A Cure for the Corruption in India
By Stephen Knapp
Martin Luther King once said that he had a dream of when men would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. But I say it is up to the individual to put some content in his character. Otherwise a man will be judged by whatever traits are perceived by others. And corruption in the activities of a person is a sign of a lack of proper content. And if there are numerous individuals, especially in high places, involved in crime and corruption, so goes the character and reputation of the country.
Therefore, it is of utmost importance that the state or government provides the means and education for its citizens to develop the right content in their character. This is the importance of character development with nation building.
Throughout my travels in India, while lecturing at so many cities and venues, it is not unusual for businessmen, industrialists, or even professors to ask me what I think should be done about all the corruption in India, which exists on every level. We all hear about the corruption in politics, and what intrigue goes on amongst the politicians, but it goes on in so many small enterprises, too. Like paying the bribes to get a phone line in your house. Innocent people have to bribe bureaucrats, police and even judicial officials to get anything done. Or how, as one friend told me, he took a test for his driving license three times, and they never even looked at the test but denied him each time, until he realized he had to pay a bribe for it. After he paid the clerk an extra Rs. 2000, he then took the test a fourth time and they still never looked at it, but this time he got his license.
Another example of corruption that a friend told me about was when he was riding on a train and met a government inspector who told him the story of how the military men were getting sick from all kinds of digestive problems. They narrowed down the cause to the cooking oil that was being used in preparing the food served to the men in the military. They identified a possible source for the oil, and the inspector went to the company that was producing the oil and discovered that the owner of the company was adding all kinds of polluted oil to the regular oil he was making, which is what was causing the men to get sick. The inspector told the owner of what had been found, and the owner asked how much the inspector wanted in order for him to write a positive report for the military. So the company owner paid a large bribe to the inspector who took the money and gave a good report about the company and the oil it was producing. So the military went on purchasing this contaminated oil that is probably still making the military men sick at several bases.
One more example is that some years ago the Japanese had offered to help with cleaning the Yamuna River, which is so contaminated around the Delhi area that it cannot support any life. It is a dead river there. So, the Japanese offered $20,000,000 to build a cleaning plant to help clean the water before it continued on its way. By the time all the bribes had been taken out, all that was left was $1,000,000. So, you can still see the small cleaning plant that had been built in the Vrindavana area, but a far bigger plant should have and could have been built to actually help the country and the people that depend on the water of the Yamuna River.
No doubt, much of what is wrong with India in this sense can be found everywhere. It is not only India. And I have often said that if you could see the corruption that goes on behind closed doors amongst politicians in America, you would be shocked. Or maybe not, depending on how aware you have been of what really goes on. But things have to change.
The British also helped jump start this corruption by two things: First the bureaucracy they established in their managerial system which they used against the Indians, most of which was adopted by the Indians in the form of a Parliamentary government and which allows for the loopholes and cracks in the system for the continuation of so much corruption. Secondly, while under the British, the citizens of India were forced to struggle so hard to exist that it forced them to think in terms of the survival of their own immediate family while giving up the consideration of the whole community. After so many years of that conditioning, this need for self-preservation and the desire to fulfill selfish concerns went from one generation to the next until it became a general trend to get whatever you need regardless of the consequences or how it affects others.
The Indian constitution itself, under the guise of freedom and fairness for the minority religions, fuels corruption and inequality by favoring the few at the expense of the majority Vedic or Hindu population. How can this inspire a united vision?
Furthermore, dishonesty and fraud in India has reached even the Supreme Court Chief Justices and several High Court Justices, which have been involved in prominent levels of corruption. We also have seen the reports about those presently in power (March, 2011) who are looting millions of rupees from India, and depositing it into secret accounts abroad. And they only pave the way for more of their own kind to be elected in order to make things easier for themselves.
We all know that a politician or person of influence is not to amass wealth dishonestly, and then indulge in extravagance or ostentatious living. Nor is he or she meant to give favors to their relatives, or their supporters or business associates by conferring special privileges or kickbacks to them. This is nothing but the misuse of the power and position of the office, a misappropriation of public funds, and the abuse of power, as well as the root cause of the rampant corruption that has become so noticeable throughout India.
