An Alternative To Lokpal System To Deal With Corruption

Written by April 30, 2011 10:45 pm 17 comments

This is the fifth part of Dr. Prabhakar Kamath’s latest series on Managing Life Without God and Religion In The Twenty First Century. Links to all published parts in this series can be found here.

In the previous article we discussed how belief systems shaped by events in the past history of India shared by a group of like-minded people resulted in militant behavior of the right-wingers against Muslims on one extreme, and paralytic behavior of people in their dealings with government authorities on the other. In this article we will discuss how people’s paralytic behavior actually contributes to increased corruption in the government; and why Lokpal system, while noble in intention, might actually make paralytic behavior worse. Therefore, I will suggest an alternative system, which counters people’s paralytic behavior and offers a permanent solution for the problem of corruption in India.

Coping With The Chronic Stress Of Corruption

A minority of people, especially the clever business people of India, takes full advantage of government-sponsored corruption as we witnessed in 2G and other gigantic scandals. Without exception these are people who pay hefty bribes to both politicians and bureaucrats to get whatever they want, let the nation be damned. They could amass a vast amount of black money because they could silence bureaucrats of the Internal Revenue Service by properly greasing their palms. They are totally ignorant as to how that ill-gotten money would destroy their children and grandchildren. We read in newspapers on regular basis how a son or daughter of a filthy rich man is involved in criminal behavior, or a drunk-driving accident in which innocent people were killed or maimed. Today thousands of corrupt businessmen are busy bailing out their fat, waywardly children from one disaster or another brought on by their unethical behavior. The corrupt police are busy making a fortune from these misfortunes of the filthy rich and their poor victims. The bottom line is that India now has a parasitic nexus of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen sucking away its blood.

The vast majority of common people, however, cope with corruption by paying bribes to callous officials even for small services such as getting death certificate of a parent or a license to drive a motorcycle. They suppress and repress their helplessness, powerlessness and rage (stuff it into their hidden mind) and “adjust to the reality of corruption” by paying bribes. This “adjustment” is not acceptance or self-deception. If someone reminds them of the corruption one could get a glimpse of the rage within. They would say something like, “Well, this is India. Here nothing happens unless you pay bribes to officials. You have to set aside your principles if you want to survive. I hate this system, but there is nothing we can do. These officials could destroy lives.” They are not happy about corruption, but they feel helpless and fearful to do anything about it.

Consequences Of Repressing Impotent Rage

This helplessness and powerlessness one feels in the face of an overwhelming force is what we call impotent rage. This is the kind of rage women feel when someone kidnaps them and rapes them repeatedly, and they could do nothing about it. Stuffing impotent rage in the hidden mind has serious long-term consequences. In individuals such repressed painful emotions could lead to behavioral changes, or they could suddenly resurface triggered by an event. For example, a woman being physically, emotionally and sexually abused by her husband for years, might cope with her predicament by hiding painful emotions in her hidden mind. She could express her hidden rage by means of passive-aggressive behavior such as putting dog poop in her husband’s sandwich. Or, one fine morning an even a minor event could shake up her soda bottle, spew-up all buried emotions into her conscious mind (balloon) resulting in her becoming severely sick, as we studied in my last article; or, blowing her husband’s brain off in a fit of rage.

When impotent rage is shared by a large number of people, triggered by an symbolic event it could suddenly and furiously resurface resulting in a revolution such as the one we saw in Tunisia and Egypt. In Tunisia, unable to cope with his impotent rage against government-sponsored corruption, a young man finally decided to do something. He set himself on fire in public. This precipitating event triggered spewing up of shared impotent rage of people into the conscious mind of the Tunisian society with such fury that it exploded into a revolution. And the frightened dictator fled the country. The same thing happened in Egypt, but not before the dictator took the lives of over eight hundred brave people who insisted on his departure. These cataclysmic events in Tunisia and Egypt, in turn, shook-up the soda bottles of millions of people in other authoritarian countries, such as Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria resulting in widespread protests. In India we saw this phenomenon in nonviolent demonstrations in many cities voicing support to Anna Hazare crusade against corruption. Even though India claims to be a democracy, the truth is that the government has its subjects by the throat and everyone feels stifled.

Anna Hazare Triggered Impotent Rage Of Common People To Resurface

We witnessed this resurfacing-of-impotent-rage phenomenon in India in the first week of April 2011. When Anna Hazare went on fast unto death demanding that half the members of Lokpal Bill Drafting Committee should be from the “civil society,” this sensory input shook up the soda bottle of millions of people, and brought up into their balloon shared impotent rage related to the chronic stress of government-sponsored corruption. The fury of this resurfacing impotent rage was such that all over India they spontaneously rose as one and held public rallies expressing their outrage over the corruption at the highest level of the government. We witnessed how one selfless man, who identified with people’s shared impotent rage, could galvanize them by deciding to do something against the abominable nexus of bureaucrats and politicians. His principled stand against official corruption resonated so profoundly with people that they instinctively identified with him (“I am Anna Hazare!”) and spontaneously gave vent to the simmering rage in their hearts. When a T.V. reporter asked a young demonstrator whether he had personal experience with bribery, he said shamefacedly, “When I refused to pay the R. T. O., they failed me in the driving test. Then I had no choice but to pay the bribe. I am ashamed that I had to do this.”

