Here’s an inspiring message I received by email from Vinode Mohindra [name cited with permission], something for everyone to consider:
I am 77 years old and can perhaps take the liberty of addressing you by your first name.
I agree that first of all we must reform ourselves before targeting others. For this each one of us has to take an oath that we will not be a part of this system and will fight it even if it means extra work or labour. This must include all of our needs of our daily life be it phone, power supply, driving, income tax or even buying vegetables.
We must be prepared to stand up to any attempt by any one to take us for a ride. Once we can collect a group of such dedicated people only then can we take on the system. It is amazing how much even 100 such persons can achieve. Unfortunately the system seems to defeat even the most well intentioned persons. Either fatigue or temptations the get the better of them. You can count on my support for your cause.
I do my bit every day whether on the jogging track or road or in government offices or even in shops. I refused to pay bribe for getting my IT refund and it arrived at home in one week. Change is possible but we must change first and become worthy of change.
Once again I’d like to invite all those with self-respect and a desire for freedom to join the Freedom Team or to support it in some way (e.g. become a Freedom Partner). Also read Shantanu’s blog post about his recent trip to Guwahati where he spoke about FTI to many people. Spread the word. Organise a local event.
On Facebook a friend wrote:
Corruption is an inevitable symptom of a crippling bureaucratic system and a dead Judiciary. Such oaths can never eliminate corruption. Humans are driven by incentives and as long as there is an (obvious)incentive for the bribe giver and taker, it will continue to exist. Take out the incentive and, I am sure, people would choose to go the legit way.
My humble opinion is that rather than try build men of integrity, build a system that punishes men of dis-integrity.
True. That what I’ve been advocating – i.e. system reform.
I do believe that Vinode Mohindra’s point is valid to the extent it applies to the good majority of Indians who have actually lost all sense of moral principles. When people who otherwise make claims of spiritual ‘standards’ tell me that Rahul Gandhi is the hope of India, or someone points to BJP, I wonder what has happened to make our fellow colleagues in India lose their sense entirely? For such people taking an oath may be a reminder that they’ve lost their soul!
I just had a separate Facebook conversation with someone who basically said that just because someone in the West is corrupt (yes, there are black sheep everywhere) therefore Indian corruption is justified. The impression is widespread in the India that corruption is part of life in the West. So just because someone else jumps into the well, we are justified in doing so!
The truth about the West is a combination of two things: (a) good values that are inculcated at home and school and (b) very strong systems of governance that reduce if not eliminate corruption in most aspects of governance.
Through FTI (http://freedomteam.in/) I’m trying to work towards the reform of (b), but you are right, ultimately (a) will need to change as well. These both will need to go together, with initial priority to (a). Only with (a) will good people be empowered and that will start a virtuous cycle, cleansing the society and leading India to greatness.
Sir, I dont believe there can ever be a curriculum that can ensure producing men of integrity.
if given a free hand at designing one such curriculum at a school, what do you think should be first chapter on?
The curriculum is not what I’m referring to. School is a place where good teachers, by their behaviour, can impact us. Simple things like ‘lost and found’.
The other day my niece in Melbourne found $20 in the school and returned it to the office. They waited for a week and when no claimant came forward they returned the money to my niece.
My niece’s mother (sister in law) left a handbag containing a lot of gold jewelery in a bus, but the bus driver simply returned it to ‘lost and found’ as a routine event and every single piece of gold was found intact.
I can multiply these incidents hundreds of times. These things are also found in India, but far less. I have known of lecturers who condone copying in university exams. The reality is that there are cultures of honest and dishonesty.
Japan is a society with an extreme culture of honesty in day to day transactions. These are not ALL related to the system. Why did I not join the corrupt in India? Because of my family culture. We have a culture of self-respect in our family that the corrupt folk of India cannot even slightly imagine. These things matter. You could put Gandhi in charge of India’s treasury and not one paisa would be moved without authority.
Yes, systems are important, but then there is also a thing called culture which comes through interactions with parents, school, and society.
I’m not saying that cultures are the primary driver of governance. Clearly incentives are primary drivers. What I’m suggesting is that human nature is complex, and not all people respond similarly to incentives, like Pavlov’s dog would respond. Incentives are crucial in maintaining a good culture. Reward-punishment equations must always be ensured in order to maintain a good culture.
And as far as policy variables are concerned, all we can have control of (as a government) are the incentives. Hence incentives must be the primary policy variable, and to that extent I fully agree with you. So, in India, we definitely need policy reform. Having said that there is no harm in social reformers exhorting us to take an oath of integrity.
If you found this post useful, then consider subscribing to my blog by email: