An Alternative To Lokpal System To Deal With Corruption
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)