In our country, where everything, be it a degree to conduct surgery or fly airplanes, or scientific approval to sell deadly technologies, can be ‘ensured’ for a price, it appears that most ‘aspiring and ambitious’ persons have accepted corruption as a ‘necessary evil’. As success is measured in terms of money earned by a person, corruption has become the highway to ‘growth’ and a ‘better life’. Those, who voluntarily opt to miss the immoral flight to ‘higher levels’, get ridiculed, marginalised and pitied by one and all, including their near and dear ones.
The commonly held belief is that corruption is now all-pervasive and from judiciary to armed forces, and media to civil society, all institutions, useful in an effective democracy to keep a check on corrupt and insensitive governments, are equally, if not more, corrupt than the villainous politicians and bureaucrats. Some people even argue that most of the ‘honest’ ones are those who could not get any opportunity to make money by indulging in corruption and if given a chance would happily enjoy its ‘benefits’.
While the ‘elite’ class complains frequently and too loudly about corruption at lower levels, it is the corruption at higher policy making levels that affects the poor people more. Lower level corruption is regularly noticed but we must realise that wrong policies in education, health, food, agriculture, environment, housing, mining, infrastructure etc have made life difficult for ‘aam aadmi’, in fact forcing many otherwise morally upright citizens to indulge in corruption to earn enough to provide the increasingly expensive basic amenities to the family. Another critical factor which often remains ignored is the role corruption plays in success and failure of private businesses and presence and influence of corrupt in the private sector.
It seems like a very depressing state for a nation where Dharma (morality) has always been considered more important than Artha (money), and which takes pride in legacy of saints and social reformers who realised the futility of running after worldly possessions and who lived and inspired simple and ascetic life. Has our society lost its sense of spiritual values and got carried away by the wave of western materialism? Is there any hope? And, can we change people’s mindset and conduct by simply changing laws and regulations, as demanded by increasingly large number of people?
The answer unfortunately is no. Corruption originates from an individual’s desire and effort to put personal interest before larger public benefit. Any system of governance which gives too much power and authority in too few hands is bound to make it convenient for the manipulative persons to exploit it time and again. The more complex and exclusive law making process is, easier it is for the crooked to find or create avenues for corruption.
For millenniums we have relied on high moral-religious values and social measures to curb instincts to indulge in immoral acts. Conscience ruled supreme and public humiliation and shame were more potent deterrents than the official punishment. By blindly following western ideology, which puts politics before philosophy, and government before society, we have adopted a governance system which is totally out of sync with our collective unconsciousness and social realities. The impact is visible in all spheres of life, be it social, economic or cultural. With conscious encouragement to individualism and dissuasion of collective responsibility, role of family and community was systematically marginalised leaving no immediate authority to curb the degrading values among individuals.
Governments and its law and order machinery may be effective for smaller countries having homogenous societies but for a vast and diverse nation like ours, snatching the watchman’s role from ever present and alert vast society, and delegating it to mostly absent and inert minuscule number of policemen and judges has led to the chaos that we observe all around us today. Whatever the name or number of laws to fight corruption, ultimately the system will remain dependent on its limited and ineffective human resources and awfully slow legal procedure which doesn’t inspire any hope among law abiding citizens.
No surprise that despite India being governed by one of the most corrupt and inefficient class of politicians we have ever seen, their paid agents amongst the intelligentsia, media and civil society never tire to sing their praises. The situation has worsened to such an extent that only a handful of conscientious judges, officials, activists, journalists and citizens are willing to openly question and expose the corrupt. Recent public mobilisation against corruption has given these concerned people some motivation but how long these few individuals will be able to fight the ineffective and complex system?
Simply put, our nation needs culturally sensitive and decentralised system of governance which suits the local needs and encourages active participation of society in law making and implementation. Social activists must also come out of their fascination for the political models of the west as they have now realised the shortcomings of western economic model. We can not change the development paradigm, unless we correct the system of governance. Borrowed ideas have to be rejected in totality and not as per convenience of the few.
If civil society can trust native wisdom for agriculture and natural resources conservation, it should also trust society's ability to deal with governance issues. A nation like ours despite having vast physical and intellectual capital will remain hungry, sick and poor if we fail to identify and rectify several of the fault lines that we have inherited from British. Lokpal Bill or Jan Lokpal Bill, corruption can not be curbed using tools of the same system that creates and encourages corruption in the first place. Unless we begin to elect and strengthen local governments at panchayat and district levels and give them authority to work according to the needs of local people, all our efforts to bring swaraj and suraj will continue to go in vain.