Corruption as we see in our day-to-day life has become omnipresent. It has come to stay as a natural part of our life that we need to pay or oblige more than the prescribed for the job we wish to get done smoothly. Now, corruption is not meant for getting your work done but it is the fee you are compelled to pay in cash or kinds just to ensure that the work which you feel can be done should be done without hindrance. If you do not arrange the gratification, your work would fall victim of those tactics/ objections you might have never thought of.
Enter into any office and you will find that the officials are openly discussing how a particular matter is required to be settled, notwithstanding the fact that they are being paid hefty salaries for the job. Seeing an official in a government office counting soiled currency notes in full view of all and sundry is a normal scene. It brings home the sordid reality that is corruption. It is all around us, almost like a distorted, antithetical version of God for the New Millennium. It is literally under every stone you turn. It happens as much in broad daylight as it does behind closed doors. It is as much a part of my life as it is of yours.
It is also in every alley you turn into, every nook and cranny you might care to peep into. It may be as much because of you as it is because of me. It has now been well recognized that there is corruption in society, each one of us is responsible. It is wrong to blame the system. Why do we separate ourselves from the system? Don’t we vote the corrupt to power? Don’t we endlessly suffer from all deprivations and refuse to raise our voice? And then when it becomes too much, we crib.
If we go through the origin of corruption, we can not think the common man is responsible. We can not blame the man who shells out money so that he doesn’t have to spend half his day in a queue at the municipal office. Is it not more pertinent to ask how these serpentine queues are created? Are we short of staff in an overpopulated country with a large section educated but unemployed? We may have to take corrective action with right approach.
The fact remains that the individual can certainly not shirk responsibility. For the individual is the smallest unit in this complex web of interrelationships we call ‘society’. If we are all interconnected, how can a minority (or a majority, as the case might be) only be responsible for a phenomenon as widespread as corruption? Corruption is the symptom of a disease that has as its progenitors over-centralization of power, non-transparency in all official functions and lack of accountability. Lack of transparency gets majority votes for being the single largest factor that provides an ideal breeding ground for corruption. Big chunk of funds from development projects are siphoned off annually to Swiss bank accounts before anybody notices anything amiss. Why are we not interested to introduce transparency?
Corruption thrives on opacity. To give an example, people marketing computer networking software found that ‘corporate transparency’ is not the sales pitch that works with the top bosses. But the same people are more than willing to invest in networking if told that it would help them manipulate information. This sort of a mindset is ingrained in us in the form of a belief in an ‘information pyramid’ that causes information to move according to hierarchy. We need to change our own attitude.
When we discuss about Political corruption, we find that political funding is at the root of all corruption. Every political party is expected to maintain accounts of their income and expenditure and get them audited regularly. But it is not done usually. The voice of the common man must rise. We must hit out at political corruption because the largest quantum of money is transacted there. You can write letters to the Prime Minister and also to your Member of Parliament and Member of Legislative Assembly to strike at them directly and let them know how you feel. We need to fight to effect changes in the funding system, for example. A person should be able to make an income tax exempted donation to a political party, just as you can donate money to the Prime Minister’s relief fund. That can discourage bribery in the name of ‘party fund’.
For discouraging the corruption, we will have to change the attitude also in the political spheres. If an ambitious project for public welfare fails, we expect with the politicians in charge, that they have lined their pockets with the money. If the flyovers are not coming up at an appropriate pace, we blame the politicians. If they are coming up too fast and there are too many, we suspect the politicians. Instead we must involve the public also in such activities with total transparency so that every thing must be clear like mirror.
While the politics may be the dirtiest, the very structure of the polity is top heavy, thereby concentrating too much power in too few hands. This increases the chances of power being misused and manipulated for vested interests, totally bypassing the greater common good. One practical alternative is to decentralize. We enact a law to make the neighborhood committee the first municipality and give them the power to collect dues and empower them to be the first authority to sanction any building alterations. Empowering the people and putting them in charge of their own neighborhood will reduce corruption as well as make administration effective because that is where the administrators themselves live.
If the electricity and water system is also given over to the neighborhood committees, it will significantly reduce kickbacks and thefts and also make everything so much more efficient. But the politicians and bureaucrats will not allow this. Can you guess why? Because it is bread and butter for them.
For discouraging corruption in our life, we need powerful and sincere law enforcing agencies. Because of the erosion of fear of law, somehow corruption has become acceptable. Few are caught and fewer convicted-of every 100 corruption related crimes, only about six are finally convicted. All this has made corruption a ‘high-profit low-risk business Let’s face it, there are no role models any more in public life.
What makes these people virtually incorruptible? What gives them the conviction that we lack to swim against the tide? It is required to be done. A corrupt choice should never be an option. Being corrupt and self-serving can only be termed as a shortsighted and irrational act. Many of us may feel inhibited discussing corruption issues. To overcome this, we can generate a debate within our community, whether at home or at work, regarding the corrupt practices we come in contact with.
For discouraging corruption, we may ask ourselves and our friends why things seem to be going wrong, and how they might be corrected. Have brainstorming sessions to come up with ideas as to how systems can be made more transparent and accountable. We may write letters to newspapers, try to suggest improvements, not just complain about the way things are at present. It is small steps like these that snowball into movements that change society.
For discouraging corruption in public life, we can form groups for campaigning in support of having access to official information. We must get information of small-scale development projects at the village level, and take it into the villages, and inform the people there. They are the ones who know who has really been paid, and how much. At village meetings, officials may be asked to explain why the money has not gone where it should have, and can be shamed into changing their behavior in future.
For discouraging corruption, we should be a whistleblower. The most effective thing that we can do is to complain when they see corrupt acts occurring. This can be difficult when your superiors are the ones who are misbehaving! Make sure there is no innocent explanation of the activities you see happening because what less senior people see is not necessarily the whole story. You don’t want to confront an honest boss with a complaint that they are corrupt! Yet unless people have the confidence to raise their concerns with people they trust and are in a position to do something about it, nothing is ever going to get better.
For discouraging corruption, we must initiate discussion, within our own organization and with our friends about how existing complaint mechanisms are working (or not), and see whether there is room for any of us to take an initiative to improve them. We can form an integrity circle with like-minded colleagues, if we are working in a department with a reputation for corruption.
Each member may make a pact with all the others that he/she will not be involved in corrupt activities and will support each other if anyone has any problems over this refusal. We can declare our office a ‘Corruption-free zone’. we may also put up signs saying ‘Please do not offer bribes as we do not accept them’ or ‘Bribes are unnecessary-we are paid by the state to serve you’. We may encourage friends in other departments to do the same. We can inject a seed of integrity into the administrative body and see how effective it is. We may get our managers’ support for our endeavour in writing.
To discourage the corruption, we should remove temptation. When we see opportunities to remove unnecessary blockages in systems that serve no useful purpose but which create opportunities for bribes to be extorted from the public, we can write to ministers, MPs, MLAs, newspapers, drawing attention to the reforms needed. We can build national integrity systems and ensure that anti-corruption drives or remedial measures taken are geared towards taking stringent steps to punish those who are corrupt or to instil fear in them. The fear of detection is the most effective weapon we have against corruption. We should promote sting operation to detect the corrupt activities taking place behind the screen.
Since corruption is a social sin, we must join hands to fight against this.
Be Happy – Discourage Corruption.