The only important question in the West right now is how to restart stalled economic growth. So it is easy to be dazzled by India, where a 7 percent rise in gross domestic product is the nightmare scenario, and optimists are shooting for 9.
But Indians themselves are starting to worry about how that growth is being achieved — and who is benefiting. The headline complaint is corruption. That is nothing new here, of course. But the country now has a middle class self-confident enough to feel humiliated by paying quotidian bribes and resentful of the rise of baksheesh billionaires. Anna Hazare’s hunger strike became a national political event because it tapped into this anger of the urban bourgeoisie.
“India has been overwhelmed by corruption scams,” said Kiran Bedi, the first woman officer in India’s elite police service and one of Hazare’s chief lieutenants. “While it has been apparent that India is shining, India has also been declining in many ways in that there has been rampant exposure of corruption.”
Nor is it just the activists who say that alongside India’s remarkable economic surge the rot has been spreading, too.
“Corruption is endemic,” said Rajiv Lall, chief executive of the Infrastructure Development Finance Company, a partly state-owned financial institution. “I don’t think anybody here is pretending that there’s no corruption in the country. And corruption can take on a new dimension, especially in this time of great transformation.”