Corruption reflects a crisis of ethics, values

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s clarion call against corruption during his recent Independence Day speech revealed his anguish and exasperation as well as his passionate campaign for more transparency and honesty in public life.

More than in previous years, his tone seemed to be that of the anger of a man in a hurry. He obliquely evoked those who had enriched themselves at the expense of the public and the need to purge them from the milieu.

But why is it that even after 75 years of independence we continue to be branded internationally as a corrupt nation.

And this despite the presence at the top of a scrupulously honest and extremely charismatic leader who bet everything on rapid economic development without compromising values.

Do we continue to be in a swamp because our mechanisms to eradicate corruption are faulty? Or has the collective character of the nation become irreparable? It is incredibly difficult to answer this question.

The Prime Minister’s theme at Fort Rouge was appropriately that the fight against corruption was a joint enterprise between the government and the public. Without a union of minds and efforts, little can be achieved to strengthen our moral credibility. A bribe taker cannot flourish without a bribe giver. It’s that simple.

Many other countries are worse off than us in their ability to provide clean governance. The comparison, however, is odious because very few of the former have achieved the excellence that we have in the fields of education, public health, technology and communication.

An annual review is not only useful, but imperative if we want to move forward and take our rightful place in the community of developed nations.

What worries the common man most is the dishonesty of government officials, both in the upper and lower echelons. This evil is rampant both in the state administration and in some bureaucratic segments of the Center.

Digitization has undoubtedly simplified the issuance of essential documents such as birth/death certificates and driver’s licenses. There is no doubt that the discretionary power of public servants in these areas has been reduced, and that is a positive step.

real estate bog

However, corruption remains unsustainable in areas such as the registration of documents relating to the purchase and sale of property and the sanctioning of planning permits for the construction of new buildings. Illegal clandestine payment rates have been set for different stages of a project, no matter how small or large. This explains the high real estate prices.

Developers without exception have succumbed to this usurious demand for bribes and have no choice but to pay. If by chance one of them does not give in to the demand for bribes, he is harassed by inordinate delays in the sanction plans. The widely held belief is that the illegal money thus generated rises through the ranks. The lower echelons invoke this to defend their claim of the unfortunate candidate. How to circumvent this vicious circle?

This is where political corruption plays a huge role. The reference to the demand for a “plum wallet” when forming a government is nauseating and has many appalling connotations.

The next area of ​​concern for the common man is corruption in law enforcement. Police departments across the country are known for their dishonesty. Of the 10,000 or more police stations in the country, there are hardly any that can claim to be free of the disease. The services to which the ordinary man is entitled by right are for the most part sold. It’s painful but true.

Many cities around the world have experienced police scandals in the past. That is cold consolation, however, for episodes like what we have seen recently in Mumbai, a city that until a few years ago rightly boasted of having professional police. This particular sordid drama featured ugly exchanges between a minister and senior police officers. It exposed how an important arm of the administration could be misused and turned into a channel to transmit illegal money.

Certain sections of the senior police bureaucracy in most of the states belonging to the prestigious IPS will have to bear the responsibility.

Many of them are extremely bright, backed by distinguished academic careers. Many of them fell prey to a vulgarly elevated lifestyle and deliberately compromised traditional values. Actions have been taken against some of them. There is, however, cynicism as to whether this will act as a sufficient deterrent.

Deterrent laws and executive action alone cannot lower levels of dishonesty. The analogy is with conventional crime. The consensus among criminologists is that tougher sentences are not associated with a drop in crime.

There is something more to breaking the perceived causal chain. This is where ethics education comes in. Unless our future generations are indoctrinated in favor of honesty in their careers, there is very little to hope for them.

The author is a former Director of CBI and is currently a Professor of Criminal Justice and Policing at Jindal Global University, Sonepat, Haryana.

Published on

August 25, 2022

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