Corruption in India: When Preaching Piety is Not Enough

17 March 2014, 17:30 - 19:00


This is a public lecture (free and open to all) part of the conference "Institutions and their Discontents: Rethinking Economic Development in South Asia"

Professor Pranab Bardhan (Department of Economics, University of California, Berkeley)

Corruption has been at the top of public political discussion in India in recent years. While the general discussion is in terms of lapses in morals or leadership failures, institutional economics takes a different approach to the understanding of the incidence of corruption and the policies relevant to alleviating it. The talk will illustrate this approach in the context of India. After pointing out some definitional issues on corruption, it will go into the supposedly  paradoxical perception that corruption has increased instead of diminishing in the years after economic liberalization. It will examine the current demand for the Lokpal (ombudsman) and the enactment of the Lokpal Act of 2014. It will show how in this process some of the institutional, organizational and incentive issues have been overlooked, and how some other kinds of reforms may be more useful. It will also point out ways in which over-zealousness in anti-corruption movements can be counter-productive.

Pranab Bardhan is Professor of Graduate School at the Department of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley.

He was educated at Presidency College, Kolkata and Cambridge University, England. He had been at the faculty of MIT, Indian Statistical Institute and Delhi School of Economics before joining Berkeley. He has been Visiting Professor/Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, St. Catherine's College, Oxford, and London School of Economics. He held the Distinguished Fulbright Siena Chair at the University of Siena, Italy in 2008-9. He was the BP Centennial Professor at London School of Economics for 2010 and 2011. The Degree of DSC (Honoris Causa) was awarded to him by Indian Statistical Institute In 2013.

He has done theoretical and field studies research on rural institutions in poor countries, on political economy of development policies, and on international trade. A part of his work is in the interdisciplinary area of economics, political science, and social anthropology. He was Chief Editor of the Journal of Development Economics for 1985-2003. He was the co-chair of the MacArthur Foundation-funded Network on the Effects of Inequality on Economic Performance for 1996-2007.

He is the author of 13 books and editor of 12 other books, and author of more than 150 journal articles including in leading Economics journals. His latest book, Awakening Giants, Feet of Clay: Assessing the Economic Rise of China and India is published by Princeton University Press. Two collections of his selected essays came out in 2003; one is International Trade, Growth and Development published by Blackwell; and the other, Poverty, Agrarian Structure, and Political Economy in India published by Oxford University Press. His book, Scarcity, Conflicts and Cooperation: Essays in Political and Institutional Economics of Development, was published by MIT Press in 2005. A co-edited volume, Globalization and Egalitarian Redistribution was published by Princeton University Press in 2006, followed by another co-edited volume, Inequality,Cooperation, and Environmental Sustainability, also published by Princeton University Press in 2006. A co-edited volume, Decentralization and Local Governance in Developing Countries: A Comparative Perspective was published by MIT Press in 2006.A co-edited volume, The Contested Commons: Conversations between Economists and Anthropologists was published in 2008 by Blackwell.

For more details of Professor Bardhan's professional life, click here.