Some hope, lots of despair

Abhijit Patnaik

New Delhi, Nov. 15 -- Arvind Kejriwal has resorted to publicly naming and shaming everyone from politicians to corporates. Anna Hazare has reignited the Jan Lokpal debate, scandals are being exposed with increasing frequency. The anti-corruption movement has gathered momentum in the last twelve months, and presumably, corrupt officials are running for shelter. Yet, according to a Hindustan Times survey, 41.2% of respondents feel that government officials are more prone to take a bribe today.

The movement may have many followers on various social media platforms and thousands may have turned out for candlelight vigils, but practising what you preach is a different ball game. Only a third of respondents said that they are less likely to offer a bribe even in today's atmosphere where corruption is the big sin.

The survey, conducted by research agency Hansa, covered 13 cities and over 28,000 respondents. Some of the results were unsurprising.

No prizes for guessing who most people blame for corruption. An overwhelming 64.7% say it is politicians. This anti-politician sentiment is strongest in north India. But blame is also placed on the nature of our politics today.

With no single party in a majority, coalitions are here to stay. But that is not always a good thing. Vested interests in some parties have kept others hostage, which is perhaps why over half the respondents said that this leads to more corruption in the government.

The media, which has played a central role in the anti-corruption fight is viewed favourably by respondents, with 45% saying its role has been positive.

Governance Reform

The need for improving governance assumes particular importance in the background of a government battling various scandals and having lost opportunities for furthering growth and pushing reform.

The government has sought to silence its critics by boldly ushering in foreign direct investment (FDI) in the retail sector, aviation and has approved bills to open up insurance and pension sectors to foreign investment, apart from a slew of other measures. But when it comes to issues of bureaucracy, polity and administration, concerted action is lacking.

We asked respondents what they feel India needs to concentrate on most. Education and health topped the answers, unsurprising for a country like India.

But interestingly, it was governance reform which came third -more than other crying needs of the nation such as power, roads or transport. "Public spending is notoriously leaky and fosters corruption. Fundamental reforms in this area are necessary and are long overdue to push growth," said Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Rajya Sabha MP and entrepreneur.

Leading the change

A growing India is increasingly looking for effective governance skills in its leaders. No wonder, a quarter said that Narendra Modi is their leader of choice, with Sonia Gandhi a distant second with 16.4%. Only 13% chose Rahul Gandhi.

But the Gujarat leader's popularity doesn't transfer to his party. While 35.8% feels that a Congress or Congress-led government is best equipped to steer India through its economic slump, only 30% have similar confidence in a BJP or BJP-led government.

(With inputs from Gaurav Choudhury)

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.