I have some comments on the recent furore over Mr. Hazare’s campaign to bring in the Jan lokpal bill.
There are three levels of corruption depending on the amount of money and the number of persons involved:
- At the top level (this is opportunistic and gradually becoming systemic),
- At the department level (this is systemic and the process and ROI is clearly laid out)
- At the individual level.
I will not focus on the first two; Mr. Hazare and his well wishers are doing that, and I wish them all the best.
Is the individual level of corruption systemic or opportunistic? When a policeman finds fault with my motorcycle papers and demands a graft, do I not pay? Is this not systemic, since every month the policeman needs to fulfill his quota. Is it not systemic, as he has paid a bribe to get a choice posting and he needs to recoup this expense? Are you a victim or is he a victim? Is the government not to blame to raising prices and not raising the policeman’s salary? Am I not to blame for taking a shortcut of paying the bribe, because I can afford it, my time is valuable, I need to see the movie or reach my destination?
Can this bribe be considered the self-adjustment of the system towards an equilibrium, towards a peaceful co-existence? It is possible that we rationalise the bribe-paying as balancing some inequality of status and opportunity?
When we asked our representative for the freebies he should provide us if he needs our votes, or accepted those freebies, did we not start corrupting our representatives? Did we not rationalise this action?
When Chanakya talked about ‘Daam,’ is ‘Daam’ only about payment for services rendered, be it legitimate or illegitimate? Is it not our thoughts that rationalise and determine legitimacy?
When I consider some act unfair and seeks redress, I believe myself justified in taking any means to correct the unfairness. We have done this all our life. Our thoughts determine the legitimacy of our act.
When a CEO considers some laws unfair and evades them, we lionise the CEO as being creative. Did we not allow corruption of the laws?
Corruption is inside us. Let us not blame the outside world, the ‘system’, the CEOs as being corrupt and consider ourselves to be pure. When we take short-cuts, cheat, lie, rationalise to ourselves, create beliefs about people and situations, we corrupt ourselves.
Our beliefs lead to emotions and actions. Justified and rationalised beliefs lead to justified and rationlised emotions and actions. We cannot label these emotions and actions as corrupt, and we cannot separate corruption of beliefs from the resultant corrupt thoughts and actions.
Is there some ethical and moral code that we are believe in? As long as our thoughts are selfish, what morality are we talking about? If we justify survival of the fittest and intolerance towards others, are we justified in taking the high ground about morality?
Is it the money that we pay as bribes that we are objecting to, at this individual level, or is it the blackmail? Is this why Mr. Hazare’s campaign seems to be gathering force, that we can see that we can blackmail the government? The shoe is on the other foot?
Why is this support against corruption gathering force, and other ongoing campaigns not having support? What about Ms Irom Sharmila and her 10-year fast, the fights against systemic corruption in the rest of India like the mining mafia in Goa, Karnataka, Bihar, MP, the dams and the uprooting of people, and the old Bhopal Gas leak tragedy?
Is this a better orchestrated campaign? Is it the drama? Is it our need for instant gratification, where we are seeing immediate results? Is it the tilting at the windmills, cocking our snook at the powers-that-be, showing them that they are not as invincible as they thought? Is Ms. Hazare our new angry “young” man, fighting on our behalf?
There is a certain corruption inside us: our need for gratification, need for excitement, the emotions of self-righteousness, need to be part of history, specially winners. Mr. Hazare’s campaign gives us all this. Which is why long-drawn campaigns lose support. All informal surveys seem to indicate people do not know the difference between the bills, students are enjoying the drama and absence from classes, and everyone is out there, abdicating their duties. Gandhi had the ability to withstand the lathi charges, I wonder how many supporters in this campaign would do so?
We have to look inside ourselves and decide if we have the courage to (a) fight the corruption inside us (b) support other campaigns that too need our help.
Otherwise, this will be a flash in the pan. The press coverage will stop, as people seek a different drama. Even if we get the bill passed, the implementation is fraught with peril for two reasons:
- The Lokpal will have power, and with all power, comes the opportunity for misuse. Will we need a super-lokpal to check this? How much time will it take to set up the alternate bureaucracy and the checks and balances.
- With all the lok-ayuktas, the judiciary, the vigilance committees, the auditor-generals, which were supposed to take care of the second type of corruption; with Anna’s bill taking care of the first type of corruption, who will take care of the third type of corruption? And since the second type of corruption could not be taken care of, despite so many regulatory bodies, what makes us sure this is the right way?
All I say is, let us control the corruption within us, because all external measures will come to naught if we are not ready internally to accept the pain that accompanies incorruptibility. It is not easy.