We have also seen the wealthy spend millions of dollars on nothing more than a marriage ceremony for their children, just for the sake of mainly creating a spectacle to be noted in the press, or to outdo some other wealthy person’s wedding. This kind of thing is but a huge black spot of selfishness on the character of the persons who make such arrangements when certainly the ceremony could have been limited in its expense, and the money that was saved could have been used for something far more practical or beneficial. That would have been worth noting in the media. In fact, people should make an example of spending less on their momentary weddings and then giving more money to a worthy cause.
So, obviously, the kind of corruption we are pointing out goes on because of a lack of morals in the content of one’s character. This is what has to change. India is obviously progressing economically and technologically, but this corruption really slows down the amount and speed of the progress that, otherwise, could be made for the benefit of everyone in the country at a much faster pace. Therefore, it hinders the well-being of everyone, and many countries outside of India hesitate to put full confidence in their business dealings with India when this corruption is so obvious.
Today, as Shahroz Raza said in his article “Corruption Bigger Factor Than Secularism” (Pioneer, January 8, 2011), India’s economy is “growing” at over 9%, yet every second child in India is malnourished. Less than one-fourth of the rural population has access to proper toilets. Eighty percent of India’s population lives on $2 a day or less. And what is most shameful is that only four of every 10 girls who enroll for schooling complete eight years of formal education. So, as anyone should question, is that real progress? Is that real growth?
Let’s put this into perspective. Corruption has secular implications. The money looted by the rulers of India becomes food that is snatched away from the mouth of the newborn and the hungry; or the death that is caused for want of care in a ramshackle hospital; or the unemployment for an adult. This should be avoided by proper adjustments by India’s leaders. But the problem is that politics has simply become a business, which means they use the position and perks that come with it to look out for themselves and family and friends, and collect large amounts of property and money in whatever way necessary at the expense of the masses.
As long as this corruption is allowed to continue, which lends to the reason why certain sections of society remain poor and hungry, then India, and the world, actually is not truly civilized. Swami Vivekananda has also explained, “So long as millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold educated man a traitor who, having been educated at their expense, pays not the least heed to them.”
A civilized society does not mean merely technological advancement or economic progress. It means that society has a unified civil code and unified vision of everyone having the right to the same basic facilities as everyone else, meaning food, shelter, clothing, and the means to an education so they can maintain themselves, however simple or sophisticated that may be. In other words, a starving sector of society means that society is uncivilized due to the wealthier section of society hoarding or profiting from the loss of others.
This goes back to the point that there is no real lack of anything in this world in regard to resources needed to survive. The only real lack is God-consciousness and the higher vision to see that spiritually we are all the same and that we are only borrowing things from the Supreme during the short duration of the life we are given. Thus, the world’s resources need to be distributed in a way so everyone benefits, and that it is not monopolized by greedy people in prominent positions. This does not mean communism, but only means that the wealthy look out for the others as any civilized society would do.
Even Mahatma Gandhi once said that the deadliest form of violence is poverty. It is poverty, whether it is planned, arranged, or merely allowed, that kills more people than all the wars that take place. In fact, all the money used for military spending could otherwise be used for solving many of the world’s problems. It is poverty which also causes much of the behavioral violence and criminality that affects us all. The problem is that as poverty expands, it becomes more difficult for the people who are affected by it to do anything about it.
If corruption increases, the general well-being of everyone will decline, and the poor are the ones to feel it first, and feel it the most. But from there, it trickles up and affects everyone. As the people suffer, with poor people becoming poorer, farmers committing suicide, businessmen wasting or ruining the environment, we see the money launderers, smugglers, the land mafia, and others continue to plunder and loot money. Experts warn that if the existing state of severe corruption continues the way it is, then it will lead to greater national and international instability, economic failure, increased poverty, and environmental collapse. In other words, this is simply not sustainable. Things must change soon or all that will bring things back to some semblance of sanity is a people’s revolution to demand the removal of all corrupt politicians, judges, military personnel, bankers, etc.
