Can we eradicate corruption? Yes We Can!

In my post ‘Parenting by example’ on July 13, 2013, I had written about how parents consciously or unconsciously inculcate good or bad values in their children. I have also seen how strongly organisation culture influences the behaviour of individuals.

In many companies, employees who undertake outstation travel for work are reimbursed conveyance and travelling expenses in a manner that enables them to claim more than they actually spend. Thus, the employees get ‘tax-free income’. In fact, this ‘tax-free income’ is taken into account while negotiating salary packages, particularly in case of sales and service personnel.

This system is so widespread that most people do not even consider it unethical. In fact, about 2 years back, there were reports that a prominent anti-corruption crusader had claimed inflated travel expenses from some organisations for attending programmes conducted by them. In some cases, Business Class fare was claimed when actually flying Economy. In some other cases, full fare was claimed even though discounted fare tickets had been booked. This was not denied, but it was explained that the ‘savings’ were used not by the individual, but for the benefit of the crusader’s NGO. I personally believe the explanation given by this person, but can you blame people if they say this is just a ‘story’?

A few years back, I was part of the senior management of a start-up. We had decided that we would conduct all aspects of the business in an ethical manner. Among other things, this meant the company’s employees would not get ‘tax-free income’ from conveyance and travelling expenses. Obviously, we offered compensation packages that were higher than the rest of the industry to make up for the loss of this ‘tax-free income’.

This had a very positive effect on all employees. Since the management was totally transparent in all other matters as well, the transparency was reciprocated by the employees. How transparent, one may ask?

PS, our Service Manager had to undergo 2 weeks’ training at a manufacturer’s factory in Taiwan. We had booked a room for him in the hotel where all visitors to that factory usually stayed. On the first day of his training, PS informed me that the manufacturer’s Sales Manager, a bachelor living alone in a 2-bedroom apartment, had invited PS to stay with him since he had a spare bedroom. PS was keen to accept since this would save our company the hotel expenses for the remaining 12 days, but he wanted to know if I had any objection to such an arrangement. After ascertaining from him that this arrangement had been initiated by his host, and that the spare bedroom was properly furnished, I replied that I had no objection. I also made it very clear to him that, while I fully appreciated his desire to reduce our company’s expenses, I would be extremely upset if he compromised on his food expenses during his visit.

There was no need for PS to do what he had done. He personally did not gain one paisa. Why did he do it? Because of organisation culture!

What is the ‘culture’ of the ‘organisation’ called India? What can be the ‘culture’ of a country where people think that most of their ‘leaders’ are corrupt?

Can we change this ‘culture’? I believe we can. If many, many of us believe we can, and if we work hard and work persistently, we can surely make it happen! What was achieved in one Indian organisation can be achieved in the entire country. Yes We Can!

A word of caution: many people believe that the nation will undergo a transformation the moment Narendra Modi becomes Prime Minister in 2014. Many others believe that will happen the moment Rahul Gandhi becomes PM. Many, many others believe that will happen the moment Aam Aadmi Party comes to power. Frankly, all are living in fools’ paradise. The government and the PM do have an important role to play, but any transformation in our nation is possible only if we, the people of India, change for the better.

Related post:
Corrupt Politicians in the land of Clean Citizens?

Outsiders in their own land?

“Hey, China!”

My guest and I looked up to find that the Captain had summoned Max, the waiter who had served us. We continued our meal.

After we finished the main course, Max came to take our orders for dessert. I asked Max why the Captain had addressed him as China. “All the people here call me China because I’m from Manipur,” he replied.

“Don’t they know Manipur is in India?” I asked. “They know, but they still call me China,” he replied sadly.

“Why don’t you complain to the Manager?” I asked. “I don’t want to lose my job. Some months back, another waiter had complained about this. The Manager told him that it’s his personal matter. But the others got to know that he had complained about them. They harassed him so badly that he had to leave his job. That’s why I’m not complaining to the Manager.

“This job is very convenient for me. I study in the Catering College. I work here from 7 pm to midnight on week days and from 10 am to midnight on weekends and holidays. The salary pays for my room rent, food and all other expenses. I want to reduce the financial burden on my parents, so I tolerate their insult even though I feel very bad about it.”

To cheer him up, I asked, “Isn’t Mary Kom also from Manipur?” His face brightened. “Yes, she’s from Manipur. When she won her Bronze Medal in the Olympics, all these guys cheered and clapped for her. For them, she is Indian, but I’m a foreigner!”

Under normal circumstances, I would have complained about such a matter, but I decided not to. I felt miserable about it, but that’s how Max wanted it.

As we were leaving, the Captain was deferentially leading a group of foreigners to their table!

Atithi Devo Bhavah! A guest, foreign or Indian, is treated as God. Why do we make some of our own compatriots feel unwanted in their own country?

Can we not make every Indian feel that he/she is an equal citizen of our country? Yes We Can!

No need to recreate the Ramayana or The Bhagwad Geeta!

