By Nithin Sridhar
Since 2003, December 9 has been observed annually as the ‘International Anti-Corruption Day’. And, as part of this anti-corruption day, various awareness programs are carried out across the globe.
Corruption is a multi-headed monster. Though, the menace is prevalent across the globe, in many a sense, it has created more troubles in India than at most other places owing to India’s huge population, the majority of whom are middle class or poor.
Corruption in India exists at all levels: Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary. In 2014, India was ranked at 85th position in the global corruption index with a score of 38 by the corruption watchdog Transparency International India (TII). This score was only slightly more than 2013 score of 36.
India has witnessed some of the largest corruption scandals in the world: Coal allocation scam (Cost around Rs 186000 crores), 2G spectrum scam (Rs 176000 crores), Common Wealth Games scam (Rs 70000 crores), and Adarsh Housing scam (Rs 18978 crores).
Then, there is the raging issue of black money. The magnitude of black money stashed abroad has been estimated from a few billion dollars to few trillion dollars. According to the industry body Assocham, around 2 trillion dollars of black money are likely to be stashed overseas. A huge amount of black money is also estimated to be present within India itself.
Corruption, bribery, illegal nexus, money laundering, misuse of power, and nepotism could be observed from the lowest clerical level to highest bureaucracy and judiciary. Be it real estate, construction, multi-nationals, or defense, in every sector one can witness the menace of corruption. Just yesterday, on December 8, Karnataka Lokayukta, Y Bhaskar Rao- the anti-graft ombudsman- was forced to resign after allegations of extortion surfaced.
Corruption has become so much deep-rooted, people have come to accept it as part of a norm. And those who refuse to pay bribes to a government officer or some other private broker end up facing innumerable difficulties due to the obstacles being thrown in their paths.
This monster of corruption, with many roots and branches, cannot be rooted out by simply observing an anti-corruption day. No doubt, the observance of such days will go a long way in creating awareness, but such awareness will have a very minimal impact as long as there are no efforts to bring about internal transformation among the people.
Corruption must be countered at all levels, from lowest to highest, but more important is to first root out internal corruption present within the hearts and minds of the people. Unless and until this internal corruption is addressed, no external solution will have lasting value.
The root cause of corruption and nepotism is human desire and greed. Greed is nothing but unrestrained desire. This greed in turn leads a man to become selfish and blind towards his larger role and responsibility towards the society.
Most of the present efforts are concerned only with implementing stringent laws to prevent corruption and creating awareness about problems caused due to corruption. In other words, corruption is being portrayed as a vice and honesty as a virtue. Of course, honesty is a virtue, but it is something more. It is a universal duty and not just an option. The current efforts at removing corruption have been ineffective at bringing any internal transformation simply because, honesty and dishonesty are being portrayed as choices.
On the other hand, the ancient Indic seers who had examined the human nature in all its dimensions had rightly concluded that human greed is a powerful force that drives human actions and such actions, invariably, lead to sorrow and suffering for the person as well as for the society.
Thus, they realized that the only way to cleanse the human heart and mind of this greed is to restrain the desires and regulate the actions. This restraining and regulation of human actions later came to be known as ‘duties’ or obligations. Thus, virtuous actions became ‘duties’ that people were obliged to perform and vice actions became ‘prohibited’ that people were ought to avoid.
This ‘sense’ of honesty as an obligated duty and ‘corruption’ as a prohibited vice is completely missing from the current narrative on corruption. The awareness campaigns and observation of anti-corruption day will not be able to bring in any real and long-term transformation, unless and until a ‘duty’-based narrative is stitched into the current discourse on corruption. Only a sense of duty will ultimately be able to root out corruption from the hearts and minds of the people.