What’s  happening in India now?

Yet another nationwide social unrest.

The movement is being led by an organization called India Against Corruption and is fighting the central government for changes in anti-corruption laws. The movements leader is a Gandhian style civilian – Anna Hazare. In spring, he went into a hunger strike to protest against the government’s proposed anti-corruption bill. The government promised changes but never did. Anna Hazare started a second hunger strike and this time took the whole nation by storm. The entire country has been fed up of the corruption that has eroded the countries governance infrastructure. India has always had the reputation of being corrupt. But lately, there has been a surge of very high profile scams like the 2G scam. The loss to the government has been a staggering US$ 40 Billion. And there are several such scams involving the ruling parties both at the center and the states.

Corruption comes in many different flavors. An agency, called Transparency International, measures corruption in many countries. They do so by conducting numerous surveys of the people on their perception of corruption in the government. The results are tabulated in a Corruptions Perception Index. The latest results are from 2010. You can read the report on their web site. With 10 being least corrupt and 1 being the most corrupt, the following chart lists the countries and their respective ranks for 2010. India ranks 87 amongst 178 countries. You can scroll up and down the chart to see other countries.

The impact of corruption is far reaching. It lowers investment opportunities by rich countries. It lowers overall quality of life for the people, as there is less money for social programs. Several organizations have attempted to measure quality of life. Wikipedia has a few sources listed.

Another measure would be to see the income of the people. A simple way to measure that is GDP per capita i.e. take the total income of the country and divide by the population.  Richer countries should have a higher GDP Per Capita. See the chart below for GDP per capita (using Purchasing PowerParity). This data is available on the World Bank’s Data Catalog.

Of course, it is not apparent what cause and effect are. One can argue, that lower GPD per capita motivates government officials (and private sector employees too) to accept bribes. Or, due to corrupt employees, government investments are not efficiently allocated, which impacts the common population and the civilian infrastructure which results in lower GDP per capita (and/or lower quality of life).

2011 is clearly the year of social unrests all around the globe. Interestingly, the reasons are all different but there is a underlying thread. The common people have come to believe they deserve a chance to live in a decent civilized society much like the West, and improve their overall quality of life.