Friday, August 26, 2011

True anti-corruption comes from within.

The Middle class - the large sector of India that is eternally trying to be upwardly mobile, who feel like Tantalus that a better standard of living is just lying out of their grasp and keeps trying to attain it; people who faithfully take out LIC policies and invest in retirement schemes. The Middle class who , again if the TOI is to be believed, has turned up in lakhs to support Anna Hazare. These are people who generally bear the brunt of having to interact with corrupt individuals on a daily basis - autowallahs who routinely demand 'meter mele 20', the bus conductor who hands out extra change instead of a ticket and says 'Sari hoytu bidi", the officials at several govt offices who demand a certain amount as though it was the official charge for something and then, calmly pocket it before getting your work done. More than 2G scams, CWG scams, mining scams etc; it is this corruption on a regular basis which affects and impedes the lives of these people intimately, daily.

When Shri Anna Hazare started his protests against corruption, the Middle class joined in with gusto, as this seemed to them to be the one way out of this evil that plagued them regularly. In the TOI, there were several reports and quotes by these people who claimed they had to pay bribes so often.

While this uprising of the Common Man is commendable, there is also something disagreeable about the self-righteous air with which people are condemning corruption. Several of these people, at some stage, would have tried to grease the palm of a traffic policeman and get away with parking in a no-parking area. They would have purchased / sold flats where half the amount would be in black. They would have paid for jewelery and saris in cash to avoid the sales tax that would have to be compulsorily levied upon them had they paid by card. They would have claimed that they are paying rent to their own parents, who live in the same house with them, in order to be able to claim HRA. They would have brought broadband schemes with free night downloads to enable access to pirated movies available online - and then, circulate them among friends as well. They would have searched for freely available illegal pdfs of books they want, rather than buy them off the shelves. Would all of this not classify as corruption - a desire to obtain something for which you do not pay the legal price, or to get something more than that which you are due?

Who is to decide the degree or the severity of the act and decide what is OK and what is not? In Kannada there is a saying - Adike kaddaroo kalla; aane kaddaroo kalla - which means you are a thief - whether you steal a beatel nut or an elephant

When it comes to bribery, the slogan should be "Neither a giver nor a taker be". As a person who grew up in Bangalore, I can safely vouch for the fact that about upto about 15 years ago, the autowallahs would not start driving with the familiar "20 Rs extra madam, vapaas khaali barabeku". It is inherent human greed and desire to get more than what we normally do - thoda aur wish karo!! - but, this would become a well established practice only if majority of the passengers did actually cough up the extra amount on a regular basis. The autowallahs are not going to sit around all day if they do not find anybody paying them extra.

We, as a society, have encouraged corruption and participated in it for years on end.While the lokpal bill might hopefully reduce large magnitude scams; at smaller levels, true anti corruption should come from within. In a society where corruption exists in all walks of a life, it is difficult to get by without it but not impossible. One might have to wait longer to get an honest auto driver, make more trips to your unfriendly neighbourhood govt office, shell out more money for the movie cds and actually, pay the sales tax. Life might not be a bed of roses, but atleast then, you would truly be within your rights to call the politicians corrupt and point fingers at them.


Nissim said...

The great Gordon Gekko once said,
"Greed is Good."
If greed is defined as wanting to be upwardly mobile, I think it is good.
When that comes at the cost of 'cheating' others of their lawful money, then it is a BIG problem.

Lalit Patnaik said...

I agree. There's so much hypocrisy in the way the common population puts all the blame squarely on the politicians. If everyone was to mind his/her own business in an honest and corruption free manner, there would be far lesser problems.

jb said...

+1 about the autos. With greater income comes greater willingness to spend more for comfort. We've been spoilt.

Unknown said...

Nice post. I agree with your views. It is the greed in us which leads to corruption and only way it can be overcome is from within. Nice writing.