This week in Say More, PS talks with Ashoka Mody, Visiting Professor of International Economic Policy at Princeton University and the author of India Is Broken: A People Betrayed, Independence to Today.
Project Syndicate: Much of your recent work exposes the cracks in the foundations of India’s economy – cracks that the government is taking great pains to cover up. Such “brazen unaccountability,” you say, is “corroding Indian politics and society,” and you examine its roots in your new book, India Is Broken: A People Betrayed, Independence to Today. What has contributed to the erosion of accountability in India, and where are the historical milestones of this decline to be found?
Ashoka Mody: In June 1951, just months before independent India’s first general elections, Time magazine described the Congress Party as harboring many “timeserving officeholders” and well-known “black-marketeers.” The early corruption was mainly in government construction contracts.
But from small beginnings, the lack of accountability in India’s government became increasingly pervasive. By the end of Jawaharlal Nehru’s tenure, corruption had spread to the lower judiciary. Then Indira Gandhi dealt a body blow to all norms of accountability; besides being personally corrupt, she injected criminals into politics. The economic liberalization of the 1990s, which glorified hyper-individualism, further eroded civic consciousness, social norms, and public accountability.