However, the citizens of India cannot be apathetic and remain blind or tolerant to this, if they ever expect to put an end to it. And, fortunately, they are starting to realize that if anything is going to change, it is up to them to do something about it because the corrupt elitists will only do whatever it takes, and in whatever way they know, to perpetuate their kind and their ways, which has not been to the good of the people or the planet. Not all, but many of these politicians and wealthy elitists, criminals actually, are really but demons in human form, living a pampered life at the expense of the many, and driving the uplifting spiritual culture of India into extinction. They care little for anyone but themselves and have no feelings of compassion or the propensity to uphold justice towards the people they are cheating. In that way, they are like insensitive reptiles while portraying themselves to be good and qualified public leaders.
Those in poverty in India often face a life and death struggle, where they have to make such decisions as whether to buy either medicine or food because there is not enough money for both. And even now those in poverty cannot afford certain foods, like dals, pulses, various fruits, and other foods that can provide necessary protein. The cost is too high for them. And, thus, malnutrition begins to affect an increasingly larger section of the population. So what does that say about the future potential of India?
The latest government statistics on food inflation in India says it went up by 18.3% in the Christmas week of 2010. Even a common Indian knows the relationship between corruption and food inflation. And at the time, the Agriculture Minister and his cohorts were making plenty of money through their speculation in food prices, bidding on them while knowing prices are going up, or even working with those who manipulate the fundamentals to make sure the prices go up. Plus, they are allowing essential commodities to be hoarded and exported while the vast majority of India’s children are going hungry every night. This is nothing but a repeat of the same crimes that the British did to the Indian population in the late 1800s, when they exported so much food back to Britain, or used it for their own military while the people in India starved. Because of this profit-making tactic of the thoughtless British, it is estimated that between one-third and one-half of the entire population of India at the time—at least 10 to 15 million people—died from the famine. If there was ever a crime against India and its people, this was one. And now, to whatever degree, it is being repeated by the elitist Indians against their own people.
At present, India has many multi-generational politicians who have become a caste unto themselves, making rules, or ignoring existing laws, in whatever way they choose in order to fill their own coffers at the expense of everyone else’s well-being. These politicians and similar people suffer from a value disorder, which is the addiction to the rush or thrill of acquiring more power, more money, more property. They are addicted to it and cannot control their mind or senses. If this disease cannot be cured, then they should be put out of office and forced to serve prison time for their crimes against humanity.
Such a disease can only be cured or purged in society by having the proper training, especially while young and still growing up, in order to add the appropriate character building traits necessary to know what is a decent and balanced human being and how to be one.
THE CURE FOR THE PERVASIVE CORRUPTION
Naturally one of the first things people would say is that we have to vote out of office those culprits that cheat the people, and are engaged in so much corruption, and vote in those who really care, if we know who they are. But where do we find those politicians who will truly help society and lead properly?
Plus, we need to work with all others who have the same realization and vision for India’s future, and want to clean up the mess we are presently in. For this to happen, people need to be aware of what is really happening and who is responsible. They need to be educated in how the corruption takes place. Therefore, ongoing meetings should provide this information.
Then there is a need of transparency and accountability in all government activities. For this to happen, we need a total constitutional reform. It is time for the majority to unite, to value the cultural tradition of India, or at least what is left of it, and take appropriate legal action to restructure the political and judicial system and eradicate the incompetence and treachery that seems to pervade so much of India.
However, let us remember that, although necessary, these are all short term solutions. But there also has to be a long term plan to cure these previously mentioned criminal tendencies in people and create a positive effect throughout society that would make a change that would last for generations.
As I said earlier, I am often asked when I am in India what to do about all of this corruption. I always answered that the best thing that I know of is to continue to teach the ethical and moralistic standards as found in Vedic Dharma. Fortunately for me, this was reaffirmed while I was in Bangalore with my visit with the eminent M. Rama Jois, the retired Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. He told me that this was indeed the best way to relieve the country of all the corruption that we see, but he explained the best means to do that.
