SAIS Review, July 2013
by Jason Miklian and Scott Carney
Institutionalized corruption is pervasive in India. It requires individuals and businesses to negotiate bureaucratic mazes, pay off government servants, and break laws merely to acquire the basic elements of governance. With nearly half of India’s economic activity in the informal sector, ‘shadow economies’ permeate the lives of every citizen. What on the surface looks like a dysfunctional or broken system operates smoothly and ben- eficially for the politicians, businesses, and connected individuals who use it with ease. For the average Indian citizen, however, access is challenging, and corruption is a visible reminder of the failed promise of democracy. This article broadens the anti-corruption agenda in India by recognizing how corruption carries with it ingrained structural components that cannot be disentangled from the formal sector. In some cases, what is thought of as ‘corruption’ actually improves operational efficiency for citizens when compared to India’s overworked judiciary and extensive bureaucracy. Any serious at- tempt to ‘fix’ corruption must also account for the rationalizations of individuals and companies that engage in what are commonly seen as corrupt activities.
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