Indian Patronage Subverts the Rule of Law

Indian Patronage Subverts the Rule of Law

No country is immune from patronage systems and the related endemic corruption. In the United States, the term "Tammany Hall" brings to mind governmental benevolence dispensed on an uneven playing field in exchange for money or favors. Even today, there are large municipalities run by machines that pervert the rule of law on behalf of those who control government jobs, contracts, and purse strings.

Imagine a country where patronage like this dominates at the national level. India comes to mind as a real world example. The pervasiveness is such that many Indian youth now view the corrupt as role models instead of a problem to be addressed.

To be sure, there is popular support for an anti-corruption movement. Millions have rallied behind activist Kisan Bapat Baburao "Anna" Hazare after his threat to fast until death last year in order to move politicians to take action. In poor health, and the subject of death threats, one wonders if Mr. Hazare will live to see real reforms enacted.

The government's attempt to placate reform demands would be comical if the consequences were not so detrimental to India's citizens. After performing a legislative Kabuki dance, actual reform, in the form of an independent anti-corruption ombudsman, was rejected. An anti-corruption agency that exists at the whim of those whom it is supposed to investigate is ineffective except as a public relations front to cover up ongoing graft.  Two obvious public manifestations of this corruption which the press tiptoes around are the delays and last-minute and shoddy construction of facilities like those for last year's Commonwealth Games and this year's Cricket World Cup.

As India demands a larger role within the community of nations as a growing economic power, it is time for the nation to engage in internal housecleaning by enacting and enforcing legislation consistent with the U.N. Convention Against Corruption (pdf file). A good place to start would be the creation of an anti-corruption ombudsman with real authority to investigate and act without fear of retaliation by those whose misconduct may be revealed in the process. The rule of law cannot protect fundamental human rights if it is corrupted by a political spoils system.

Recommended Reading

Corrupt are becoming role-models for youth in India: Murthy, Times of India (Jan. 30, 2012)

India's Corruption Conundrum Continues, Eurasia Review (Jan. 25, 2012)

Anti-corruption debate divides India, Al Jazeera (Jan. 23, 2012)

Lorgat defends World Cup stadium preparations, ESPN CRIC Info (Jan. 15, 2012)