Basu proposal on bribes dangerous: CPI’s Raja to PM

Taking objection to the government's Chief Economic Adviser Kaushik Basu's argument that "harrassment bribes" should be legalised, senior CPI leader and Rajya Sabha MP D Raja on Saturday wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, asking him to clarify whether he endorsed the proposal.

Raja said he was "alarmed" by the proposal made by Basu in a paper posted on the Finance Ministry's website.

Calling it "dangerous and unethical", he said, "It is especially objectionable at a time when the entire nation is concerned about the spread of corruption."

The CPI leader said Basu has argued that if paying bribes for something one is entitled to is made legal, bribe-givers would have an incentive to blow the whistle and bribe-takers would hesitate to accept bribes.

"Whatever the merits of this reasoning as an economic argument, making it legal to pay bribes would enhance the moral acceptance of corruption in Indian society.... Making it legal to pay bribes would undermine the values of honesty and integrity. Indeed, it would make people who don't pay bribes look like fools," he said in his letter.

Pointing out that while the economic reasoning underlying Basu's recommendation was far from convincing, he said from a common sense point of view, the idea that corruption can be prevented by inducing people to blow the whistle on their own acts of bribing is "quite fanciful".

"At a time when corruption is a major issue for the nation, and when there is a surge of popular resentment against corruption, it is alarming to see the government's Chief Economic Advisor making superficial comments on this issue and making proposals that would effectively condone corruption," he said.

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