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Narendra Modi's government has failed to reduce corruption.

Narendra Damodardas Modi is current Prime Minister of India since 2014. He had been a long term Chief Minister of Gujarat (nearly 14 years) and is the Member of Parliament for Varanasi. He has been elected Prime Minster with expectations that he reign in corruption in India

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Narendra Modi's government has failed to reduce corruption.

Narendra Damodardas Modi is current Prime Minister of India since 2014. He had been a long term Chief Minister of Gujarat (nearly 14 years) and is the Member of Parliament for Varanasi. He has been elected Prime Minster with expectations that he reign in corruption in India

Narendra Modi's government has failed to reduce corruption.

Narendra Damodardas Modi is current Prime Minister of India since 2014. He had been a long term Chief Minister of Gujarat (nearly 14 years) and is the Member of Parliament for Varanasi. He has been elected Prime Minster with expectations that he reign in corruption in India

Narendra Modi's government has failed to reduce corruption.

Narendra Damodardas Modi is current Prime Minister of India since 2014. He had been a long term Chief Minister of Gujarat (nearly 14 years) and is the Member of Parliament for Varanasi. He has been elected Prime Minster with expectations that he reign in corruption in India

The BJP promised to tackle the corruption that is so rife in Indian society. Yet six years later, it is worse than ever.

India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, came to power in 2014 on a promise to fight corruption. Corruption has become endemic to Indian society on every level – from horse-trading in politics to the judicial system to small bribes for basic services – and voters made their opinion clear: they wanted a leader who would change this. Narendra Modi and the BJP seemed like a fresh start.

However, during Modi’s six years in power, the situation has become even worse. According to Transparency International’s 2019 report, the level of corruption in India is still on the rise. More than half of public service users in India - 63% - have paid a bribe at least once over the past year.

At the same time, a clear conversation on the question is deliberately obscured by tighter restrictions on the media; Reporters Without Borders ranks India 142 out of 180 countries in its most recent World Press Freedom Index. Journalists brave enough to write about the corruption of local politicians often face intimidation or violent reprisals - even when merely speaking out for fundamental human rights. The journalist, Pawan Kumar Jaiswal, wrote an article exposing corruption within the school lunch scheme in Uttar Pradesh. His report showed money was disappearing before being spent on vegetables for children's meals: leaving pupils with only bread to eat at school, despite a new government scheme to ensure that they would get a full cooked meal in the middle of the day. It was a clear case of corruption and mismanagement. Yet rather than issuing a public apology, the local administration went on the attack and accused Jaiswal of defamation. The journalist faced charges, while those who had lined their own pockets with money for school meals were never held accountable. 

The responsibility for tackling corruption and creating a climate of accountability lies with the government, as there is little opportunity for those caught up in the system to create change. Examples of courageous whistle-blowers are rare, and it’s not difficult to see why. Civil servant Ashok Khemka has been transferred 53 times in his 26-year career because he refused to compromise and continually exposed political corruption wherever he found it. He famously refused to authorise an illegal land deal by Robert Vadra, son-in-law of the Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi. The reward for his honesty is to be continually transferred from post to post as every district seeks to remove him. It is a system that makes the possession of integrity a punishable offence.

When both journalists and administrators risk such severe consequences for speaking truth to power, how can we hope to create a fairer system? And when corruption is a part of every aspect of our lives, eroding the very fabric of our society, can we even imagine how things might work without it?

The state of the judiciary system provides a clear example of what such pervasive corruption looks like. It's a government in which more than half of elected representatives have criminal cases pending against them – and yet remain in power. It's over-crowded prisons where tens of thousands are still awaiting trial, imprisoned before being convicted of a crime. Many have been awaiting trial for years. It's a system in which it can take years or even decades for a simple case to go through the courts, leaving people stuck, unable to do anything but wait.

No wonder India has never lived up to its economic potential: there are so many risks inherent in starting a business, with the potential of facing years of struggles with red-tape, that foreign investors look elsewhere.

Narendra Modi did not create this situation. But he did pledge to change it, and he has not followed through. He is notorious for being a micromanager, and since coming to power has brought the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CBI) increasingly under government control. It is now essentially an instrument of government, and no longer the independent entity it was intended to be. How can systemic corruption be challenged when there are no longer any institutions that can function effectively outside the system? How then is it possible to address the corruption that exists within the government itself?

Modi's propensity for centralisation and bringing both his own party and national institutions under his own personal control is dangerous to Indian democracy, according to leading political analyst Pratap Bhanu Mehta, speaking to the BBC: "This moment does represent a significant danger to Indian democracy because democracy survives on the fragmentation of power. We are now largely at the whims of one person and what he decides to do with this extraordinary mandate that he's been given.” 

If democracy itself is threatened, there will be nothing left to stand in the way of corruption at every level. Narendra Modi has failed to deliver on his promise to fight corruption - instead, he is creating a political climate in which it can flourish unchecked.

 

 

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