India’s most endangered species: corrupt politicians

Babubhai Katara, a member of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party in India, is the latest political figure in India to be caught abusing his powers. Scrutiny of politicians is usually lax is India, but last week, Katara was busted attempting to smuggle two people into Canada using his wife and son’s passports. At the last ...

602272_070426_tehelka_05.jpg
602272_070426_tehelka_05.jpg

Babubhai Katara, a member of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party in India, is the latest political figure in India to be caught abusing his powers. Scrutiny of politicians is usually lax is India, but last week, Katara was busted attempting to smuggle two people into Canada using his wife and son's passports. At the last minute, an airline official noticed the discrepancy between the passport photos and two individuals traveling with Katara and blew the whistle.

Babubhai Katara, a member of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party in India, is the latest political figure in India to be caught abusing his powers. Scrutiny of politicians is usually lax is India, but last week, Katara was busted attempting to smuggle two people into Canada using his wife and son’s passports. At the last minute, an airline official noticed the discrepancy between the passport photos and two individuals traveling with Katara and blew the whistle.

Katara’s not just an isolated case. In fact, it’s getting harder for Indian politicians to abuse their VIP status. The International Herald Tribune highlights India’s “growing number of corrupt politicians,” and reports that, according to the political watchdog Social Watch India, 125 out of the 538 members of Parliament have criminal cases pending against them—around half of which concern serious charges that could lead to substantial jail terms.

The good news is that these abuses of power and privilege are increasingly gaining attention in the public eye thanks to sustained media efforts and grassroots movements, and corrupt civil servants are actually being held accountable for their nefarious actions. A prime example is the ultimate sentencing of Manu Sharma, son of a former state minister, to life imprisonment. Sharma shot and murdered Jessical Lal (a model/waitress) point blank in a crowded Delhi restaurant—and was initially acquitted for the crime.

As Ken Moritsugu discusses in the current issue of FP, the Indian media is playing an increasingly important role in fighting institutionalized corruption. Moritsugu focuses on Tehelka, a weekly newspaper that essentially pioneered “sting operations” in India. Telhaka’s many exposés include breaking a huge cricket match-fixing scandal on the subcontinent, filming high profile Indian politicians accepting cash bribes from a fictitious defense contractor, and exposing the rampant police corruption scourging a serial murder case in Noida, near Delhi. Other media outlets have followed Tehelka‘s lead in exposing government corruption. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why the “lone vigilant airline official” catching Katara in the act had the courage to speak out and take the matter further.

Prerna Mankad is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

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