The week that just went by can be easily summarized as a victory of democracy and augurs well for the country of India as a whole. The youth of the country came forward to join a movement against corruption and the government “Listened” to its people with alacrity. Anna Hazare became a new icon and a point of rallying around for a cause that was enabled by the distribution and reach of modern tools such as Social Media and the traditional channels of Print and Electronic media. A question that hung large and looming was whether “Gandhian principles and practices were applicable and relevant in this age”? A resounding response was evidenced that read – Core Values and Truth remain foundational to an Institution; Change is applicable on the Systems and Approach with relevance to time and space in sustaining those Values.
The issue on hand was “Corruption” and therefore the introduction of a legislation in the form of a “Lokpal Bill” that creates a system to respond to corruption and the corrupt with alertness and agility; preventing as well as pennalizing those guilty of the act. It was very romantic with people from every walk of life pledging support to the movement and in one way or the other becoming vocal about corruption being the bane of society. So far so good….
However, one cannot escape asking the following questions:
- Is corruption limited to Government alone?
- How did the people involved with government become corrupt? Was it perpetrated or participative?
- Will the introduction of legislation alone remove corruption from society?
The answer to the first question is very simple. Corruption has seeped into the very being of society anywhere and everywhere in the world. It is not restricted to the government and certainly not prevalent only in India. To eradicate corruption completely, we need to create a society of selflessness. One where individuals or groups do not want to win under all conditions and circumstances. The framework of governance, commercial corporations and individuals should be aligned and mutually serving. Meritocracy and Capability alone must succeed; where information on the process and decisions arrived at should be transparent for every participant, stakeholder and shareholder.
Those who live in a glass house cannot afford to throw stones around.
Dealing with the second question, How can there be perpetration without participation? Would it have been relevant for the crusaders against corruption to have asked this question of themselves. More importantly, corruption is just not about bribe is it? There have been many in several instances who have treated bribe as an additional service charge. But what about moral, ethical and philosophical elements of integrity that is also associated with corruption and its power on decision making? Religious orders and despots have converted people in India to other religions and belief systems and this has taken deep roots in society and manifests itself in our political and social fabric.
Values influence judgement and not vice versa, isn’t it?
There is no doubt about the fact that India’s democracy is vibrant because of its very strong constitution. However all constitutions have a shelf life and these need to be periodically renewed, shouldn’t they? This can only happen when there is an effective dialog between the civil society and its elected representatives. Yes, the key operative word is “Dialog”. Not an agitation or a demand for rights. In a democracy when anyone believes that they have been denied rights has become the first casualty of self-belief. How does one protect the sanctity of legislation in an age where decisions need to be made faster and justice and power needs to be dispensed at the rate of use?
Principles and Panels alone are not enough to construct legislation; they need to be architected by effective systems such as Processes, Information, Capabilities and Infrastructure to be effective.
I hope this hunger strike by Anna Hazare and the support of the millions across the country was not just a “protest against the incumbent government”. It is very regrettable that a senior leader of the oppostion considers it as such. What is critical here is to recognize this as a movement. It is not enough to draw parallels with Gandhian Principles and Philosophies; it is extremely important to implement them. Gandhi’s vision of freedom was becoming self sufficient as a nation without having the British creating every means where the common man’s life depended and could not do without. Wouldn’t it have been foolish to imagine that this country would have railways only if the British were to rule it or only those parts they choose to create infrastructure for? When a telecom company pays a bribe to obtain spectrum, it earns it back from its consumers.
When an ordinary citizen pays a bribe to a clerk to obtain a birth certificate, he creates an ecosystem that florishes on alternate productivity to the highest level of hierarchy that he works in.
The point is about creating the principles and articles of association around the proposed Lokpal Bill. It cannot be mere words prescribed in a government gazzette. That might have worked in 1950 when the moral fabric of our society and its cultural were far stronger than it is today. In this day and age, it would become effective only if this is integrated as a system with other relevant legislations that deal with detection, deterrant, crime and punishment. Corruption is a human weakness that is amplified in the absence of a strong system lacking in transparency of processes. What is needed now is that Cultural (Values, Beliefs and Assumptions) Transformation of Processes around how we interact and achieve results as people with our government; irrespective of our social status and class.
Those that will bring this legislation to bear will do well to keep this in mind if success is a goal for this enormous task. Such as step can become a great example for the renewal of our constitution; keeping pace with the new global order where India can seek a position as a Knowledge Leader.