RASHEEDA BHAGAT in “Are we trivialising corruption?” [The Hindu Business Line, July 5, 2011] presents the views of SUBROTO BAGCHI, Vice-Chairman of MindTree, on corruption. We reproduce some of those views for the benefit of our readers. _Ed.
In this Section
Not surprisingly, he has a strong, and different, view on the subject of the Lokpal Bill. His take: “I am 54, travel all over the world and so do you. I've come to this deep realisation that law is not a substitute for character.”
He feels we already have enough laws; per capita wise, Indians have the highest legal provision in the world, and we've freely absorbed our kanooni sanskar (legal culture) from different people … “somebody came from Persia or Afghanistan; Akbar Badshah taught us how land is measured and even now the Indian Revenue Act is based on that. Next came the British; and every State legislates; so there is no dearth of law or judicial structure, or scams as well!”
CORRUPTION, A SERIOUS ISSUE
He is upset that such a serious issue as corruption is being trivialised by Indians across the spectrum; “Baba Ramdev is trivialising things and the media is also doing so by giving headline coverage to someone who has no clue what he is doing,” he says.
Of course, no law can be a substitute for “strength of character”. Unfortunately, we see so many shortcuts being taken by those in public life on this issue. Mr Bagchi calls it “justifying walkarounds; I didn't take a bribe. He just came and left a bhagwan ki moorthi. So what if it is made of 24-carat gold?”
Or, I'm an honest officer and don't take money, like my other brethren. I use only my official car, but a PSU sends a car for my wife's use. The PSU does that because the man happens to be a top bureaucrat in the HRD Department who handles “innocuous postings such as the chairman of a PSU!” Or, to say the land is owned by his wife, or that his wife is a director in a certain company “and it's a coincidence that we sleep in the same house… is trivialising the issue.”
Going to the root of the problem – the lack of integrity or character that leads to such corrupt behaviour – how do we as a society or country ensure better character/integrity?
Mr Bagchi's take is that in a family, character-building is not the children's but the parents' responsibility, and has to do with moral authority. “If the children have seen you without clothes, then you lose the right to tell them what is right or wrong. If a Supreme Court judge's integrity is in question, he loses the moral right to look a lawyer in the eye and say ‘you cannot buy a prosecution witness'.”
Ultimately, in any civilisation, all authority is moral; us sey badhkar koi authority nahi hei. So if parents or government, the chief executive of a company or a General in the Army do not have that moral authority, there is little hope of their inculcating it in those they command or the wards they oversee.
“Take the Adarsh Housing Society; if three Generals of the Army say we didn't know what was the original intent of the project; somebody gave us a file and we signed it, how can they look into the eyes of their soldiers and say: “In the line of fire”!”
He adds that this doesn't mean that every person heading a department or division has to be a “paragon of virtue. What you do in your personal life is your business as long as it does not spill over into your professional life. But the semblance of a personal value system has to be seen in action right at the top.”
And then comes a typical Bagchi statement on where we are headed: “I think that's a civilisational issue and I can only make a statement of hope and not a statement of wisdom or reason.”
An eternal optimist, he thinks the present churn, when it comes to a nation, should be seen not in the context of 10 or 100 years but thousands of years.
In India: A Thousand Mutinies, V.S.Naipaul said that the people who were running amok were those who could not open their mouths or speak their minds in the presence of others for hundreds of years. “Suddenly, you have democracy and we expect people to behave the way people behave in mature democracies!” This is not going to happen because, he says, “the pendulum has to go to the other extreme before it will settle down at the centre.”
EXPECTING A CATHARSIS
Mr Bagchi's optimism also gives him the confidence that India is waiting for a catharsis. “It may be an uncomfortable thing for us because we have to live through it. And who wants to lose life and property, because catharsis is about life and property. But that cathartic experience... the near death experience… is very important for revival.”
You can't quarrel with this reasoning; but the question is also about the mind-blowing dimensions of the corruption… the mega size of the scams tumbling out of the UPA government's cupboards.
And public patience is running thin on this issue. Anna Hazare's drive against corruption and Baba Ramdev's against black money have galvanised the UPA government into some kind of action.
On Monday, after an all-party meet, the Home Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, announced that the Lokpal Bill would be introduced in the Monsoon Session of Parliament and expressed the hope that Anna Hazare would give up his fast planned for August 16.
Irked at this Government's inaction on the black money front, the same day, the Supreme Court elevated an existing high-powered committee into a special investigation team with more powers to probe black money stashed away by Indians abroad.
All the three ministers who addressed the press conference – Mr Chidambaram, Mr Kapil Sibal and Mr Pawan Bansal – were all smiles as they addressed the media though, frankly, their smiles hardly left one feeling comfortable. For one thing, corruption, or the lack of moral authority, is no laughing matter. And, pray, what does this government have to smile about really?