Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Is Corruption the only way in Public Life?

There is anecdotal evidence that if there is no corruption, India’s GDP will add 3% to it’s annual growth rate & poverty will be a thing of the past in just 5 years.

Let’s not drool over these impossibilities as corruption is not going be removed completely from our country & society, but the larger question beckons –
Is Corruption the Only Way of being in Public Life?

Corruption is all pervasive in our society & daily lives.

Poor are forced to pay officials to get their entitlements but the same poor takes bribe money to pledge his vote. May be his poverty can be his excuse to take money for vote?

Middle class is forced to pay bribe for everything from driving license to land registration but he doesn’t think twice before bribing an official to get a plan sanctioned for an extra floor in his house or getting his house tax reduced. What is his excuse?

The Rich have resources & influence to get their job done bribing or otherwise & they march ahead to their destination of success without caring for the means used to reach there. Don’t care is their excuse?

An official uses the familiar excuse of being forced to collect the bribe to pay the higher-ups in officialdom and politicians. Helplessness is his excuse?

But how about politicians? Who forces them to be corrupt?

I have asked this awkward question to many of my politician friends, some of them sitting MLAs & MPs. First they are shocked to hear such a blunt question as they don’t expect this issue to be spoken about in open. But slowly they open up and start blaming the system, primarily the elections. They lament about the large sums of money they need to spend to buy their ticket from their respective parties and huge election expenses including the money & liquor to secure the votes of poor & slum dwellers.

But, is election the only reason that they are corrupt?
Aren’t there honest politicians? In fact, there are many honest politicians & they win their seats without bribing the party or the voters. Yes, their numbers are few.

The real reason for a politician to be corrupt is his greed, like any other human being.
Politics is their profession & the only means to make money. No doubt, they work hard to get votes and many are sincere too. But most politicians have no other qualification or work experience. Most never had a job nor did they earn money from any business or profession. In fact most ended up in politics as they couldn’t study or get employment. Politics is their only source of money & they need a lot of it. They can’t make it any other way but being corrupt as there is no legitimate way of making money in the profession of politics. Expecting them to live like saints in a materialistic society may be possible but not practical.

Hence, expecting current set of PROFESSIONAL POLITICIANS to become clean & reform the system is not going to happen. While tough laws against corruption will be a deterrent, they won’t root out the corruption from public life.

We need, as in other developed countries, Professionals, who have succeeded in their respective jobs, careers & businesses, to enter public life. They need to work for their community, city & state. They need to spend years working for common man to get the acceptability & recognition. Many do, some as activists & others as thinkers or NGOs. But most of them shy away from entering political fray for fear of unknown & murky world of politics. From among these, we need to identify & promote public figures who should eventually represent us in assemblies & parliament.

Let’s hope that this momentum against corruption leads us to think differently & engage in the matters of public interest & produce “Professionals as Politicians” instead of current “Professional Politicians”.

RK Misra

1 comment:

  1. Dear RK:

    This is an excellent perspective. I agree that most of the reasons for corruption are flimsy and just excuses for us to get away and project ourselves as "honest" as we always blame the "system". We also say with full vigor and confidence that Corruption is endemic, it is in the system, in our blood, we can't do anything. I don't believe we are born corrupt and I also believe that irrespective of the country, geographic region, or religion, more or less all of us have a similar mindset. We are "situation-based" corrupt. We find reasons to justify corruption based upon our own convenience. Even in Western countries, if the systems are not that stringent and the deterrents are not strict in nature, I am sure it won't take much time for any society to find some workarounds to seek their convenience and indulge in corruption. For example, I am sure there will be people to pay 50% of the traffic violation fine as bribe even in the US, if they know that they will easily get away. Yes by and large we find western societies are much more clean, honest as their systems have made them so. So we need stricter enforcement, more transparency, less discretion and less monopolized information holding by our public officials, if we want to see some positive change in our daily governance.It is certainly not easy as we have seen in the recent debacle of Lokpal Bill. The same politicians from whom we expect to create a strong law, are the custodians of too much discretion, they lack transparency, and hold unnecessarily excessive power. So how do we expect them to shoot their own feet? I completely agree that we need "Professionals as Politicians", to see some change in future.


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