The Satyagraha method Hazare applied to force the apathetic government’s hand was absolutely appropriate in view of the fact that Dr. Singh ignored his and other concerned citizens’ repeated pleas to address this serious issue. Dr. Singh was simply hiding behind his clean image, or, or more likely behind someone else’s sari. Something drastic had to be done to shake up the laissez faire attitude of the government. Since Hazare already had the image of a selfless activist who practiced Gandhian philosophy of Truth and Nonviolence, people spontaneously rallied behind him. People who accuse Hazare of blackmail are ignorant of the fundamental tenets of Satyagraha or fundamental duty of every citizen. They are ignorant of the timeless adage:

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil in this world is for enough good men (and women) to do nothing.

Government’s Passive Aggression And Deviousness

At first the government indulged in much self-deception and gave all kinds of flimsy excuses why they could not meet Hazare’s simple demand. These people, who had little regard for the Constitution, even gave “Constitutional reasons” why they could not agree to the demand. As expression of outrage spread like wild fire they gave in to Hazare’s demand, but not before letting Hazare fast for five days, perhaps to punish him, or to show that the government did not yield without a good fight. Privately, though, the ministers are not scared of the Lokpal Bill at all. They have enough devious ways and means to neutralize the civil society members in the drafting committee before the Bill comes before the Parliament, and the Lokpal system after it is set up. Playing dirty tricks, denying adequate funding for the bureaucracy, infiltrating it with their own people, and delaying implementation of the Bill, and discrediting Lokpal by false documents, ignoring his directives, etc. are but some of many tactics the vested interests could use to make the Lokpal system almost impotent. We have seen some of these tactics practiced against Lokpal in Karnataka by the BJP government.

How Lokpal System In Ancient India Is At The Root Of Misery In Modern India

It is said wisely that those who do not learn from their past mistake are condemned to repeat it. There are three reasons why people repeat their past mistakes: One, they are naïve. By this I mean, they did not process their past experience properly and so they have no lesson to learn from. Two, they are stupid. By this I mean, they know the lesson from their past mistake, but they choose to ignore it because they are driven by a weakness such as greed or jealousy. Three, they have been deluded by someone into believing that those mistakes were not mistakes but wonderful things to be cherished. And so they keep making the same mistakes and get the same results. In India people are about to make a mistake by appointing a Lokpal simply because they did not learn from their past mistake. What is that mistake? Let me elaborate here on this point:

During post-Vedic period (1000-250 B. C.), when lustful Brahmins (bureaucrats) and greedy Kshatriyas (politicians) thoroughly corrupted Yajnas (their bureaucracy), which stole Karmaphalam from gods (equivalent to politicians and bureaucrats stealing money from people today), there was widespread impotent rage in the country (just as now). To prevent further degradation of Dharma, Upanishadists decided to overthrow them by putting forward their Lokpal Bill, which was the doctrine of Brahman. They came up with a powerful weapon called Yoga with which they decided to chop down the rotten tree of Brahmanism (BG: 15:1-5). They appointed Krishna as Lokpal, and made him declare: BG: 4:7-8: “Whenever there is decay of Dharma and rise of Adharma, I will take birth on earth to protect the good and destroy the doers of evil deeds and to establish the Dharma.” He blasted these corrupt Brahmins and Kshatriyas as thieves, vain and sinful (BG: 3:12-16). Brahmins were supposed to be reformed into Jnanayogis (by giving up attachment to wealth, BG Chapter Four) and Kshatriyas were supposed to be reformed into Karmayogis (by performing selfless service of people, BG Chapter Three).

Look what happened to Brahman. First, Brahmins kicked out Brahman and reinstated Vedic gods (BG: 4:12; 17:14). Then they neutralized Yoga by assigning Gunas to it (BG: 18:1-39). Upanishadists countered this subterfuge by installing Parameshwara in the place of Brahman and gave him greater powers to go after Brahmanism. Brahmins made Parameshwara their own, and made him promote their discredited doctrines (BG: 14:5-18; 17: 1-27) once again. Now Bhagavatas came to the rescue of Upanishadists and elevated Krishna to the position of Parameshwara himself (BG: 11:3) to overthrow Brahmanism. Krishna condemned Brahmins and Kshatriyas to hell (BG: 16:10-24), and tried to frighten them by showing them his Universal Form (Vishwaroopa, Chapter Eleven). Krishna told people to give up Brahmanism and all other Dharmas and have faith only in him (BG: 18:66). Undeterred, Brahmins infiltrated Bhagavatism, took it over, appointed their own Vedic god Vishnu as Parameshwara, and demoted Krishna as 8th Avatara of Vishnu. Next they created hundreds of new gods who took the place of their discredited old Vedic gods. For example, they put forth Hanuman as son of Vayu the Vedic god. They claimed that these gods were representatives of Vishnu the Parameshwara. They installed these gods in the form of stone idols in thousands of temple-casinos (Brahmanic bureaucracies) run by corrupt Brahmins. They got rid of Bhaktiyoga (selfless worship, the combined weapon of Bhagavatas and Upanishadists) and created Bhaktipooja (selfish worship, the combined weapon of Bhagavatas and Brahmanism) simply because there was no money to be made in Bhaktiyoga, and a lot of money to be made from Bhaktipooja. Just as they had created hundreds of different complicated Yajnas before the Upanishadic revolution, they created hundreds of different Poojas. These Poojas became moneymaking schemes.

