Corruption Among Public Servants in India

Corruption Among Public Servants in India

 A Comprehensive Analysis of Causes, Impacts, and Remedial Measures

GS2- Governance and Polity


Corruption among public servants in India is a deep-seated problem that continues to plague the nation.

This comprehensive article delves into the multifaceted dimensions of corruption, including its root causes, far-reaching impacts, the legal framework to combat it, and a detailed exploration of initiatives aimed at its eradication.

Understanding Corruption

Corruption is a pervasive issue, characterized by dishonest conduct in positions of power, such as government officials and business managers. It manifests through various forms, including bribery, double-dealing, and the fraudulent manipulation of financial systems. Transparency International's rankings place India at an alarming 85 out of 180 countries in the Asian region concerning corruption perception.

Major Causes of Corruption

  • Poor Regulatory Framework

Corruption thrives in environments where regulations are lax and enforcement is weak. In India, regulatory loopholes and enforcement inefficiencies allow corruption to persist.

  • Exclusivist Decision-Making Processes

The concentration of decision-making power in the hands of a few individuals or institutions can exacerbate corruption. Official secrecy and discretion often play a role in this concentration.

  • Rigid Bureaucratic Structures

Bureaucratic red tape and outdated administrative processes create opportunities for corrupt practices, particularly when there is a lack of oversight.

  • Social Acceptability of Corruption

The social tolerance for corruption in India is a significant contributing factor. When society turns a blind eye to corrupt practices, it perpetuates a culture of corruption.

  • Lack of Formal Ethics Education

The absence of a structured system for instilling values of ethics and integrity in public servants allows corruption to persist and even flourish. However, some Grade A services do have courses for ethics.


Type of corruption


Petty Corruption

  • Paying a bribe to a traffic police officer to avoid a fine.
  • Offering money to expedite the processing of government documents, such as a passport or driver's license.

Grand Corruption

  • The 2G Spectrum Scam, where government officials and business leaders were implicated in the misallocation of telecom spectrum licenses.
  • The Commonwealth Games Scandal, involving embezzlement of funds allocated for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Political Corruption

  • The Cash-for-Votes Scandal, where politicians were allegedly bribed to vote in a specific way during a vote of confidence in the Indian Parliament.
  • Allegations of corruption and kickbacks in the defense procurement process.


  • Offering a bribe to a government official to obtain a favorable decision on a construction project.
  • Business executives providing expensive gifts to politicians in exchange for favorable policies.


  • Officials embezzling funds from government welfare programs intended for the poor.
  • Corporate executives misappropriating company funds for personal use.


  • Criminal gangs extorting money from local businesses in exchange for "protection."
  • Corrupt police officers demanding money from individuals under threat of false charges.

Nepotism and Cronyism

  • Appointing family members or close friends to key government positions based on connections rather than merit.
  • Awarding lucrative government contracts to companies owned by political allies.

Money Laundering

  • Moving funds obtained through corrupt practices, such as bribery, through a complex network of transactions and shell companies to legitimize them.
  • The Hawala money laundering system, which has been used for illicit financial transfers.

State Capture

  • Influence of powerful corporate interests over regulatory bodies, influencing policies and decisions in their favor.
  • Politicians being accused of allowing specific business conglomerates to have undue influence over government affairs.


  • Politicians provide government jobs or welfare benefits to specific groups or individuals in exchange for their political support.
  • Elected representatives channeling government resources to their constituencies to secure voter loyalty.


Impacts of Corruption

Corruption's effects are extensive and far-reaching:

  • Hindrance to Economic Development:

Corruption diverts resources away from productive investments, hindering economic growth and development.

  • Promotion of Inefficiencies:

Corrupt practices encourage inefficiencies, as decisions are often made based on personal gain rather than merit or efficiency.

  • Distortion of Markets:

Corruption can distort markets, resulting in unfair competition and negative consequences for businesses and consumers.

  • Environmental Destruction:

Corruption in sectors like natural resource management can lead to environmental degradation.

  • Threat to National Security:

Corrupt practices can compromise national security by facilitating illegal activities, including terrorism and organized crime.

  • Exacerbation of Poverty:

Corruption disproportionately affects marginalized populations, perpetuating poverty and inequality.

  • Undermining of Democratic Institutions:

Corruption undermines the foundations of democratic institutions by distorting electoral processes and compromising the rule of law.


Law and Legislations
India has enacted several laws and regulations to combat corruption:

  1. Indian Penal Code, 1860: This law penalizes corrupt practices by public servants.
  2. Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988: Prohibits benami transactions, where property is held by one person but financed by another.
  3. Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002: Penalizes money laundering, a common practice among corrupt officials.
  4. Ratification of UN Conventions: India ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and its three protocols in 2011.

Other Related Steps

Various measures have been taken to address corruption:

  1. Elimination of Interviews in Recruitment: Interviews for Group 'B' and 'C' government posts have been discontinued to reduce favoritism and nepotism.
  2. Amendment of Rules: All India Services and Central Civil Services Rules have been amended to provide specific timelines in disciplinary proceedings.
  3. Amendment of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988: This amendment criminalizes the act of giving bribes and creates vicarious liability for senior management in commercial organizations.
  4. Integrity Pact: The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) recommends the adoption of Integrity Pact in major procurement activities to ensure transparency and expedite investigations.
  5. Institutional Initiatives: The establishment of institutions like Lokpal, Central Vigilance Commission, and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India plays a vital role in monitoring and preventing corruption.
  6. Right to Information (RTI) Act: The RTI Act empowers citizens to seek information and demand accountability, making it a powerful tool in the fight against corruption.
  7. Recent Supreme Court Ruling: In a landmark judgment in December 2022 (Neeraj Dutta v. State), the Supreme Court lowered the bar for the quantum of evidence required to convict persons charged with corruption.

Conclusion and Way Ahead

To achieve its vision of becoming a responsible global actor, India must embark on comprehensive political reforms, enhance transparency in political funding, reform the justice delivery system, and ensure the integrity of the RTI process. Eradicating corruption requires bold structural reforms, stringent enforcement of existing laws, and a strong commitment to ethical conduct.

Furthermore, urgent attention is needed to repair India's broken criminal justice system, which allows cases to languish for years, thus encouraging impunity and reinforcing corrupt behavior. The fight against corruption is not merely a legal or administrative challenge; it is a moral and societal imperative. To achieve a corruption-free future, India must address this issue head-on and undertake multifaceted, persistent efforts to eliminate it from the root.

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