Bribery Culture of India - brilliantly
insightful, frighteningly true
Hi.........I hope this
will make us understand why bribery is part of our
Analysis on corruption in India does not address its
cultural aspect. We see nothing peculiar about
corruption in India (except that it is everywhere).
We see many corrupt individuals in a system unable
to correct itself. Our media reports corruption
episodically. One independent incident of greed
Let us set all that aside and look at it
differently. No race can be congenitally corrupt.
But can a race be corrupted by its culture? To know
why Indians are corrupt let’s look elsewhere. What
patterns and practices distinguish us?
First: Religion is
transactional in India.
We give God cash and anticipate an out-of-turn
reward. Our plea acknowledges we aren't really
deserving. The cash compensates for our lack of
merit. In the world outside the temple walls, such a
transaction has a name: “bribe”. In India God
accepts cash from us, not good work, for which there
is no reward. We don't expect something from God in
return for sweeping our neighbourhood streets. We go
Observe this in another
Why does the wealthy Indian give not cash to
temples, but gold crowns and such baubles?
To ensure his gift isn't squandered on feeding the
poor. Our pay-off is for God. It’s wasted if it goes
See what this has produced:
In June 2009, The Hindu published a report of
Karnataka minister G. Janardhan Reddy gifting a
crown of gold and diamonds worth Rs 45 crore to
Tirupati. According to the temple’s website,
Tirupati got 3,200kg silver and 2.4kg of diamonds in
just one year. The temple encourages such giving,
according to a report in The Telegraph in April
2010. Those who gifted a kilo of gold, worth over Rs
21 lakh, got "VIP darshan" (which means cutting the
queue) of the idol. In 2007, Vellore’s Sripuram
temple was built with 1,500kg of gold. By weight
alone it is worth Rs 325 crore. In May 2010,
according to The Economic Times, 1,075kg of gold was
deposited by Tirupati with the State Bank of India (SBI)
for safe keeping. In 2009, 500kg was deposited with
the Indian Overseas Bank. In June 2004, Business
Standard reported that Tirupati couldn't melt down
8,000kg of gifted gold ornaments because devotees
had stuck precious stones to their gift. This 8
tonnes of metal, worth Rs 1,680 crore but actually
useless, was gathering dust in temple vaults.
On 11 February, according to The Hindu Business
Line, 1,175kg of gold was deposited with SBI, and
the temple trustees had yet another 3,000kg of gold
handy. What will they do with all this metal?
Gold-plate the walls of the temple (lending new
meaning to the phrase “India Shining”). This work
was halted by the Andhra Pradesh high court in
December. Not because it was wasteful such things
aren't vulgar to Indians but because it might have
damaged wall inscriptions.
India’s temples collect so much of this stuff they
don't know what to do with it. In February, 17
tonnes of silver, worth Rs 117 crore, was found in
an Odisha temple. The priests say they had no idea
it was even there. But the devotee keeps giving.
Tirupati alone gets between 800kg (The Economic
Times’ estimate) and 1,825kg (The Telegraph’s
estimate) of gold a year.
When God accepts money in return for his favours,
what is wrong with my doing the same thing? Nothing.
This is why Indians are so easily corruptible. Our
culture accommodates such transactions morally. This
is key. There is no real stigma. The demonstrably
corrupt Indian leader can harbour hope of a
comeback, unthinkable in the West.
Our moral ambiguity towards corruption is also
visible in our history. This is our second point:
Any number of books on Indian history tells us of
the capture of cities and kingdoms after guards were
paid off to open gates, and commanders paid off to
surrender. This is unique to India. We read of
battles won after battalions evaporated.
Our corrupt nature has meant limited warfare on the
subcontinent. It is striking how little Indians have
actually fought compared to ancient Greece and
modern Europe. The Turks’ battles with Nadir Shah
were vicious and fought to the finish. In India
fighting wasn't needed, bribing was usually enough
to see off our armies. The invader willing to spend
a bit of cash always brushed aside India’s kings, no
matter how many tens of thousands peopled their
Little battle was given at the “Battle” of Plassey.
Clive paid off Mir Jaffar and all of Bengal folded
to an army of 3,000.
There was always a financial solution to taking our
forts. Golconda was captured in 1687 after the
secret back door was left open. In 1700, the fort of
Parli, west of Satara, the headquarters of the
Maratha government, fell after it took a bribe from
Aurangzeb. In 1701, Aurangzeb invested the Panhala
fort for two months without success. Then he bribed
the Maratha commandant Trimbak, who let the Mughals
in. Aurangzeb took the forts at Wardhangarh, Nandgir,
Wandan and Chandan without fighting. Khelna fought
the Mughals (led by the mercenary Sawai Rajputs of
Amber) superbly till commandant Parshuram accepted
his bribe and gave up the fort.
According to The Cambridge History of India, Torna
was the only fort captured in that long campaign
without bribes. Allahabad was taken by the Mughals
in April 1720 when Girdhar Bahadur left the gates
open after being promised governorship of Awadh. The
same year Asir opened its gates to Nizam-ul-Mulk
after a bribe. The Raja of Srinagar gave up Dara
Shikoh’s son Sulaiman to Aurangzeb after a bribe.
Shivaji took Kondhana (which he renamed Sinhagad)
after the Mughal commander was bribed. The Mughals
lost Penukonda to the Marathas in 1706 after the
commandant was paid off.
We must understand that this isn't one man bribed
alone. He must share that money with his officers,
who must in turn pass it along to the infantry and
cavalry. Everyone participated in this treason.
Question is: Why do we have a transactional culture
while other 'civilized' nations don't?
The answer is that we haven't learnt to trust one
another as Europeans have. Indians do not buy the
theory that we can all rise if each of us behaves
morally, because that is not the message of our
faith. This is the third point.
Our faith assures us that God will deliver for us
individually, but we must deliver to him too.
When Europeans came here they built schools (there
were zero schools in Gujarat before Mountstuart
Elphinstone built the first 10 in the 1820s). When
we go to Europe we build more temples. Patels alone
have built 12 Swaminarayan temples in Britain.
Unfortunately, the European is tolerant and the
Indian quite shameless, though it’s true also that
he’s unaware of what he’s doing. He’s practising his
magic in a culture where it isn't needed. He doesn't
need God’s favours in a society that isn't corrupt,
that is moral, that is equal. All he needs is hard
work, which he’s quite capable of giving. Some might
say the doctrine of our faith doesn't support this
behaviour. That shouldn't concern us here. We’re
talking about its practice, the way we do religion,
rather than its philosophy, which is ultimately
The way we do it is Hobbesian.
We are up against everyone else, except God and
even he must be bribed.