In my earlier article on this subject there were several responses from the readers. Also, I received quite a few emails from my intellectual friends. Recently, like many of you, I have been reading a series of articles on corruption each published on a full page each day for the past 10 days by the newspaper Hindustan. They go in great details in terms of the extent, scope and the domains of corruption rampant in our country. They concluded in the final article on December 20 that they have done their job in bringing the spectacle of corruption out in detail and now they hand over the responsibilities to the readers and the general public to take it from here. While I commend them for their exhaustive efforts to bring the information out, I am not sure what is it that they are handing over to the general public? Perhaps they want the public to find the solutions and find ways to implement them.
So what should the public do about corruption?
Corruption is something that impacts each of us directly and significantly. It is fair to say that corruption is the talk of the town. Everyone one is concerned about it so everyone talks about it. I run into it every day. Whenever I am in a small group the subject of corruption invariably comes up and dominates the conversation. It is almost a fashion to talk about the corruption. Everyone repeats the statistics (as published in Hindustan and I am sure elsewhere) about corruption and how they are being victimized by it. Implied in their conversation is the premise that they are the victims and not the participants in the process of corruption. It is the rest of the country, at the moment everyone outside the immediate conversation group, who are perpetuating corruption. If we rationally project that there are multitudes of such small groups all over the country engaged in similar conversations with similar premise, then there are only two logical conclusions: 1. No one is corrupt or 2. Everyone is corrupt. It is reasonable to state that conclusion (1) is not correct. If that was the case we will all be living in utopia and corruption will be a word confined to the dictionary. That leaves us with the dreadfully uncomfortable feeling of accepting conclusion (2). Before I proceed any further, let me quote something from my earlier article on this subject:
“There is no escape from corruption. We cannot escape from ourselves. We have to look ourselves in the mirror and face us. There is no use looking to the left or right – just look at ourselves. In the words of Harry Truman “We have met the enemy and it is us”. If it hurts us to read this, then there is still hope for us. I realize that there are exceptions to everything I am stating. But that is precisely the point. The exceptions should be the norm”.
Having said that, I will hasten to add that our government bears the maximum responsibility for the corruption running wild in our country. It is by far the single biggest instigator, perpetrator and perpetuator of corruption within the public and the private sectors. Take for example the latest spectacle of the fight between the UPA and NDA. The whole country knows that both parties have participated in corrupt practices and continue to do so at national and state levels. One has to wonder how sincere is their fight against corruption? Since they have lost their credibility several times over, what is their real agenda? After all no one has identified the real causes for the rampant corruption and outlined any comprehensive program to solve them. Shouldn’t that what the parliament be doing right now? I suppose the only thing good from all this high wire drama is that we are still focused on the problem. Of course there is an attempt to make the water murkier by the hyped up comments from Digvijay Singh on saffron terrorism. Like in the case of corruption, instead of fighting all forms of terrorism, we point fingers at each other. Both, UPA & NDA are acting like two over grown school kids bullying each other in the playground called parliament, and if the parliament is too small for this fight, then they plan to hold rallies outside and all over the country.
Sonia Gandhi just outlined a five point plan to fight corruption. It is too early to tell what is exactly in it. On the surface it appears as a reaction to the current set of corruption related events. Of course the acid test is how is it going to be implemented to be effective? We need far more comprehensive set of corruption reform than these five points. We would like to see what NDA thinks about how we solve corruption problems. Certainly appointing a JPC to probe the current scams is not a comprehensive solution by itself.
What about the state governments? Many of them are infested with corruption like a pig with worms. What is even worst is the disproportionate impact their corruption has on the poor and the un-empowered since they administer the social & welfare programs at the grass roots. Any corruption reform has to apply on them and rein them in as well. It is very disheartening to see the Karnataka CM’s response to the corruption related questions asked by the Governor. Obviously they both distrust each other and view the other’s motive as totally political in nature. Meanwhile, the public watches this tennis match of ball being tossed in each other’s court without any solution. In any event most of the state CMs behave like dictators ready to fight any outside encroachment no matter how justified. The same CMs are exposed as totally incompetent when fighting the real outside encroachment such as terrorism against their people.
Are both parties (UPA & NDA) essentially void of ideas or is it that they are too concerned to share them since they know the intentions of the other party are less than honorable? It will be a test of their leadership if they simultaneously announce (in the parliament) their comprehensive plans to solve corruption problems for the entire nation to review, ponder and offer inputs. The parliament can appoint a committee comprising of all major parties to hold public hearings on this subject. They can invite renowned and respected individuals from different segments of the society outside the government to offer their preapred inputs. From all this a comprehensive plan can be drawn to fight against corruption on a nationwide basis including all branches of central and state governments. It makes no sense for the currently ruling party to declare a corruption fighting plan unilaterly. Also it makes no sense to have a plan develop from debate inside the government to apply on itself without inputs from the rest of the public. There is simply no credibilty on their part to make something happen on this critical issue that the nation will buy into.
Is it asking too much from our leaders?
Are we being unreasonable in this demand?
We can’t hold our breath for their answers. That may be fatal. So let us proceed on our own. I think the fashionable small group debates that we talked about earlier should be modified in their agenda. Instead of blaming others for corruption, let us accept the premise that we are all party to it. However, we don’t like what it is doing to us and our country. Therefore, we will debate and discuss the real causes for corruption and possible solutions as well as what each of us can do to reduce it. Hopefully, a national emphasis on this will lead to a consensus solution eventually.
I welcome your views on this because they help us refine our thinking collectively.
Read also: Part I of this article