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Corruption and Anti-Corruption on the Eve of Indian Independence

Chart for conference paper on "Corruption as Practice and Discourse in India"

Before Independence, before the first General Elections, before the First Five Year Plan, before the full-scale launching of the elaborate and all-pervasive system of controls over the production, import, and distribution of “essential” commodities under the policies of import substitution, and before the coining of the term, “permit-license-quota raj,” a corruption system was in place in Meerut district and, to be sure, in every other district in this state, if not in the rest of the country as well. Further, corruption was embedded from the beginning in the very roots of Indian society, in its local conflicts from village to town, district, and state. Paradoxically, the very pervasiveness of corruption also imparted to Indian political rhetoric a distinctive spirit, namely, a focus on personal character, reputation, and integrity, which in turn had two consequences. One was that mud-slinging became the preferred form of attacking one’s rivals and opponents. This in turn led to the constant need for those unstained by corrupt practices to defend themselves and their integrity against charges that they were themselves corrupt. Further, it turned a whole society towards a chimerical search for one honest man who could be trusted with power.