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Corruption: Character Problem or System Problem?

Some days back, I participated in a network discussion. The question was “What is the bigger problem for India, poverty or corruption.?”

My overall feeling after reading that thread is that as a civilization we might be old, but as a functioning society, we are immature. We are still talking about value based or ethics based approach to dealing with corruption. No one gets up in the morning thinking “I am going to do some corruption today”. Yet it happens.

It happens because there is fault in our systems. Our systems are not in sync with our needs and abilities. If a desk clerk, who has no chance of getting ahead in life anywhere else, has authority to hold or clear a big project then there is bound to be corruption. It’s not a problem of person (or persons) behaving right. It’s a institutional problem and must be treated as such.

Democracy has given lots of tools to us. How many of us have used them? Have we showed any positive activism (one where action happens)? No. We are constantly showing negative activism (bickering and criticizing).

Recently Government of India passed a landmark law that makes it easy for ordinary citizens to fight corruption. It is called the Right of Information act. A good website is here. (or simply google search right to information india law)

If you genuinely care about corruption then do something. There are no tools available to improve character of a person. But there are tools available to improve the system. Educating yourself about these tools might be a first step. Even a small action is better than hours and hours of discussion. You can do something. You are not as powerless as you think.

If not, then just accept that you are born to suffer and this is your destiny and stop talking.


One Response

  1. I read with great interest Kedarjis views on corruption and poverty. I believe that we will have to take into account the value systems that we live in be it Hindu or semitic-. which reflects the historical and cultural forces that shaped out psyche as a nation.
    Kedarji is spot on when he points out that the Indian society functions in an immature and insophisticated way.
    Poverty may compel a person to be corrupt. But the misuse of the system and the powers invested in you by the system need not stem out of poverty alone.
    It serves a single purpose – Self interest and the larger interest of your extended self namely family, caste,community .
    This is where the moral fibre of the individual is pitted against the larger interests and ambitions of the collective selves that he may represent.
    This where even Arjuna himself was broken in spirit when the moment of engaging the ‘larger self’ ( in the form of uncles cousins etc in a battle, finally arrived.
    Until he was shown the way to a bigger purpose” that cut through all familial and communal affiliations that Arjuna imagined that bound him -incapacitated him.
    Nepotism, favouritism bribery – happens when the individual starts to digging at a system which is alien to his cultural sensibilties and moral convictions.
    The caste system is so much genetically etched into the Indian mind(including NonHindus despite their protestations) -perhaps even more so after Independence. The Indian mind always think in terms of ‘us ‘vs them. The indian mind knows that milking the system to benefit his lot does not bode evil because _- the party isnt going to last forever ( no pun intended) or that he had been at the receiving end for centuries. The dominant groups are always at loggerheads with each other ,jostling for position of power – It becomes a matter of self preservation and consolidation for them. They come together only to exploit a weaker section or to share the spoils that comes with a post , a ministry or a contract.
    Materialistically – Indians have shamelessly embraced ‘Middleclassness’ as way to promote and enjoy ones life and social status.
    This act of equating ones self worthiness to his materialistic acquisitions r is a great incentive for cutting corners and achieving glory bypassing the rightful process of achieving it.
    Democracy is a GAME of checks and balances it has its limits in its application especially when it is not something intrinsic to the culture. The Americans have realized that painfully recently.
    Bertrand Russel put it as something which will work admirably when you have a population that fits in the town square.
    Naturally evolved systems based on a new awareness and social awakening can bring about a change in peoples perception – There will be a realignement of the social framework where caste denomminations and clan loyalties and material benefits cease to be the guiding forces that shape the destiny of the Nation.
    They will believe in the bigger purpose.
    But thats all nice to hear – But how many Indians have the idea of ‘Nation’ in his mind that bonds him to the rest of us? Lets do away with the milay sur meraa melodrama .. There is nothing that does the above rather than the feeling f belonging to a particular community that make up the whole.Alternatively he may be so alienated from the rest of the crowd that he imagines himslef as someone above such equations and become totally self absorbed.
    This psyche is more applicable to the hindu mind than other communities
    For a muslim and a christian they are dead certain as to what it is t be their selves. They knw the purpose of their existence
    Serve the God . obey his laws, be loyal and expendable for the good of his people.
    What about a Hindu? Noone tells him not to steal or not to lie or cheat or extort.
    he has to listen to the million voices in his soul and choose the right one.
    How many of us have the patience and dligence to find and follow the voice that tells us the right things?
    And how many of us would be happy to know that the voices that he listens to are shared by millions of other hindus?
    Points to ponder .

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