Over three thousand years Brahmanism deluded a hundred generation of people and made them into zombies who, believing that their gods would fulfill their desires and protect them from evil, donated wealth to these temples. We read elsewhere how the enormous ill-gotten wealth in some of those temple-casinos invited Islamic invaders from Afghanistan to India. No one questioned why their gods did not protect them when Islamic invaders chopped off heads of thousands of Brahmins and hundreds of thousands of civilians; looted and destroyed their temple-casinos, and hauled off enormous wealth to their own countries. A thousand years of foreign rule and destitution followed. When anyone asked why this happened, Brahmins blamed it on India’s Karma, which they said had been prophesized in scriptures. India has been paying dearly ever since for the Upanishadist’s well-meaning and clever solution of appointing Lord Krishna as Lokpal to deal with corrupt Brahmins and Kshatriyas. In spite of all this, people still delude themselves that Brahmanism is the greatest gift of Vishnu!

If they are to avoid unintended consequences from their proposed solution for corruption, Indians must learn from this narrative. The lesson is that Lokpal system creates another corrupt bureaucracy, which will manipulate the system exactly as Brahmins did the Lokpal system in ancient times. Besides, it will feed into people’s passivity, dependence and fear of authorities. At best it is a mild deterrent to politicians who still have some decency left in them. To the other first class rogues, such as A. Raja and his Godfather Karunanidhi, Lokpal is just another piece of cake. Here are two likely unintended consequences of a Lokpal Bill.

1. Setting up another bureaucracy: If this Lokpal Bill passes, the Central Government will have to set up another bureaucracy to address people’s grievance against other bureaucracies. To address thousands of complaints that would certainly pour in, the Lokpal’s bureaucracy will have to be huge. Corrupt bureaucrats from other branches will certainly infiltrate into the Lokpal bureaucracy and bring in their culture of corruption. There is a real danger of the Lokpal system becoming as corrupt and inefficient as other bureaucracies no matter how honest the top man/woman might be. Bureaucrats have the same resiliency and weed-like sustaining power as Brahmanism. They will turn the whole system to their advantage. Bureaucrats all over India have one thing in common: They become the cause of, and callous to, common people’s grievances. “They have no blood in their eyes,” is the statement I have heard from everyone I met in India. In India sooner or later just about every bureaucrat becomes corrupt and every solution becomes a problem. One cannot swim in a cesspool and come out smelling like roses.

2. Feeding into people’s mental blocks: A more serious problem is that the Lokpal system will merely feeds into Indian people’s deep-rooted mental blocks such as passivity (“I don’t want to do it”), dependency (“I want someone else to do it for me”), and fear (“I am scared to deal directly with corrupt officials”). We read in the previous article how fear of authority is hardwired into the psyche of Indians due to 3500 years of brainwashing by Brahmanism and feudalism. No doubt Anna Hazare’s agitation gave people a glimpse of their own power, but that was only for a brief moment. If Anna Hazare leaves the scene tomorrow, everything will go back to square one. This type of momentary empowerment of people is only symbolic. Far from empowering people permanently, the Lokpal system will simply encourage people to become even more dependent on the government leading to much disappointment and frustration down the road, for the wheels of justice turn very slowly in India. When the system fails them people will wait for another Anna Hazare to go on fast unto death. People have been programmed to think that whenever there is decay of Dharma and rise of Adharma, someone like Krishna will take birth to protect the good and punish the doers of evil deeds. In other words, they think that people themselves are helpless to do anything.

Dealing With Bureaucracy At The Local Level

I believe that a better way to tackle corruption is by empowering people and educating them to fight it at the local level. This requires them to give up their passivity, dependence and fear of authority, and adopt the New Belief System as I mentioned in my last article:

I am now a proud citizen of a great democratic nation. I am not a servant of a despot. Now I am the master in this nation. I have faith in my own will. My allegiance is to the Constitution of India. I am duty-bound to preserve, protect and promote it. And I am quite capable of fulfilling my own desires and dealing with all the evil I see around me. Don’t tell me I can’t. Yes, I can, and I will. And I shall fear no evil.”

If people in every village and town deal with local bureaucracy directly and refuse to pay bribes for services, the problem of corruption will wither away. First, however, the person tackling bureaucracy at the local level must have thoroughly integrated the new belief system I have proposed in these articles in his hidden mind: He must have faith in himself; he must be able to act in a rational, ethical and result-oriented way; he must believe that India’s Constitution is his new Dharma, and it is his bounden duty to preserve, protect and promote the Constitution of India; have a set of ethics to guide his behavior; and he must have a clear understanding of how Indian bureaucracy works.

