The Moment Ethics Die, Corruption Takes Birth

8 min read

By: Subhashini, Asstt. Editor-ICN

NEW DELHI: Here I write about a subject which might not directly seem to be related to economics, however if you go on reading, you would find a thread that links the two.Pick up the economic structure of any country; you’ll trace the existence of a huge proportion of unaccounted money. This article talks about the facts that remain behind the curtains in any such economic structure and the unaccounted money being generated is the outcome of nothing else but this.

First of all, I would like to tell you that I am neither a professional journalist nor do I have any intentions of hurting anyone emotionally or psychologically in any manner through this article. Being a citizen of India, I just want to share my views with you in an uncomplicated manner.

What is corruption?

Before talking about corruption and ethics, I’ll just try to analyse some day to day words that are very often used in the context of society, politics and economy in reference to the current situation. There might be behavioral conflicts; however in the changing scenario this analysis could possibly explain the relation between corruption and ethics in an appropriate and progressive manner.

First of all, let us try and understand the actual meaning of some of these words.  Let’s consider a word, ‘power’. Can this word be expressed in the form of an equation? Possibly, yes.
Power = Group of Politicians + Group of Administrators (Bureaucracy).

Now who are these politicians and administrators? Are they some kind of aliens who have just descended from the sky? No. These are ordinary people who have risen from our very own society where we live in. Initially, they were also just a simple person like you and me, just a citizen of our country. Then how come suddenly they got hold of so much power? Basically, each individual is deft in some skill or the other; they possess some area of expertise. They could be born with this gift, or they could have acquired this during their years. These skills somewhat become the basis of the categorization of people in the society. Even then the most important question is ‘where is the real decisive control inherent?’ This control is again in the hands of the society. So it is clear that these people who are now transformed into ‘power’ are only a symbol or a collective expression of society of group of people under a democratic set up. But this is only an ideological thought. The reality is just the opposite.

Now, consider the word ‘Mafia’. If expressed as an equation, what we get is Mafia= A person who uses power and status for personal gains + someone who uses his wealth for his personal gains + someone who uses his intelligence and wit for the same.

The word Mafia has been imported from the West and adopted here at a later stage. According to the Oxford dictionary it means, ‘An organised international body of criminals, operating originally in Sicily and now especially in Italy and the US and having a complex and ruthless behavioral code.’

So is there any relation between the two words which I have mentioned? Yes, and the factor which is keeping alive this relationship is none other than corruption. In this reference I recall a quote by a famous political analyst Mr Raj Kishore. He says corruption is a ‘sweet word’, basically in reference of the middle class. The middle class exists in the largest proportion but is the weakest in some other parameters. They use corruption by covering it under the clothes of ethics. This is what we can observe easily. A word known as “Rishwat” or bribe earlier is now known as “Suvidha shulk” or facility fee.

Ethics

Now let us talk about ethics. While analysing ethics it is said in “Mundaka Upanishad” (The Mundaka Upanishad is the source of the phrase Satyameva Jayate, which the national motto of India. It appears in its national emblem with four lions) that “The very behaviour of human being which does not harm the society or the family would be called or known as ethics.” This, said around 12,000 years ago still holds true even today.

The Upanishad’s concern was clear that no individual should behave in a manner which causes unnecessary trouble to some other person. We have all learned in childhood, “Liberty is not only a personal affair, but a social contract.” There is silent expression of the value of ethics in this phrase. We have to realize that there are times when our actions can take away liberty from other people. Right from the birth, the family atmosphere starts shaping the child in regard to the sensitivities and emotions. We were taught in childhood, “Never lie, Never steal. It is sin”; this shows that sin is something that is unethical. In other words we very simply learn about ethics in our day to day behaviour unconsciously in the same way we learn breathing. In fact the spirit inside us is that ‘authority’ which simply gives us the capability and capacity to understand and practice the ethics practically.

