Bribery – Culture of India


AREA 14/8

This little piece is interesting. It strives to explain why Indians are susceptible to bribery. One of the explanations it espouses is that bribery lies in the transactional nature of Hindu religion i.e this comes down to bribing God, for Him to bestow unmerited favours. This being the religious practice, it is concluded, that bribery therefore becomes quite acceptable in all other walks of life.

But this does explain why Pakistanis, Indonesians, Nigerians, Italians, and Chinese are generally so corrupt as well. Perhaps this has to do more with our shared humanity, than with religion in particular. Where Hinduism has affected both Indian society and Indian history is the caste system of India. This allowed for duality in the power structure. The king always had to keep the Brahmin abreast. Also, a huge majority of the Hindu population could not be mustered in time of war, because caste would not allow this. Thus, the development and war making potential of China and India, two contemporary civilizations of massive size, are so distinct. India, except for the timesof the Guptas was nothing more than a group of small or medium principalities, till the time of Muslim and British rule. China, on the other hand, though shrinking and enlarging, nevertheless was always a pretty large empire/state. The Chinese king was never hampered by the priest, and he could marshal his entire population for war, when circumstances so demanded.Sociologically, India has struggled, and will continue to do so. It might be “golden”compared to Pakistan, but the gold is of very poor quality, because the Hindu religion is rooted in inequality. You take out from it the caste system, and the whole edifice crumbles. That is why Mahtama Gandhi was quite happy to wash the latrines of the untouchables, but would never dare to advocate the abolishing of the caste system. This would have been tantamount to suggesting the dismantling of Hinduism itself. A religion, so rooted in caste, had per force to be intolerant in the extreme. So much so that in a traditional Brahmin household, if the master of the house returned home from an outside chore, he was not allowed into the kitchen on the off chance that he may have come in touch with an untouchable.Early Islam, on the other hand, was egalitarian. About the only thing that it had little tolerance for, was polytheism. When these two religions met in India therefore, there was plenty of room for fireworks. That these did not erupt with the virulence which they had the potential of doing, was because of the healing touch of the sufis.However,behind the first instance of inclusiveness was a man who was anything but a sufi. When Mohammad bin Qasim wrote to Hajjaj bin Yousaf, asking for instructions as to how he should treat the Hindus, Hajjaj wrote back asking whether these people had a scripture. On receiving a reply in the affirmative, he directed Qasim to treat them as a people of the book.

Corruption in India is a cultural aspect. Indians seem to think nothing peculiar about corruption.It is everywhere. Indians tolerate corrupt individuals rather than correct them. No race can be congenitally corrupt.But can a race be corrupted by its culture? To know why Indians are corrupt, look at their patterns and practices .

First: Religion is transactional in India. Indians give God cash and anticipate an out-of-turn reward. Such a plea acknowledges that favours are needed for the undeserving. In the world outside the temple walls, such a transaction is named- “bribe”. A wealthy Indian gives not cash to temples,but gold crowns and such baubles. His gifts can not feed the poor. His pay-off is for God.He thinks it will be wasted if it goes to a needy man. In June 2009, The Hindu published a report of Karnataka minister G. Janardhan Reddy gifting a crown of gold and diamonds worthRs 45 crore to Tirupati. India’s temples collect so much thatthey don’t know what to do with it.Billions are gathering dust in temple vaults. When Europeans came to India they built schools.When Indians go to Europe & USA, they build temples. Indians believe that if God accepts money for his favours,then nothing is wrong in doing the same thing.This is why Indians are so easily corruptible. Indian culture accommodates such transactions morally.There is no real stigma. An utterly corrupt JayaLalita canmake a comeback, just unthinkable in the West.

Second: Indian moral ambiguity towards corruption is visible in its history.Indian history tells of the capture of cities and kingdoms after guardswere paid off to open the gates, and commanders paid off to surrender. This is unique to India. Indians’ corrupt nature has meant limited warfare on the subcontinent.It is striking how little Indians have actually fought compared toancient Greece and modern Europe. The Turks’ battles with Nadir Shah were vicious and fought to the finish. In India fighting wasn’t needed, bribing was enough to see off armies. Any invader willing to spend cash could brush aside India’s kings, no matter how many tens of thousands soldiers were in their infantry. Little resistance was given by the Indians at the “Battle” of Plassey.Clive paid off Mir Jaffar and all of Bengal folded to an army of 3,000. There was always a financial exchange to taking Indian forts.Golconda was captured in 1687 after the secret back door was left open. Mughals vanquished Marathas and Rajputs with nothing but bribes. The Raja of Srinagar gave up Dara Shikoh’s son Sulaiman to Aurangzeb after receiving a bribe. There are many cases where Indians participatedon a large scale in treason due to bribery.

Question is: Why Indians have a transactional culture while other ‘civilized’ nations don’t?

Third: Indians do not believe in the theory that they all can riseif each of them behaves morally, because that is notthe message of their faith. Their caste system separates them. They don’t believe that all men are equal.This resulted in their division and migration to other religions. Many Hindus started their own faith like Sikh, Jain, Buddha and many converted to Christianity and Islam. The result is that Indians don’t trust one another. There are no Indians in India, there areHindus, Christians, Muslims and what not. Indians forget that 400 years ago they all belonged to one faith. This division evolved an unhealthy culture. The inequality has resulted in a corrupt society.

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