What this means in practice is:

From now onwards, the citizen will behave like the master in his dealings with bureaucrats. Therefore, he will not fear them. He, the taxpayer, is paying bureaucrats to serve him and therefore he refuses to pay a bribe for a legitimate service. If a bureaucrat refuses to serve him without a bribe, he will take necessary legal steps to create tension in the bureaucracy to motivate him/her to serve him without a bribe. He is willing to make a small sacrifice in time and expense to make the system work. However, he will not threaten or attack bureaucrats verbally or physically under any circumstance.

Understanding The Bureaucracy.

Bureaucrats’ strength in committing evil comes from two sources:

A. Cashing in on people’s weaknesses: Bureaucrats cash in on people’s passivity and fear to enrich themselves. We discussed in the previous chapter how Brahmanism and feudal system of India instilled passivity and fear in the hearts of people.

The solution: The solution for this problem is for people to truly believe that the bureaucrats and politicians are their servants and not masters. This fundamental change in your perception of bureaucrats immediately gets rid of your fear of them and empowers you as their master. You will behave with them in such as way that it leaves no doubt in their mind that you are the master and you expect them to serve you. Everything else falls in place from that moment.

An Example: You go to local R. T. O to apply for license. The clerk says, “We don’t have application forms.” Obviously, the clerk wants you to apply for license through a broker. If you are still running on the old belief system (“I am the servant. I can’t do anything. I fear him. I am at this guy’s mercy”), you would meekly go to the local broker and bribe him to get your license. If your mind is now running on your new belief system (“I am the master. I am capable of protecting myself from evil. I don’t fear him. He must do his job for which I have paid him”), you would tell the clerk firmly but without raising your voice, “R. T. O is expected to have the forms to enable me to apply for my license. I will not leave this premise until you give me the application within ten minutes. If I don’t get it I will file a formal complaint against you with your superior officer and I will pursue this matter at the highest level of the government. What is your name?” The tone and firmness of your voice gives the clerk the clue that you are not someone he should mess with. This is how educated and self-empowered people behave.

B. Protection from their superiors with whom they share their booty. In Indian bureaucracy it has been a longstanding tradition that the upper official treats his lower officials with contempt while ingratiating himself with his superior official. However, both the lower and upper officials are fearful of being exposed as crooks. If someone challenges this evil quid pro quo system the upper official would not hesitate to quickly cut off the lower one from the chain, leaving him to fend for himself.

The solution: Since this whole chicanery is based on I-scratch-your-back-and-you-scratch-mine arrangement between the underling and superior officer, if you create tension in the system, or a breach between the two, this whole house of cards collapses. There are basically two ways by which you can create tension in the system and make bureaucrats’ balloons to inflate:

1. Demand a receipt: When a bribe is expected, be firm and demand a receipt. If you get a receipt, it becomes proof of corruption. If the clerk refuses to give a receipt, you tell him you will report him. No corrupt official wants proof of his misdeed in anyone’s hands. So they will get rid of you quickly.

A case study: Four weeks ago my brother went to the local Road Transportation Office (R. T. O) to renew his driver’s license. As you all know R. T. O. of India holds the world title for corruption. The official told him to get a certificate from a government hospital doctor that his eyesight was normal. When he went to the government hospital there was a big crowd outside the doctor’s office waiting for the certificate. He saw everyone paying the doctor fifty rupees for the certificate. Of course this money would be split between the doctor and R. T. O. When my brother’s turn came the doctor gave him a certificate and said, “Fifty rupees.” My brother asked, “Why are you charging me 50 rupees for this? I don’t mind paying whatever fee you charge if it were legally required. If you would give me a receipt for this fee claiming it to be a legally required fee, I will gladly pay it.” At that point the doctor told him, “You can go.” All those who were standing behind him saw the incident, but were gutless to do the same. He told everyone he met how he got his certificate without paying a naya paisa of bribe.

2. Create a breach between the lower and upper official. You do this by creating a legal document. I discussed this method in my previous article in its Comments section. This method works because no corrupt official wants exposure of his misdeeds. If a lower official demands bribes tell him you will take it up with his superior. Chances are the lower official thinks you are bluffing. Or he mistakes you for an idiot. You fire off a letter to the higher official and hand-deliver a copy to the lower official. Mention in it that his lower official is demanding a bribe for the service you are entitled to. Mention in it that the lower official mentioned that the bribe goes up the ladder. No sooner does the lower official get the copy of the letter than he would come running to you saying, “Sir, what was the need to do all this? If only you had asked me to do this work I would have gladly done it!” If he does not do so, the upper official would cut off his alliance from the lower one immediately. The lower official would then be left to fend for himself.

A case study: Some years ago I applied for a license to register a newspaper at the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Mangalore. The application had to be forwarded to New Delhi. Usually it takes a year and several thousand rupees in bribe to the registrar of newspapers in New Delhi. When I did not hear anything about the fate of my application in two weeks, I wrote to the Registrar of Newspapers and explained to him the situation and sent a copy to the Deputy Commissioner, and to the Minister of Information and Broadcasting. I mentioned in my letter that I would take up the matter with the Prime Minister if no decision were taken within two weeks. I got the license by registered mail in three days! This method worked so well that when I registered my car, the R. T. O. chief came to my house and delivered my registration papers in his trembling hands.

