Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said that “dynastic corruption” has become part of the political culture in many states.

At the National Conference on Vigilance and Anti-Corruption, the prime minister said if a generation indulging in corruption does not get punished, the next generation indulges in the act with more power. “The person gets confident after seeing in his home that no action were taken against those accumulating black money,” he said. “This has led to corruption becoming a part of the political culture in many states. This dynasty of corruption from generation to generation makes the country hollow.”

Modi added that laxity in one graft case leads to the formation of a chain and lays the foundation for corruption in the future. The prime minister said when a large section of people and the media know that a person has earned money through “immoral means” and no actions have been taken, they start to consider it normal.

“This is a big hurdle in the development of the country,” he said. “This is a big hindrance in the path of a prosperous and self-reliant India.”

The prime minister further said corruption was not a standalone issue as economic offences, drugs, money laundering, terrorism and terror-funding were all inter-linked. “We need to have systemic checks, effective audits and capacity building and training against corruption in a holistic approach,” he said. “There needs to be synergy and cooperative spirit among different agencies fighting corruption.”

He also said that preventive action against corruption is more important than punitive action. “An assault on practices which give the scope of corruption is a must,” he said.

Modi added that India has now left behind the era of scams that went on for decades and has moved forward, asserting that his government has zero tolerance for corruption. The prime minister further said the government has so far repealed 1,500 unnecessary laws since 2014 and made various processes easy by giving a digital option to do their routine tasks such as bill payments.“The government should be present only where it is needed as per requirement. People should neither feel pressure of the government nor its absence,” the prime minister said.

Modi’s remarks came a day after Congress President Sonia Gandhi hit out at the ruling government, saying that India’s “democracy was at crossroads”. In an opinion piece published in the Hindustan Times on Monday, Gandhi wrote that the Modi government has pressed every into service every organ of the administration such as the police, the Enforcement Directorate, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the National Investigation Agency and the Narcotics Bureau to target the opposition.

“Dissent is deliberately stifled as ‘terrorism’ or branded as an ‘anti-national activity’,” she wrote. “Many institutions that are meant to uphold the rights of citizens and society at large have been co-opted or subverted. The Indian State now diverts attention from real problems of the people by pronouncing bogus threats to ‘national security’ everywhere.” She added that while some threats to national security are real, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the government “conjure up sinister conspiracies behind every political protest, indeed behind any and everything they see as opposition to them”.

Earlier on Tuesday, Gandhi also criticised the Janata Dal (United)-led Bihar government, which has a coalition government with the BJP. “Drunk on power and arrogance, the government in Bihar has deviated from its path,” the Congress chief said in a video message. “The labourers are helpless, the farmers are upset and the youth is disappointed. People are bearing the brunt of the fragile state of the economy. Dalits and Mahadalits have been left on the verge of misery and backward sections of society are also victims of this plight.”

She said both the central government in Delhi and the state government in Bihar have ushered in disruptions like demonetisation, coronavirus-induced lockdown and economic shutdown.

Assembly elections in Bihar will be conducted in three phases between October 28 and November 7. The results will be announced on November 10. More than two crore voters will decide the fate of 1,066 candidates on Wednesday across 71 Assembly segments in the first phase of elections.