In a recent international survey India ranked a lowly 87 in the corruption index of countries, three stages worse than the previous year. In the World Prosperity Index she has regressed ten places to the 88th position, much below her biggest rival China, placed at 58.

The corruption ranking has certainly been aggravated by the Commonwealth Games scandals, while the latter is attributed to the still abysmal healthcare system which does not reach the marginalised, the lack of adequate infrastructural facilities and the limited reach of our education system.

This, at the same time when the country is viewed globally as a stable, forward-thinking economy and a  prime mover in the Asian region, with the makings of a world leader. This, also at the same time when global leaders like Russia’s Medvedev, Britain’s Cameron, France’s Sarkozy and USA’s  Obama are queuing up to lobby for major- league business deals with us. There is talk everywhere about our competitive edge in various areas, our youth, our huge 300 million-plus middle class with their mind-boggling purchasing power, our accelerating growth rate and our working democracy.

Yet, we have a lot to be ashamed of, even without the endless series of scams that are dug up with unfailing regularity by an aggressive media. Every nation has its share of scandals but for the most part the incidents of graft and corruption are confined to a plane where the common man is not affected. In India however, these evils so pervade his day-to-day life that he has to tread a long and costly path to get what he wants, be it a passport, a gas connection, a building permit or admission into school or college for his child,  even recovery of money due from the government. And for people like you and me, to pay Rs. 10,000 for getting a perfectly legitimate work done hurts more than the Rs. 176 crores lost to the 2G scam.

Asian countries like the UAE, Singapore and Malaysia are thriving nations, much of their prosperity contributed to by the Indian diaspora and expatriates. If we can stand in a queue for our turn, pay our taxes correctly and on time, keep the roads and parks litter-free and follow driving rules, why then do we forget it all when we return to our native land?  Why should we not try to get  people back home to emulate what we have learnt abroad? We bring back fresh ideas for our new home that we are going to build, how our children should be educated,  how  we can  beautify our immediate environment, yet the laid–back, ‘chalta hai’ attitude keeps us from exerting ourselves for the common good. That is why a small humanitarian gesture or an act of civic consciousness by an individual arouses so much admiration, so seldom is it seen among the general citizenry. That is also why the anguished letter from the former President of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam, a scathing comment on the double standards of the Indian persona, should strike us with guilt and shame, and spur us to positive action before things get out of hand. Our country has the youngest population in the world, with 65 percent under the age of 30 years. What are we to teach them? Do we have any values to impart any more? Are we correctly equipping our youngsters to be world class leaders and human beings? Can they take a positive lesson from what they see going on around them or will they turn into venal cynics, taking what they can get out of the system but giving back nothing?

We have a lot going for us.  We have the largest ever talent pool in the world, that excels in the latest developments in technology and every branch of science. If more and more Indian expatriates are returning to their native land, let it be not just for the earning opportunities back home against the growing recession and job losses in their adopted country. Let it be because India has become in its turn a land of opportunity and hope, let it also be because these  new Indians feel that they could make a difference to the quality of life here.

The geography and the homogeneity of diverse regional cultures which keep melding and merging with each other while at the same time retaining their uniqueness allow us to adjust to new influences and this is our special gift.

It is unacceptable to me that we fall flat on our faces when it comes to corruption and moral character. To my mind, taking a beating under any other parameter is bearable, but in ethical standards and integrity, how can any self-respecting Indian allow it? To paraphrase Shakespeare, it would do well to remember that the good is often interred with our bones whereas the evil that we do lives on after us. So it might be with our India.



15 responses »

  1. vaishnavi bhat says:

    yuck on corruption

  2. yes, I agree with some of your response Vimala though I would say that corruption is present at the same level in Britain except is consider acceptable and seen as ‘playing the system’ – almost as a game – to cheat the system. I think the corruption both in the state and the people expresses itself in very different ways and has very difference consequences but is not necessarily different in the prevalence. I have noticed that there is more talk of getting rid of corruption and more hatred of it amongst the people in Bangladesh then there ever is in Britain. The British just love it when someone big gets caught with typical hypocrisy.
    British racism is awful and I agree with your sentiments. That said, with a daughter who is tall and mature for her 11 years of age, I also know what racism and sexism exists in Asia. I have to watch her like a hawk when we are out to make sure no one tries it on with the “white whore” which is often the general perception of what she must be. Sad that people and can be so greedy, so selfish and so suspicious of others in any country.

  3. gc1963 says:

    Agree with you!

  4. As an Englishman living in Bangladesh (possibly the closest relative of India) I can agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments except to say that when I look at what is going in my own home country I think you have nothing to be ashamed of. All countries have their virtues and their vices – usually the same ones – only they manifest themselves in different ways.

    Once, a rather racist guy I sat in a pub with told me who he wished all the ‘pakis’ and other asians would leave the country. I found myself agreeing with him but for two very different reasons. First, my brothers and sisters deserve a damned sight better treatment than they normally get in the UK and I would not blame them for leaving and secondly, because I too hope that many will return to use their skills and talents to turn India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the rest of south Asia into that land of hope and opportunity.

    Make no mistake, the West is every bit as corrupt as India et al. But India has all the hope whereas the West has lost its own and descended into cynicism.

    • vimala madon says:

      that may be but in India corruption exists in almost every aspect of the common man’s daily life – that coupled with his own resigned attitude and inaction is what makes corruption in this country somewhat different from that in yours. As for racism, that is a really ugly thing and it is the reason my two sons have no interest whatsoever in settling abroad. Holidays, yes, study also in some fields, but forever? Never! We have lived abroad and there are any number of instances where racism is implied if not overt and young people especially sense it, both overt and implied.

  5. vimala madon says:

    thank you vimala; we not only share the same first name, we share the same sentiments as well!

  6. vimalaramu says:

    A very thoughtful blog, Vimala. Strange as it may seem, even I have been thinking on these lines. No amount of law making will curb the corruption just as it has failed to curb other major crimes like murder and rape. What the social reformers should aim to do is change the mindset of the people and not fight against a popularly elected government.

  7. isabel says:

    If everyone thinks and care like you I believe our world will be a better place to be…now and the coming and passing of the seasons.

    • vimala madon says:

      Thanks Isabel. I think many of us care but don’t know what to do, where to begin, who to join up with, how to ensure our efforts don’t turn into a farce, like Anna Hazare’s after the Babas joined in.

  8. Shernaz says:

    As proud we are of our ancient Indian culture, much of modern India makes us hang our heads in shame. Real food for thought, this blog.

    • vimala madon says:

      Thank you Shernaz, for commenting. I would hate the present state of the country to turn our children into cynics.

  9. Beyniaz says:

    Very well-written and timely piece, Vimala.

  10. Dear Vimala,

    I agree with you fully. A thought provoking piece considering the current scenario of scams and babas and corruption…

    • vimala madon says:

      thank you Shail. I feel so proud of my country and at the same time so ashamed and embarrassed it hurts.

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