Dealing With Recalcitrant Officials

There are officials who would test your patience by delay tactics. They know that most Indians have no sustaining power. They count on them to give up within two weeks. In fact, most people give up if they don’t get a reply in two weeks. Some years ago I addressed a local Rotary Club about fighting corruption. When I discussed this method with them just about everyone in the audience argued with me that this method would not work. They said that when they wrote to officials they did not get a reply. When I asked them if they wrote a follow up letter, none of them said he did. Almost without exception these highly educated people gave up any further attempt out of frustration. Besides, they did not know how to write a letter to the official. Invariably they begged the official to do them the favor and ended their letter with the phrase, your faithful and humble servant! No official would consider a citizen worthy of respect if he humbled himself like this. I had to remind the audience that these officials should behave like they are your faithful and humble servants!

Small On-going Sacrifices Are Needed To Rebuild India

If you choose not to do all this, and instead you choose to get your service by paying a bribe, then you have merely indulged in self-deception by claiming to be a self-empowered person. You then forfeit your right to whine and complain about corruption in India. There is always a price to pay for liberty: Eternal vigilance and activism. The truth is that most educated people are ignorant of the fact that corruption in India is a symptom of their own failings. People often gloat over sacrifices made by India’s heroes such as Bhagath Singh, but they are not willing to make even small on-going sacrifices to make their government machinery work. They are willing to go to the Himalayas in search of ice lingam (phallus) or stone statues, but they are not willing to go to the local R. T. O to confront corrupt officials. They eagerly wait for another Rama or Krishna or Gandhi or Hazare to be born to deliver them from the tormenting bureaucrats and politicians. They go to temple-casinos, sit in front of the stone idols bobbing their heads from shoulder to shoulder to the tune of mind-numbing Bhajans, and throw their hard-earned money at the stone idols. Had they invested a small part of the time and money they waste on these fruitless and brainless activities, there would have been no corruption in India today. Alas, this is not to be. That, in essence, is the tragedy of India.

(To be continued)

This post was written by:

- who has written 38 posts on Nirmukta.

Dr. Prabhakar Kamath, is a psychiatrist currently practicing in the U.S. He is the author of Servants, Not Masters: A Guide for Consumer Activists in India (1987) and Is Your Balloon About To Pop?: Owner’s Manual for the Stressed Mind. Links to all articles in Dr. Kamath's earlier series on Heretics, Rebels, Reformers and Revolutionaries can be found here. Dr. Kamath' series on The Truth About The Bhagavad Gita can be found here.

17 Comments

  • Dear Dr Kamath,
    Thanks for those excellent tips for fighting corruption. A lots of difference can be made if we show little firmness and prudence in following matters little beyond our immediate concerns. Officials do listen if we make our case with unfaltering courage and conviction. They have no option but to respond. Just to give one personal example last week. There was something fishy going on in Passport Seva Kendra in Bangalore. I was not able to get the online appointment slot for renewing my passport. Apparently, the Tatkaal quota is released everyday morning 8:00 AM prior to a day before the appointment. Every morning when I checked I got the message that all the slots are already booked, schedule the appointment on different day. Then I found similar complains on several internet blogs. There were also some discussions how agents and bookies have bribed officials to manipulate the Tatkaal quota for passports. From these discussions, it appears that people in urgency are desperately looking for some agent or broker who could fix them an appointment. Someone in the first blog had also reported that currently tatkaal appointments are sold to the highest bidder that can range upto Rs 5000 or more. There was also some talk about hijacking of the proxy.

    So I drafted a strong email (with all the weblinks and blog discussions where people vent their anger and suspicion) and sent it to the regional passport office in Bangalore as well as to the Ministry of external affairs. I was amazed to read the followup action appearing in the Hindu within two days:

    http://www.hindu.com/2011/04/30/stories/2011043058940100.htm

    • Ravi,

      Your effort is surely commendable and must be emulated and sustained. But let us not get carried away by the notion that Passport Office or bureaucracy is lending an ear to protests proliferating on the Web. I am reproducing a part of the very article you have quoted.
      “The Hindu report

      Following a report appearing in The Hindu on April 28 on the chaotic conditions at the PSKs in the city where frustrated applicants vented their anger against the PSKs’ working, senior MEA officials held a meeting with TCS representatives in New Delhi on Friday to review the system.”

      You can see press is also in the race for accolades. But I suspect that it is the violence of frustrated applicants that has spurred the Passport Office. Also the excuse given by the official shows that such respites will be short-lived.

      “He attributed the delay in securing appointments to an 88 per cent jump in the number of applicants over the past 11 months.”

      This remark of the official underscores the gravity of the problem. The Indian variety of corruption is far more pervasive and cultural, with the roots and causes not being political. That makes it very endemic and stubborn.

