks and financial institutions. This intended to avoid accounting scandals such as the Satyam scandal which have plagued India.[65] It replaces The Companies Act, 1956 which was proven outmoded in terms of handling 21st century problems.[66]

In 2015, the Parliament passed the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Bill, 2015 to curb and impose penalty on black money hoarded abroad. The Act is pending for assent of the President of India.[67]

Anti-corruption police and courts

The Directorate General of Income Tax Investigation, Central Vigilance Commission and Central Bureau of Investigation all deal with anti-corruption initiatives. Certain states such as Andhra Pradesh (Anti-Corruption Bureau, Andhra Pradesh) and Karnataka (Lokayukta) also have their own anti-corruption agencies and courts.[68][69]

Andhra Pradesh's Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) has launched a large scale investigation in the "cash-for-bail" scam.[70] CBI court judge Talluri Pattabhirama Rao was arrested on 19 June 2012 for taking a bribe to grant bail to former Karnataka Minister Gali Janardhan Reddy, who was allegedly amassing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income. Investigation revealed that India Cements – one of India's largest cement – had been investing in Reddy's businesses in return for government contracts.[71] A case has also been opened against seven other individuals under the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act.[70]

Civic anti-corruption organisations

A variety of organisations have been created in India to actively fight against corrupt government and business practices. Notable organisations include:

Factors contributing to corruption in India

In a 2011 report on Corruption in India,[11] one of the world's largest audit and compliance firms KPMG notes several causes that encourage corruption in India. The report suggests high taxes and excessive regulation bureaucracy as a major cause. India has high marginal tax rates and numerous regulatory bodies with the power to stop any citizen or business from going about their daily affairs.[11][75]

This power of Indian authorities to search and question individuals creates opportunities for corrupt public officials to extract bribes - each individual or business decides if the effort required in due process and the cost of delay is worth not paying the bribe demanded. In cases of high taxes, paying off the corrupt official is cheaper than the tax. This, according to the report, is one major cause of corruption in India and 150 other countries across the world. In real estate industry, the high capital gains tax in India encourages large-scale corruption. Moreover, the KPMG report claims that the correlation between high real estate taxes and corruption, is high in India as well as other countries including the developed economies; this correlation has been true in modern times as well as for centuries of human history in numerous cultures.[11][75]

The desire to pay lower taxes than those demanded by the state explains the demand side of corruption. The net result is that the corrupt officials collect bribes, the government fails to collect taxes for its own budget, and corruption grows. The report suggests regulatory reforms, process simplification and lower taxes as means to increase tax receipts and reduce causes of corruption.[11][75]

In addition to tax rates and regulatory burden, the KPMG report claims corruption results from opaque process and paperwork on the part of the government. Lack of transparency allows room for maneuver for both the demanders and suppliers of corruption. Whenever objective standards and transparent processes are missing, and subjective opinion driven regulators and opaque/hidden processes are present, the conditions encourage corruption.[11][76]

Vito Tanzi in an International Monetary Fund study suggests that in India, like other countries in the world, corruption is caused by excessive regulations and authorisation requirements, complicated taxes and licensing systems, mandated spending programmes, lack of competitive free markets, monopoly of certain goods and service providers by government controlled institutions, bureaucracy, lack of penalties for corruption of public officials, and lack of transparent laws and processes.[12][77] A Harvard University study finds these to be some of the causes of corruption and underground economy in India.[78]

Impact of corruption

Loss of credibility

A study on Bribery and Corruption in India conducted in 2013[79] by one of the largest global professional services firms Ernst & Young (EY), a majority of the survey respondents from PE firms said that a company operating in a sector which is perceived as highly corrupt, may lose ground when it comes to fair valuation of its business, as investors bargain hard and factor in the cost of corruption at the time of transaction.

According to a report by KPMG, "high-level corruption and scams are now threatening to derail the country's its credibility and [its] economic boom".[80]

Economic loss

Corruption may lead to further bureaucratic delay and inefficiency as corrupted bureaucrats may introduce red tape in order to extort more bribes.[81] Such inadequacies in institutional efficiency could affect growth indirectly by lowering the private marginal product of capital and investment rate.[82] Levine and Renelt showed that investment rate is a robust determinant of economic growth.[83] According to the neoclassical growth model, institutional variables contribute to determining steady-state per capita income levels and speed of convergence to its steady state, hence affecting its growth rate.[84]

Bureaucratic inefficiency also affects growth directly, such as through misallocation of investments in the economy.[85] Additionally, corruption results in lower economic growth for a given level of income.[82]

Lower corruption, higher growth rates

If corruption levels in India were reduced to levels in developed economies such as Singapore or the United Kingdom, India's GDP growth rate could increase at a higher rate annually. C. K. Prahalad estimates the lost opportunity caused by corruption, in terms of investment, growth and jobs for India is over US$50 billion a year.[1]

See also




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Further reading

External links

A world map of the 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International
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