M. Rama Jois told me that before the independence of India in 1947, there used to be government pre-schools where the children would go to learn, not necessarily how to read and write, but about the basic rules of Dharma. Then the children would also hear of the examples of Dharma from the great epics, like the Mahabharata and Ramayana or Puranas, and about those great heroes who acted in various situations under the rules of Dharma. This way, before the children ever went to general school to learn reading and writing, etc., they were already educated in the proper content of character to know how to act as a proper human being, and know how to judge what is right or wrong in the various situations of life.
Unfortunately, it was after 1947 when the new administration of independent India decided that learning the ethics of Dharma was religious study, and that the new secular government could no longer support such pre-schools. Thus, all such education of basic moralistic principles under Dharma were no longer to be taught in the schools of India. And since that time, the materialistic selfishness, greed, and the insensitivity to the situation of others for the benefit of oneself, have all increased to the point where now it is almost all-pervasive.
As M. Rama Jois explains in his book Dharma: The Global Ethic, “All our present day problems are a direct result of disregarding Dharma, under the influence of a materialistic philosophy, in the belief that it alone can usher in happiness and secure the welfare of the people. Now it is becoming clear that human problems increase as we go on multiplying our lust and desire for material wealth and pleasure, and that the solution to all the problems, whether they be social, economic or political, and in particular the crash of our moral edifice which the world and our nation are facing, is Dharma alone. There is no alternative to Dharma. This is the eternal truth. This can be realized if we understand the real meaning of Dharma.”
So, what is Dharma? I have already written more extensively about this, but to put it simply, the Mahabharata (Shanti Parva, 109.9-11) says: “Dharma has been explained to be that which helps the upliftment of living beings. Therefore, that which ensures the welfare of living beings is surely Dharma. The learned rishis have declared that which sustains is Dharma.”
A little more clarity can also be provided by Madhavacharya, a Minister to Hakka and Bukka, founders of the Vijayanagar Empire, in his commentary on the Parashara Smriti: “Dharma is that which sustains and ensures progress and welfare of all in this world and eternal bliss in the next world. Dharma is promulgated in the form of commands (rules both positive and negative, Vidhi and Nishedha).”
The Mahabharata (Shanti Parva, 90.3) also says that “The proper function of the king [or any ruler or politician] is to rule according to Dharma and not to enjoy the luxuries of life.” Thus, a politician is not meant to take advantage of his position, but to execute his duties with the welfare of the people in mind, under the guidance of the rules of Dharma.
This means that Dharma is not the teaching of a religion, but it is the global ethical standard that we all need to learn. It is the very content that forms good character, proper intentions, the means for making fair and just decisions, and good and effective plans for our future.
The basic rules of Dharma, as explained in the Manu-samhita (10.63) are: “Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (not acquiring illegitimate wealth), Shoucham (purity), and Indriyanigraha (control of the senses) are, in brief, the common rules of Dharma for all classes of men.”
These are the Yamas and Niyamas, which also includes: Santosha–satisfaction or contentment of mind with what one has without undue endeavor; Tapas–voluntary austerity and tolerance in body, mind, and speech for a higher cause; Swadhyaya–self-analysis, introspection, scriptural research, and reflection to understand and perceive who and what is our real identity and how we are progressing; Ishwara-pranidhana–acceptance, devotion, and surrender to God, or the offering of the fruits of one’s actions to God; and Brahmacharya–following the eternal principle of Brahma, or the control of sensual passions in thought, word, and deed, particularly in the student stage of life.
Therefore, by learning these rules, how to apply them in all aspects of life, and by hearing the examples of the great souls in India’s history and great epics, a child would develop and build his character to be a truly strong, balanced and properly motivated individual who can continue to develop him or herself, and be a true contribution to the rest of society. When this kind of training is received at a young age, it can last for one’s whole life. This is what makes a difference in all aspects of society.
