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:

  1. At the top level (this is opportunistic and gradually becoming systemic),
  2. At the department level (this is systemic and the process and ROI is clearly laid out)
  3. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  1. August 23, 2011
    Abhishek Kalla

    Awesome……just what people need to read before they join the ANTI CORRUPTION-LOKPAL agitation…. People really don’t know what the two forms of bill are, but they want to be a part of a revolution for media coverage and all other fancy things….

  2. August 23, 2011
    Tarun Yadav

    I read a thought about making bribes legal. Is it logical? It seems quite near if you consider bribing as a trade between two parties. It would boost/change the desired process/decision, which is interest of A. Party A gives compensation for service rendered by B. Isn’t it pure business?

    BUT the constraint is legislation, which says the process/rule shall not be altered & shall be same for all citizens. Whether it is really similar for all? If not then there is possibility to extend privileged pool & level of alteration.

  3. August 26, 2011

    I believe that Anna started the fight for corruption at the first two levels. Yes, people are with him because they have got a chance to blackmail government. Not one is responsible is for this movement sir… there are many reasons for this kind of agitation… and ofcourse people who have no clue about what lokpal bill is..

    Everyone killing their inside corruption is a utopia… A policeman takes bribe not only because of less salary .. but also because he know he has power and he can use it to for his benefits. A common man pays bribe not only because he is getting late for movie.. but also because he is afraid of the power of police man.. and go to any government office sir.. they take money then only the do their duties…. why Sir ? Aren’t they rationalizing if they are saying they are taking bribe because of their insufficient salary? There is greed sir.. and the corruption at individual level is because of that greed. Some or the other becomes a scapegoat of some or the others’ greed.

    True, the people out there might not know the difference between two drafts… but they know they have been a prey of somebody’s greed sometime… and this greed.. is in entire system.. right from an individual……

    What can be done about that sir? This blog is more on the other side of people who give bribes .. but what about the ones who take bribe because of Greed?

  4. August 26, 2011

    @Tarun, but party B is already being paid by the government, unless party B believes e is inadequately paid and is jealous of the the money that party A has. Then it is no longer logical but emotional.

  5. August 26, 2011

    @Nilay, don’t you see that everyone is rationalizing – even the policeman? If you remember systems thinking, you cannot look at a system from one actor’s point of view (a policeman’s greed is one point of view, but the greed to go to the movie or avoid the courts is the payer’s point of view). It could have been an a system with in-built equilibrium, but because the checks and balances disappeared, it has spiralled out of control. Mr Hazare proposes a draconian system of checks and balances, what guarantee that it does not go our of control.

  6. August 26, 2011

    @Nilay: killing the corruption inside is as utopian as the jan lokpal bill 🙂

  7. August 30, 2011

    I believe, this is an excellent and balanced narration. Thanks a lot Sir.

  8. August 31, 2011

    Bura Jo Dekhan Main Chala, Bura Naa Milya Koye
    Jo Munn Khoja Apnaa, To Mujhse Bura Naa Koye


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