      I dont mean to discourage the call to reform of this article. Collective action works better and if there is force in it, so much the better. Though the ideal of Gandhian style resistance is commendable, I remain doubtful of its efficacy given the exceptional cynicism of the social and political order of India.

      I would recommend reading the following post giving a skeptical take on Anna Hazare’s ‘victory’ on the Lok Pal issue.
      http://sujaiblog.blogspot.com/2011/04/why-anna-hazare-will-fail.html

  • K. P. S. Kamath

    Hi Ravi, Great job! The fact that you were amazed by the response of the superior officials to your letter indicates that you did not expect anything to happen. This is the case with most people in India. They expect their concerns to fall on deaf ears. They believe this to be the case even when they have not made an effort to communicate with the superior officials. It is not just people who have fear of authorities; even bureaucrats have that mental block.

    Keep in mind that unless you guys keep a close watch on the Bangalore Passport officials from now onwards, they would go back to being what they were like. They won’t give up bribes that easily. Someone need to invoke Right To Information Act and demand to have the proof for their claims regarding the exact number of applications processed.

    One of you should make it his business to watch these people even if you had received your passport. You could start on the Internet a Passport Applicants’ Forum. If things do not improve, you could call a public meeting and invite the Chief Passport Officer to attend it. Nothing scares these people more than a public meeting to expose their chicanery. All you have to do is to send a letter to the top official in Bangalore saying that there will be a public meeting to expose all that is going on in the Passport Office. You will be even more amazed how things begin to move! Corruption takes place in the darkness of shade; nothing makes it disappear better than day light.

  • Ranganath,
    I completely agree with your comments. I was only responding to one simple but crucial points that Kamath had made in his article. That is to resist as well as expose the practice of corruption at individual as well as collective level.

    But you are right, such efforts do not necessarily guarantee the end of the malpractice by itself. The systemic corruption is not limited to monetary bribing of politicians, Babus or agents alone. Its roots are much deeper. Anna Hazare movement is somewhat naive and confused about the cause and effect. Many of its supporters are somewhat mistaken in thinking that corruption is the root cause of all evils. Not really. In fact, Gautam Patel in a recent issue of economic and political weekly, has astutely observed that, “the Lokpal Bill movement of Anna Hazare assumes that monetary corruption can be separated from policy and that a skewed set of development priorities can peacefully coexist with complete and transparent financial honesty. This is a fundamental mistake. The Lokpal Bill is not ill-intentioned and some version of it is even necessary. But it needs specificity, clarity, well-defined objectives and constitutionally valid methods. Such a separation of powers is essential. Without it, the Lokpal runs the risk of becoming its own worst enemy.” I think the entire article is deserve a wider circulation.

    http://beta.epw.in/static_media/PDF/archives_pdf/2011/04/FB_XLVI_17_230411_Gautam_Patel.pdf

    -Ravi

    • Ravi and Dr. Kamath,

      Could not agree more with your observations. One can only hope that this will spur people to really move towards opening the Pandora’s box called Indian corruption and cleaning it

      Gautam Patel’s article is a depressing yet realistic portrayal of widespread’s sweep of corruption in our country.

      One can only call Anna’s idealism as naive and his prescription as overly simplistic.

      The extent of the degradation of the Augean stables of corruption is such that one does not know where to start. While Passport, DL and Gas connection occur as common examples of systemic venality, these are puny when compared with offices of ROC (Registar of Companies better called as Registrar of Corruption), CBDT (Central Board of Direct Taxation) Sales tax Office, Excise and Customs.

      During my days of CA practice, I have been shocked at the staggering scale of bribery and venality in these offices. In ROC everything starts and ends with bribes. You could not get beyond the 1st floor of the ROC building without being accosted by pimps, brokers, touts and assorted characters. I did manage get a few approvals without bribes, but during those times the stares of the ROC officers left me puzzled. My record was not spotless. I will live to regret my instances of submission to that corrupt culture. Such was the sorry state that even a driver of one of the ROC directors of that time used to ply business as a pimp. It is more than a decade since I am out of touch with such institutions, but I doubt if much has changed.

      CDBT’s tax hearings and notices are more tools for harassment and extortion than a process of assessment of tax dues.

      One of the other problems is that Organized corporate sector and big business are sponsors and beneficiary of corruption. Coming back to ROC, Reliance Ind had a ROC liaison permanently stationed in ROC for incorporating shell companies everyday (yes every working day) to be used as conduits for fictitious accounting, funnelling, channeling and rotation of funds and other devices of evasion (so called as tax planning). Till about more than a decade ago when Dhirubhai Ambani (so-called visionary entreprenuer) was alive, his Corporate Communications VP known as Bala used to do the work of wining, dining and supplying girls to mainly Congress politicians for getting budget proposals favouring his company and product (pta) (refer to the legendary duel between Nuslia Wadia and Ambani). Reliance is notorious for stiffing creditors and suppliers and has driven many small businessmen to suicide. It is verily the Walmart of India as far as business ethics go. The very rise of Ambani empire is itself a testimony of the impunity with which business ethics and practices are violated in the race for business power and aggrandizement.

