No race can be congenitally corrupt. But can a race be corrupted by its culture? To know why Indians are corrupt let’s look elsewhere. What patterns and practices distinguish us?
Analysis on corruption in India does not address its cultural aspect. We see nothing peculiar about corruption in India (except that it is everywhere). We see many corrupt individuals in a system unable to correct itself.
Our media reports corruption episodically. One independent incident of greed follows another.
Let us set all that aside and look at it differently. No race can be congenitally corrupt. But can a race be corrupted by its culture? To know why Indians are corrupt let’s look elsewhere. What patterns and practices distinguish us?
First: Religion is transactional in India.
We give God cash and anticipate an out-of-turn reward. Our plea acknowledges we aren’t really deserving. The cash compensates for our lack of merit.
In the world outside the temple walls, such a transaction has a name: “bribe”.
In India God accepts cash from us, not good work, for which there is no reward. We don’t expect something from God in return for sweeping our neighbourhood streets. We go with money.
Observe this in another way.
Why does the wealthy Indian give not cash to temples, but gold crowns and such baubles?
To ensure his gift isn’t squandered on feeding the poor. Our pay-off is for God. It’s wasted if it goes to man. See what this has produced.
In June 2009, The Hindu published a report of Karnataka minister G. Janardhan Reddy gifting a crown of gold and diamonds worth Rs. 45 crore to Tirupati.
According to the temple’s website, Tirupati got 3,200kg silver and 2.4kg of diamonds in just one year. The temple encourages such giving, according to a report in The Telegraph in April 2010. Those who gifted a kilo of gold, worth over Rs. 21 lakh, got “VIP darshan” (which means cutting the queue) of the idol.
In 2007, Vellore’s Sripuram temple was built with 1,500kg of gold. By weight alone it is worth Rs. 325 crore.
In May 2010, according to The Economic Times, 1,075kg of gold was deposited by Tirupati with the State Bank of India (SBI) for safe keeping.
In 2009, 500kg was deposited with the Indian Overseas Bank.
In June 2004, Business Standard reported that Tirupati couldn’t melt down 8,000kg of gifted gold ornaments because devotees had stuck precious stones to their gift. This 8 tonnes of metal, worth Rs. 1,680 crore but actually useless, was gathering dust in temple vaults.
On 11 February, according to The Hindu Business Line, 1,175kg of gold was deposited with SBI, and the temple trustees had yet another 3,000kg of gold handy.
What will they do with all this metal? Gold-plate the walls of the temple (lending new meaning to the phrase “India Shining”). This work was halted by the Andhra Pradesh high court in December. Not because it was wasteful—such things aren’t vulgar to Indians—but because it might have damaged wall inscriptions.
India’s temples collect so much of this stuff they don’t know what to do with it.
In February, 17 tonnes of silver, worth Rs. 117 crore, was found in an Odisha temple. The priests say they had no idea it was even there. But the devotee keeps giving.
Tirupati alone gets between 800kg (The Economic Times’ estimate) and 1,825kg (The Telegraph’s estimate) of gold a year.
When God accepts money in return for his favours, what is wrong with my doing the same thing? Nothing. This is why Indians are so easily corruptible. Our culture accommodates such transactions morally. This is key. There is no real stigma. The demonstrably corrupt Indian leader can harbour hope of a comeback, unthinkable in the West.
Our moral ambiguity towards corruption is also visible in our history. This is our second point.
Our gold-plated culture of corruption
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