Haven’t heard of Anna Hazare? You will do – or at least you will see the consequences of the changes that Mr Hazare is part of.
Mr Hazare is a 74 year old anti-corruption activist in India. An article from the Age is here – but it represents a stream of change in India that has been building for (at least) this year.
Corruption and bribery have been endemic to India. But over the course of the past year, there has been a growing ‘campaign’ to reduce corruption. This campaign is the result of economic growth and the media. Growth has led to a middle class who are sick of having to pay ‘twice’ – once officially and once through bribes – for basic services, particularly those from the government. The news media has latched onto stories of corruption because they sell to this middle class. India is one of the few places around the world where newspaper circulation is growing.
Corruption scandals have already claimed high profile political scalps, particularly over the auction of mobile phone spectrum. But what we are seeing in India is broader than specific scandals. I suspect that it is a change in ‘expectations’ that will be a step in India’s development.
Western countries might like the pretence of purity, but a bit of history (e.g. U.S politics around the end of the 1800s and early 1900s) suggests that India’s current anti-corruption movement reflects a stage of development in democratic countries. If successful, it will lead to more efficient government and governance. It will also make average Indian’s better off as they face less risk of ‘hold-up’ when seeking a range of basic services. It should also make business easier – or at least more transparent.
So Mr Hazare is symptomatic of India’s growth and development – which for both the 1 billion people in India and the rest of the world, is a good thing.