Published: updated on – 01:04, Wed – 15 Jun 22
By B Yerram Raju
The economic history of nations reminds us that every nation on its growth trajectory has found corruption, frauds, scams and unethical practices. Those who have broken through these barriers with smart surveillance have experienced rapid and significant growth.
However, in democracies like India, where people could not find money for two and a half centuries of British rule, as soon as they started to find it, greed took precedence over need. The initial enthusiasm and pragmatic, as well as ambitious, leadership proved serious when TT Krishnamachari, then Union Finance Minister, resigned following the LIC-Mundhra scandal. It took nearly 70 years for a similar incident to occur in politics – very recently the Punjab government sacked a minister over a corruption scandal. Why are such things important?
Over the past 30 years we have seen financial scams named after Harshad Mehta, Nirav Modi, Choksi, etc. We have also witnessed protracted investigations, delays in justice and abuse of government investigative mechanisms like the CBI, ACB and ED. We have made several changes to the Companies Act 2013 to help businesses do better than before. We enacted the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, the Labor Code consolidating numerous labor laws to reduce the raj of inspectors, and created the National Asset Reconstruction Company to buy bad debts from banks. Yet the financial frauds, cyber frauds and crimes continue. We are close to the platinum jubilee of our country’s independence. It’s time to recap what our nation traditionally stands for – our culture, our ethics and our values.
Culturally, India is home to ethics, values, yoga where saints like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, his disciple Vivekananda who thrilled the crowds of Chicago, Sant Kabir Das, and epics like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, the Artha Sastra of Chanakya, the narration of Panchatantra are documents of permanence to remind us that it is a virtuous life that develops a benevolent and compassionate society to usher in peace and prosperity. In the economics of politics, management, and governance, such things should have remained real assets and not value to libraries.
When I and Dr. Durgadoss wrote our book — a fiction in the field of corporate governance — “A Saint in the Board Room,” we were perhaps ahead of our time. Here is a reminder of some aspects of book ethics and governance.
Swami Vivekananda advocated that the means should take care of the ends. If we take care of the cause, the effect will take care of itself. The realization of the ideal is the effect. The means are the cause: attention to the means is therefore the greatest secret of life. A great mistake of all ethical systems is not to teach the ways to refrain from doing wrong. While the senses emphasize ‘myself first’, ethics says, ‘I must stand last’. In one of his writings he said, “The book is not proof of your conduct, but you are proof of the book.
Lessons from the Mahatma
If we cultivate the habit of serving purposefully, our desire to serve becomes stronger, and we do so not for our own happiness but for the good of the world as a whole. When Prime Minister Modi launched Swachh Bharat, or Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao launched Haritha Haram (garland of greenery), they are guided by the enduring common good of society. All of these efforts generate positive energy and enthusiasm.
Mahatma Gandhi also pointed out that economics that harms the moral well-being of an individual or a nation is immoral and therefore sinful. It is true that economics never militates against the highest ethical standard, just as all true ethics must at the same time also be good economics. In the path of morality, there is no reward for moral behavior. According to him, altruism is the highest form of morality. Shouldn’t this be a constant reminder to our body politic that is increasingly engaging in conflicts that undermine democracy?
Aurobindo said that the first conditions of human perfection are “will, character, self-discipline and self-control”. The core of true ethical being remains the same, always.
Today we find businesses of different hues – online and offline. Markets are also reacting differently than in the past when they were confined to a few urban areas, villages and clusters of villages. Today, the markets are different. Tastes are ruled by ready-to-eat packs. Mom and grandma have become signs. Shampoo sachets have replaced soap nuts. Several face care brands market a strange mixture of turmeric, butter and vegetables. All these elements have become brand images. The intrinsic value of goods proved their economic value. Therefore, small businesses to large businesses have acquired their material value faster, and consumerism is in a different direction. All of these have also become nurseries to replace need with greed. When does need become greed? Plus a fine line between them.
Values are deeply held beliefs that guide our behavior and decisions. They reside deep in the subconscious and are tightly integrated into the fabric of daily life. Like morality, they help us distinguish right from wrong.
Values can be classified into the following four categories:
– Personal values: These are principles that define you as an individual.
– Cultural values: They are like the practice of our faith and customs. These are principles that maintain ties with your cultural roots.
– Social values: They are principles that indicate how you meaningfully relate to others in social situations.
– Work values: They are principles that guide your behavior in professional contexts. They also reveal your potential for evolution.
Technological advancements in the financial sector are threatened by new currencies – bitcoin and digital. These products were born out of greed and certainly not need. The needs are sufficiently met by the existing monetary system. Some nations that find it difficult to deal with risks to communities as a whole try to incorporate them into their system. This is a clear example of drifting values.
At a time when politics and religion collide, it is necessary to understand, appreciate and practice the values that all religions hold sacred, which are identical. Technologies retain their primacy only when they integrate certain values and ethics. They must be tested through the prism of values and ethics.