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India's Business Elite Urges Government to Stamp Out Corruption


Activists of Communist Party of India Marxist CPI hold a cartoon placard portraying Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a protest against the telecom corruption scandal, New Delhi 10 Dec. 2010.

Activists of Communist Party of India Marxist CPI hold a cartoon placard portraying Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a protest against the telecom corruption scandal, New Delhi 10 Dec. 2010.

A group of prominent Indians has called on their political leaders to address rising corruption and a governance deficit in the country. Graft has emerged as a key concern in India after several corruption scandals hit the headlines in recent months.

The 14 signatories to the "Open Letter to Our Leaders" include heads of some of India’s top companies, such as Wipro Limited and the Godrej Group, bankers and judges.

They want corruption to be tackled on a war footing, saying its corrodes the fabric of the nation. The letter also expresses alarm at what it calls a widespread governance deficit in the government, business and institutions.

The spotlight has been on official graft after allegations that sale of telecom spectrum in 2008 was mishandled, resulting in losses of billions of dollars of revenue, and that kickbacks were involved in contracts awarded for last year’s Commonwealth Games.

Independent political analyst in New Delhi, Prem Shankar Jha, says the letter reflects the growing concern about the impact that graft could have on the spectacular economic growth India has had in recent years.

"I think there is a widespread fear in the middle class and in the new industrialist business aristocracy that the progress that India has been making is not sustainable if there is not political reforms to accompany the process. The political system we have today is corrupt beyond belief and the rebellion is coming out against it from all over," said Jha.

The Congress-led government, whose credibility has been hit because of the allegations of corruption, has promised to punish those found guilty of graft.

The head of the ruling Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi, has called corruption a "disease spreading in our society," and says measures must be adopted to curb it.

It is widely accepted that graft, which ranges from petty bribes to bigger kickbacks, is a part of life in India.

The letter by corporate leaders - the first of its kind - wants the government to establish independent anti-corruption bodies so that investigative agencies are free of political interference.

The letter also calls on leaders to take steps to restore the self-confidence and self-belief of Indians in themselves, the state, business and public institutions.

Political analysts say the signatories to the letter have unimpeachable credentials and the concern they are voicing should be a wake-up call for the government to clean up the system.











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