It is often said that the virtues and values we inculcate during our childhood stay with us during our entire lifetime however our nation’s extensive history is the proof that even the most upright and virtuous person can become dishonest if given the opportunity (I am not talking about exceptions here). If said in other words; an honest person is the one who has never got a chance to become dishonest. So where does all the values taught to us in our childhood disappear? It’s obvious that when the ethics start becoming weak, the principles start losing their firmness and corruption starts to breathe.

Even though corruption thrives and prospers through power, the group of people that are the victims or affected the most are the middle and the lower class.

Sometimes, even when we are aware that some specific deed is not virtuous, a minor possibility exists that we might be tempted to practice it to take the easy way out and make our work easier.  This exact moment is when we might become weak and ignore our ethics, and this is triggered by nothing else but corruption.

When we purchase anything, we pay for its value or the utility that it provides us. Acquiring anything without paying for its value is being unethical like in the case of bribery. This is the first step of corruption. This is something whose value is actually paid for by losing the real value.

If we see the history of last hundred years we get a clear picture about how and when the decline in ethical and moral values took place. I remember a story entitled “Namak Ka Daroga” written by a famous hindi writer Munshi Premchand in the pre independence era, where he mentions a word “Oopri Kamai”, which later came to be known as “Rishwat” and “Suvidha Shulk” more recently. This gives an insight of the corruption that existed even before we gained independence and that has been carried forward to the modern era as well.

After gaining independence in 1947, the seeds of such corruption had already been sown through the Bureaucracy, and with time this disease got spread in the democratic monarchism (group of politicians) too. The people who fought for our freedom were those whose priorities were patriotism and ethics. They devoted their life and became martyrs for the cause of freedom.

However after independence, there was a specific kind of transfer of power, where the rulers or politicians did change, but the Bureaucracy did not.

In other words, one leg of the institution of power got changed but the other one remained same.  Then how can one expect that the way of working could have changed altogether?  This new way taught people to move along with the new political scenario as well as to misuse their knowhow for their own selfish interests.

This happened because the authority to govern the nation was in the hands of those bureaucrats for whom words like ethics, patriotism and freedom held little meaning. Most of the bureaucrats that came into power were pro-English before independence and lived a lavish and luxurious life. A major part of administration was governed by them. Their way of thinking and lifestyle remained more or less the same even after independence.

The following generation, on witnessing this mayhem realized that ethics and values are a sheer waste of time and the one who obeys these cannot possibly afford an affluent lifestyle. They questioned the existence of ethics on seeing the working of the bureaucracy and adopted a similar conduct and the manner of living where they had a perception that bribe and corruption are not that evil as long as they are conferring them with benefits. This notion is still being followed even in the 21st century and this very view of reckoning corruption as inevitable and reasonable has brought us to a level where after 70 years, corruption and ethics is being discussed everywhere and has become a matter of prime concern. The famous hindi poet Late shri Ramanath Awasthi said मेरे पंख कट गये हैं वरना मैं गगन को गाता. This means that the flight of the country after independence was not the way it should have been. The wings of development and growth of India were cut by corruption, otherwise we would have been soaring the sky.

Conclusion

We all do recognise the moment where our conduct is wrong  but we choose to overlook it, sometimes because of the dominance of the feeling of being selfish or for some other greed or avarice. In this way, we are giving shelter to corruption.

The famous Urdu and Persian poet Mirza Asadullah Beg Khan ‘Ghalib” about 150 years ago expressed, दिल के आईने में है तस्वीरे यारजब ज़रा गर्दन झुकाई देख ली, which means that the image of ‘self’ is there inside the mirror of our heart. Whenever I bow my head I see it. This is very much relatable to the present situation. I believe whenever we find ourselves in a position where we are tempted by voracity and covetousness; we should try to listen to our inner voice and look inside our heart, where our spirit resides. Certainly our spirit would guide us and would never allow us to do any such deed which would be unethical that could bring the corruption as a result. Our own spirit would restrain us from going beyond the limits of the ethical values.

It is known that whenever we save ourselves from any unethical deed, it gives us a feeling of deep spiritual satisfaction and proud. If we could keep this feeling alive always inside ourselves, we will always find ourselves blessed.

The moment ethics die, corruption takes birth. Let us save the ethics. Corruption will die itself.

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