A few days ago, I was interacting with a group of college-going youngsters and the conversation drifted to corruption and the challenges that these young people were facing. One of them was lamenting how she had to pay a bribe to a policeman for not wearing a helmet. This young girl was rightfully outraged that she was asked for a bribe from someone she believed should play his dutiful role of protecting the law rather than subverting it. On probing further, I also came to know that she was just 17. It had not occurred to her that driving a two-wheeler without a license or not wearing a helmet was as much about breaking the law as the policeman asking for a bribe to condone her helmetless driving. What saddened me was the fact that this young person could get so angry with the policeman but not with herself for breaking the law or with her parents who facilitated her breaking the law by giving her a two-wheeler to drive even before she was eligible to do so. Though this may sound like an isolated example, most of the people today have either willingly or unwittingly got co-opted into the corruption that is prevailing all around us. We have all learnt that honesty is only a matter of convenience and we need to be ‘accommodative’ and ‘adjust’ to the situation around us. Whether it is not taking a bill after every purchase we make, or not buying the bus ticket or not following the zoning and offset laws when we build a house – we are all conveniently honest or conveniently corrupt depending on whether the situation is in our favour or not. Against this backdrop seems to be the observation of the Anti-Corruption Day on the 9th of December every year. Going beyond the ritualistic observation of this day, can we pause, introspect and understand the challenges that corruption poses and how each one of us as ordinary people can meet this challenge?
Being engaged for more than two decades in fighting this scourge of corruption has left me with the conviction that no amount of legislation or its enforcement can bring about a ‘corruption-free’ society. I am of the opinion that we should not be fighting ‘against’ something but instead spend our energies on fighting ‘for’ something. What I mean is that our energies would be better spent if we fought for good governance and transparency instead of fighting against corruption. A positive construct is not just semantic, but a strong expression of our own beliefs and value systems. And more than that, this would also be more practical and achievable. A simple way to begin is to TAP into our own inner selves in beginning this battle for a better and cleaner society. We need to bring in TAP into every action in our daily lives – whether it is personal, familial, professional or societal. Only when we bring in T-Transparency, A-Accountability and P-Participation into our lives can we make this extraordinary transformation. We need to understand that corruption is not limited to our politicians and bureaucrats alone. Most sections of society have become corrupt and the only way to fight it would be for every section of society to unitedly pledge to be transparent, accountable and participate in the change that all of us wish to see. Whether it is the common citizen, the trader, the petty official, the career bureaucrat, the corporate CEO or the politician – people of all hues and colour, of all walks of life and professions need to join hands and become transparent in all their dealings, be accountable to themselves and to society at large and finally participate and take the responsibility as enlightened citizens in every action that impacts our lives.
This is not something that is utopian and impractical – each one of us can do it and we need to do it now. This needs no legislation but the simple will to be a part of the change that can transform us individually and as a nation. Come, join hands with us in this simple but extraordinary movement.