Training in Dharma, which is certainly at the heart of India’s Vedic tradition, can help provide for an orderly society. And an orderly society is the result and an expansion or incarnation of Dharma.
This leads us to understand that the real happiness and prosperity of any nation is directly proportional to the number of men of character it has produced. This is why it is in the interest of the state or government to supply the means by which all children can understand these principles through appropriate education.
Being trained in and understanding the principles of Dharma do not mean this is promoting a particular religion. It can still be considered secular training, and not going against the Indian constitution. The Yamas and Niyamas, or the codes of Dharma, are basic moralistic principles. Religion means a mode of worship of God by believers of a particular faith, and calling God by a certain name, or using a particular book and set of rituals. Religion actually divides or separates by its distinguishing characteristics between them, while Dharma unites by its unified code of conduct and seeing everyone equally. Dharma can be applied to all human beings. Thus, it sustains and harmonizes society, it does not create conflict. After all, regardless of whatever our theological beliefs may be, we can all agree on the need for kindness and honesty, self-control, compassion and respect for one another, and the need for fellowship in society to maintain harmony and cooperation, and the ways to establish these things. And the Yamas and Niyamas are merely codes of conduct to follow that will help everyone develop this content to their character.
Even in places like America, it has been reported that over 60% of hapless Indian parents in metropolitan U.S. cities are aghast and powerless to the decadent metamorphosis of cultural changes in their children. This is especially noticeable in teenagers and the increase in behavior abnormalities, such as rudeness, rowdiness, disobedience, disparaging elders, and vulgarity and profanity in the language. There is also the deviance from traditional norms, a rise in selfishness, and little reciprocation for favors shown to them.
However, such traits are also increasing in India. We are finding a rise in rebelliousness, lack of respect, an increase in the use of drugs and alcohol with both boys and girls, both of whom also show a higher tendency for premarital sex, which has given rise to abortions and later divorces. The traditional Dharmic culture of India is becoming lost, and the balance and harmony that once accompanied it is also becoming a thing of the past.
Presently, humans are acting inhumanly, even using what should be blessings in the form of modern scientific knowledge and technological advancement against each other. Why? Because human beings have not been educated in the simple moralistic knowledge that provides the reasons and ways to exercise control over the mind, speech, and bodily activities, and not to inflict injury on others because of selfish motives. The point is that this is the most fundamental education that is meant to be imparted to all individuals right from their childhood. It is this education by which human beings develop the capacity and the reasons for controlling the mind, speech and actions. It is through this understanding that a person can realize that even though one might satisfy their greed or desire by indulging in illegal or immoral acts, and may secure a momentary enjoyment or thrill, but he will also cause deep trouble for himself and lose mental peace and real happiness.
Therefore, it is this education that again needs to be offered and supplied to young students in India. This can be done by the government re-establishing the pre-schools, as previously mentioned, to teach the principles of Dharma. Or, as I have seen on my 2010 trip to India, through a grassroots effort of individuals, or husband and wife teams who give such classes on Dharma to the children of their neighbors or friends on weekends, such as Sunday mornings, they begin to influence each child who attends. This is very effective and will have long range results. Thus, everyone can do something. But people should team up and work together to make this possible and duplicate these methods that are successfully used in order to expand this process all across the country. They should also work with those honest and reputable politicians to help again establish such pre-schools throughout the nation so that gradually India can again return to being a country where corruption is not so pervasive. Then the character of the country will reflect the content of the character of the people who inhabit it.
Of course, there will be those cynics, those critics who will say that this is all too idealistic. But what other true options are there? It is either this, or let the country continue to become more hellish with each successive generation that has less and less knowledge or respect for Dharma and its universal code of ethics.
Therefore, the solution is through the education of the principles of Dharma that one adds to the content of one’s character, by which the person knows how to live a useful, purposeful and honest life which can give him real happiness and enable him to devote his time, energy and talents to the service of other human beings in a productive manner, and prevent him from exploiting others for selfish interests. Thus, the more such individuals populate the country, the more the whole nation will also uplift itself with a positive future.
[This article is available from www.stephen-knapp.com]