      My point here is not to vilify Reliance alone to the exclusion of other big business which are guilty to a lesser or greater degree, but to show that corruption is sea where one can see neither the beginning or the end. The challenges are monumental, but we must all soldier on for the sake of the generations that follow us.

      • Ranganath,
        Thanks a lot for those valuable and insightful remarks. One issue that I always had with my rationalists and atheists friends (being an atheist myself) is that we narrowly focus on eradicating superstitious and irrational practice from society as if that alone would solve all our social problems. These problems are intimately linked with several other aspects of our society. For our criticism of religion and superstition to be effective and meaningful, we have to adopt a broad approach which clearly identifies the source of existing problems. The day to day problems people face are way too many and too complicated. Superstition and irrationality do not spring and sustain in vacuum. They feed on social, cultural and economic disparities that result in extreme poverty, widespread illiteracy, depravations, marginalization, alienation, gross discrimination and injustice. I am not surprised to see why Baba Ramdev or IT Guru Ravi Sankar is able to command so many followers. Precisely because people are basically fed-up and confused with present economical and political system. They feel helpless. It is an irony that a remedy for material well being is unconsciously sought from deceptive Gurus and Swamis or self declared Gandhis.
        As you correctly pointed out, the brazen ideology of profit driven market forces is yet another aspect of modern life. Big business houses and private corporations are the ones who get hefty tax exemptions. Those figures are enough to humble the degree of 2G scam. These powerful and influential people can easily buy ministers, destabilize the elected government, fund elections, and manipulate policies to further their profit making agendas. So the system is rotten to the core. Thinking of it can drive us crazy. Over 70% of Indian population who earn Rs 20 or less in a day do not have any say in matters that concern them directly. To fight this battle we have to have a progressive and secular platform built upon the idea of justice, equality and other basic human needs. This also means the rationalists and atheists too have to broaden the ambit of their discussion and understanding beyond usual ‘myth busting’ and ‘miracle expose’. I must say that Dr Kamath among others are certainly doing a great job on that front.

        -Ravi

        • Ajita Kamal

          Just so you are aware, (your post suggested you might not be), you are not alone in acknowledging the role played by our social and cultural environment. There are many atheist and secular humanist scholars who understand the need for a comprehensive approach.

  • I have never paid a paisa as a bribe to any god or man so far and do not propose to either.

  • K. P. S. Kamath

    Hi Ranganath, Your caveat is completely in tune with the reality of India. You are right in saying, “Collective action works better and if there is force in it, so much the better.”

    My next article deals with the issue of how to build collective action. I believe that to organize a movement for collective action, at least a few tested Citizen-Activists who have moral authority are needed. The focus of individual action in this article is meant to empower individuals who might become the organizers of collective action in the future. Your cautionary words are essential for every Citizen-Activist to heed.

  • Dr.Sandeep Nayak S

    Sir,
    In corruption there are subsets as far as I know.
    1.Corrution in Cash
    2.Corruption in Kind.
    Please explain how to deal with corruption in Kind. I mean, if govt is kind to someone or some organisation at the cost of development of country, what can we as a common man do about it.

    • K. P. S. Kamath

      Hi Sandeep,

      “Corruption in Kind” is a case of quid pro quo between some corrupt person in the government, such as A. Raja, or some influential politician not within the government, such as Amar Singh, and unscrupulous businessmen such as A. Ambani and K. Bajaj. In both the above scenarios transfer of enormous amount of cash from the latter to the former is involved. The conversation between Amar Singh and A. Ambani and K. Bajaj, as revealed on tapes released by the Supreme Court (NDTV) illustrates this point. This type of corruption is Voluntary Corruption, in contrast to Involuntary Corruption referred to by you as “Corruption in Cash” above.

      In the case of Voluntary Corruption, the aggrieved party is the public. Since Voluntary Corruption takes place between two voluntary parties in secret, either the public will never know of their misdeeds, or it learns about them by accident, as was the case with Amar Singh tapes. Public exposure is the main cure for this problem.

      Unlike in the U. S., there are few whistle-blowers in India. This is because the government neither protects them from the powerful culprits nor rewards them for their bravery. The most likely “reward” is death under the train or “suicide” by hanging. The danger one has to face for exposing the misdeeds of the powerful further reinforces the paralytic behavior of people.

      The real solution for Voluntary Corruption is to form a national level Public Interest Group (P. I. G) made up of eminent people who have not yet compromised their integrity by swimming with Bigwig Pigs (B.Ps). It is mighty difficult to find people who qualify to be members of this group, or who are willing to join it as active members. For, generally speaking, most successful people in India have some degree of vested interest in the status quo.

      In any case, this P. I. G., if and when formed, makes it its business to investigate suspected Voluntary Corruption by asking for information under Right To Information Act (R. T. I.), or by directly contacting the suspect parties. P. I. G. should expect the government and business people to throw one road block after another in their path of inquiry. The P. I. G. then files a Public Interest Lawsuit (P. I. L.) with Supreme Court of India. By and by it enlists the support of T. V. stations, newspapers, Internet Media, etc. to expose the alleged scandal, generate public opinion and to force the government to come out clean. All these activities require sustained passion for justice, integrity, dedication to the cause, love for people, and willingness to sacrifice time, money, and energy in the service of the nation.

