Friday, October 12, 2012

Corruption without interruption: May god bless you

Have you ever wondered as to why almost all the religious gatherings in your neighbourhood including Bhagwati Jagrans, Paaths, Kathas, Satsangs, Pravachans, Langars, Daans and donations etc. are invariably sponsored by individuals and business entities that are not really known for their `above board’ practices when it comes to making money? Very few, if any, of such sponsorships involve cheque payments as transactions in cash and kind are the norm. Majority of the sponsoring traders, shopkeepers & businessmen are known to be indulging in tax evasion, dealing in spurious and adulterated stuff, price manipulations, evading or underpaying dues owed to the govt. & civic bodies (by way of electricity theft, tampering of electiricty meters in collusion with department officials, undervaluing properties etc.), encroachment on public land and cheating customers – all of which are seemingly against what any religion preaches. And yes, all of these also fit into the definition of corruption.

Do you notice the contradiction here – guys supporting so-called pious and well meaning religious events & rituals actually indulging in so many `unreligious’ things day-in and day-out? Not only that, most places of worship are constructed using land, money & materials donated by these very people. Obviously, god, if (s)he exists doesn’t really care about the type of donations coming to his/her kitty. Even though god is supposed to know everything at all times (afterall, whatever happens in the world happens exactly as scripted by god) as god is said to maintain a realtime database or confidential report of all creatures, (s)he doesn’t really care if the donor has earned the money the right way or the wrong way.

Doesn’t it surprise you that in a country full of people who claim to be religious; in a country where people are forever ever ready to loot, burn and kill in the name of religion and in a country with negligible number of atheists or agnostics, corruption thrives as if there is no tomorrow. And it is not just limited to businessmen, politicians or bureaucrats.

We have the working middle class population, the office going types who are vocal votaries of the current anti-corruption movements sweeping the country. Yes, people like you & me who are largely victims of big ticket systemic corruption and who tend to lose more than they gain by way of corruption. And much as we all may love to paint ourselves as being just victims of a corrupt system that has been imposed upon us by the political-business class, the fact is that a good number among us seldom leave an opportunity to be corrupt as & when we get one. We perpetrate corruption in an equal measure, if not more. Ours may be of a lower denomination with a smaller footprint, but corruption it is. For sure.

I know of media professionals, studio guests who would travel to their workplace by public transport and charge their clients for AC Cab fare simply because they are entitled to it; outstation subject experts for TV debates who stay with their friends but ask you to pay them hotel stay charges, that too in cash. Many in the corporate sector (private or public) produce fake bills with amounts matching their TA-DA-Per Diem entitlement, even when their actual expenses are on the lower side. And of course, many of us try and get away by bribing cops, govt. Servants and practically anyone and everyone with a nuisance value.

The great Indian middle class’ penchant for marrying off their daughters to civil and public servants is no secret. The dowry or groom price for such candidates varies as per their potential to earn money by indulging in corruption. The greater the potential, the higher the groom price. Therefore, a cop employed with a police station would always be in greater demand than his counterpart in a paramilitary outfit like the Central Reserve Police Force, SSB-Sashastra Seema Bal or the National Security Guards. An engineer employed with the Public Works Department or a municipality would fetch higher dowry than the one employed with the Indian Army.

Then there is another type of corruption – the non-monetary one. This type mostly involves morally & ethically corrupt practices for advancement of one’s own interests. Doling favours which are monetary or non-monetary in nature is one of the most common forms of this.
  • Granting admission to child in a school could help the school owner businessmen get official clearances for their other ventures – like approval of building plans, grant of licences etc.
  • Employing spouses, sons & daughters of influential politicians & bureaucrats in a TV News Channel could ensure ease in getting govt. Advertisements or immunity from prosecution against wrongdoing, if any. It can also help the channel owners use the resulting `goodwill’ in making life miserable for their competitors.
  • Trading sexual favours for advancement of one’s career is commonplace in today’s competitive corporate environment.
    Contrary to popular perception, corruption does not happen only in the govt. or the public sector companies but even in the cherished private sector and multinational corporations. And this is not limited to the organisational level but percolates deep down to individual employees.
  • Sucking up & flattery in workplace for improved career prospects. There are so many forms in which this is done. The gifting spree preceding the Diwali festival is just one example. I have no knowledge if residents of Ayodhya started this practice when they lit up their homes to celebrate the return of Lord Rama, their ruler, from his 14 year long exile.
So, are we really religious? And do we really care if our actions are going to please god? Are we really afraid of being punished by god? Nah!

No religion teaches us that it is okay to indulge in corruption. In fact, alomost all religions in this world disapprove of and condemn corruption as a sin. Yet in a world full of religious people, corruption thrives unabated.

With religion itself becoming a source of income for some; with most places of worship receiving donations in cash, gold, silver etc., it is next to impossible to account for the money thus received. Very few owners-managers of these places would be getting their accounts audited. With godmen of all hues & shades amassing money and wealth at a pace that would put many a capitalist-industrialist to shame, religion hardly offers any role models against corruption. Those who can afford even bribe their gods and in turn, receive blessings through their respective religion contractors.

Religion is at best a tool of convenience and a device of unparalleled utility. Visiting places of worship and participating in relgious congregations and rituals is just another way of socialization and networking. It no longer serves as the lighthouse of morality or probity. Ditto is the case with the community and culture one lives in. With everyone compromising on values like honesty & integrity and trying to intellectually justify it one way or the other, there is no one to look up to; no example to emulate.

In times where the speed at which you succeed is as critical as success itself, I wonder if the coming generations will have anyone to guide and inspire them to move on the non-corrupt path.

While it may still be possible to substantially reduce corruption in the government and public institutions, I am not sure how will we get rid of everyday corruption that common people indulge in out of their own volition and for their own success.