      If you set about organizing a P. I. G. in India, keep in mind that not even one out of one thousand educated people you contact would agree to be part of it. Their excuses? “I don’t have time to go after these rascals.” Or, “I have enough problems of my own. Why should I invite more?” Or, “Whatever Karma these people earn, they will pay for it. Why should I get involved with it?” These are the likely responses you would get from lawyers, doctors, professors, software engineers, and just about any “educated” person. A lot of people say they are “proud of India.” This statement comes from the very edge of their lips, not from their heart. The reality is that there are few people who are willing to make even small sacrifices in time, effort, money or personal safety to keep India clean.

      The filth we see in the streets is symbolic of the filth within the Indian government. Unless we become Citizen-Activists, both at the local and the national level, the “Corruption of Kind” will continue. We have no one to blame but ourselves.

      • Dr.Sandeep Nayak S

        Thank you, sir!
        Your articles are relevent. We are many people here to follow your articles. Keep posting, please.

  • Hi Nirmukta,

    The most corrupt department in India is the police department. When I had applied for passport, I had to go to police station for verification process. After all verification was done, the police asked Rs.200. When I asked about it, he said processing fee. I understood that it is a bribe. When I started asking questions, He said that he will not move my file or will make it to look like lost or destroyed if I don’t pay the bribe. I was very angry. I was advised not to raise voice or complain, otherwise they will trouble us. Nobody has guts to fight against them since they are police and have even power to hit you or arrest you. This may be a small bribe, but the culture in police station is the worst.

    • In defence of the police, they are most underpaid, understaffed. Further, they have to function according to the whims and fancies of their political masters; they are hounded by human right activists for doing their job; they deal with members of society who have no qualms about harming their fellow beings. The police bear the brunt of an extremely overburdened criminal justice system; they have to succumb to the criminal class who are supported by the powerful. They work long hours without proper facilities and basic amenities. And there is more to add to the list if one views things from their perspective.

      An intriguing aspect of the corruption issue is that we forget that the corrupt come from the same soceity and value system that the non-corrupt do — they are not a different species.

      • K. P. S. Kamath

        You make truly wonderful excuses for the police to arrest innocent people and torture them in jail to extort money from their relatives; to let loose criminals to rob houses and share the booty; to murder suspects in jail; and to extort bribes from victims who come to the station to file complaint. Even hardcore criminals do not indulge in such behavior. Today in India the police people are nothing but worst criminals in uniform.

        As regards why two people coming from the same society with the same value system become different, there are many factors. Even a most honest man entering into a corrupt system could become corrupt due to peer pressure or threat of rejection from people all around him. So he adapts to the culture of his work place. An honest man in the registrar’s office wonders why he cannot own a Mercedes when his peon is driving one. So jealousy and greed sprout in his heart.

        Besides all this, when everyone does something bad, whatever is considered as ‘bad’ becomes a social norm. The stigma goes away. In fact, the bad thing becomes ‘good’ thing. In fact, very often the society shuns people who fight against corruption, and comes up with excuses for the corrupt people. They often side with the corrupt against those who demand change for the better. This is a mild variety of Stockholm Syndrome. All the eminent business people, who have become rich by bribing authorities, naturally side with the corrupt for they stand to lose all they have if they opposed their benefactors. When we began anti-corruption movement in Udupi, at first people denied there was any corruption at all. Then they made exactly the same excuse for their behavior as you did, and even defended them as you did!

        In the final analysis, it takes a few extraordinary people with unwavering moral compass to unite and offer sustained resistance in a well-circumscribed area for things to change at the grassroots level.

  • Most of the communities in the entire Indian sub-continent(such as Bengali) succumbed in ‘Culture of Poverty'(Oscar Lewis), irrespective of class or economic strata, lives in pavement or apartment. Nobody is genuinely regret ed or ashamed of the deep-rooted corruption, decaying general quality of life, worst Politico-administrative system, weak mother language, continuous absorption of common social space (mental as well as physical, both). We are becoming fathers & mothers only by self-procreation, mindlessly & blindfold(supported by some lame excuses). Simply depriving their(the children) fundamental rights of a decent, caring society, fearless & dignified living. Do not ever look for any other positive alternative behaviour(values) to perform human way of parenthood, i.e. deliberately co-parenting children those are born out of ignorance, extreme poverty. It seems that all of us are being driven only by the very animal instinct. If the Bengali people ever be able to bring that genuine freedom (from vicious cycle of ‘poverty’) in their own life/attitude, involve themselves in ‘Production of (social) Space’ (Henri Lefebvre), initiate a movement by heart, an intense attachment with the society at large is very much required – one different pathway has to create, decent & dedicated Politics will definitely come up. – Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay, 16/4, Girish Banerjee Lane, Howrah-711101.

  • FYI My 22 year continuing sathyagraha V corruption and for the idea of the rule of law in India http://bit.ly/orCEMV

    Appreciate your evaluation of your theories in the light of my experiences, Shri Kamath :)

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. Please see our commenting guidelines

Trackbacks