“Expecting this to happen in India is like expecting Ramayana or The Bhagwad Geeta to be recreated.”

This was the opening remark of an email forwarded to me by a friend on Tuesday.

The email reproduced an article, First Among Equals: True Democracy in Action by Dr. Jogishwar Singh, a Swiss citizen born in India, in which he highlights a report on Swiss TV, which showed the Swiss President, Mr Ueli Maurer leaving on a five day state visit to China. The President arrived at Zürich airport like any other passenger in a private vehicle, carried his bags to the check-in counter and checked in like any other passenger without any special treatment. Only two other persons were seen walking behind him.

Dr. Singh, a former IAS officer, adds, “I was so struck by the contrast between what I had experienced in India and what I was seeing on the TV screen that I told my wife that this represented one of the finest examples of democracy for me, certainly of the Swiss variety. It made me proud to be the citizen of a country where the serving President behaves like an ordinary citizen and does not feel the need to consider special privileged treatment as his divine birthright.”

After describing various instances of exemplary behaviour by Swiss politicians and disgusting behaviour by Indian politicians and officials, Dr. Singh concludes:
“Each such incident deepens my gratitude to Waheguru Almighty for having made me settle down in a country like Switzerland where the President carries his own bags to the check-in counter. …….

I might accept India as a true democracy the day I see its President or Prime Minister behaving like the Swiss President before his departure on an official visit abroad.

I don’t think I will ever see such a sight in India during my lifetime.

You think, maybe, my grandchildren will?”

***

I replied to the sender of the original email:
“Dr. Singh says, “I don’t think I will ever see such a sight in India during my lifetime. You think, maybe, my grandchildren will?”

You have said, “Expecting this to happen in India is like expecting Ramayana or The Bhagwad Geeta to be recreated.”

I request Dr. Singh and you to read the following pieces about Manohar Parrikar, Chief Minister of Goa:

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/parrikars-austere-ways/article2976900.ece

http://www.funonthenet.in/forums/index.php?topic=233646.0

If you want to read more, please Google ‘Manohar Parrikar simplicity’.

Whatever happens in Switzerland can happen in India as well. This is exactly what I’ve written in my blogpost ‘Yes We Can!‘.

I cannot compel you to do so, but it would be nice if you forward my email to all those to whom you sent your original email so that they know that there’s no need to recreate the Ramayana, Mahabharata or Bhagwad Geeta!”

The gentleman graciously forwarded my email to all the recipients of his original email with the following comment:

“’Expecting this to happen in India is like expecting Ramayana or The Bhagwad Geeta to be recreated’ was the comment I had made in the mail that I forwarded to all of you about the Swiss Presidents who move about like simple common people.

I have received several responses from a few of my E-mail contacts correcting me on this as we have the Chief Minister of GOA who also does the same. Attached is one of the mails received for all to read.”

***

I had used the same content (with minor changes) to post a Comment on the article at sikhchic.com, but the same has not been published even after 36 hours, even though another Comment posted the next day has been published.

***

I fully agree with Dr. Singh and all others that most politicians in India, in fact most persons in any position of power expect to be treated like demi-gods and are treated like demi-gods. However, the situation has already started changing, albeit in a very small way. Manohar Parrikar may be one of the few exceptions today, but people like him can become the norm.  If we all decide to do away with VIP culture, people like Manohar Parrikar will become the norm.

Can we do it? Yes We Can!

Yes We Can!

spicysaturday[1]HSK was thrilled! That morning, the HR Head had given him the letter, signed by the Managing Director himself, informing him that, in view of his excellent performance during the probation period, his appointment as Design Engineer had been confirmed!!

He was engrossed in his work when, a few minutes before noon, the MD entered the Design Department, looking very stern, and walked up to his table. “Good morning, HSK. I’m extremely upset with you,” he said. HSK was confused. The MD had signed his confirmation letter only yesterday. What had happened today? Why was the MD upset? Before he could say anything, the MD grinned and said, “This morning you received your confirmation letter signed by me, and you have not bothered to invite me for a celebration! Never mind, young man! I’ll invite you. Come on, let’s go out for lunch!”

HSK was on top of the world! He was sitting in the passenger seat of the MD’s BMW, while the MD was driving. The MD was like a king in this small city. The economy of the city revolved around his company. It was said that at least one member of almost every family in the city was employed by the company or its suppliers.

They were driving towards the exclusive multi-cuisine restaurant on the other side of the city. As they neared a junction, the traffic light changed from green to red. The MD applied brakes and brought the car to a halt.

A middle-aged traffic constable walked towards them. The MD turned down the window. “Good day, sir. Your car has overshot by about 6 inches. I’m afraid I’ll have to collect a fine,” the constable said. HSK was shocked! Was the constable insane? Didn’t he know whom he was talking to?

HSK got a bigger shock when he heard his MD reply, “That’s right, constable.” He opened his wallet, counted the money and gave it to the constable. The constable gave him the receipt.

HSK pinched himself to confirm that it wasn’t a dream!

***

This wasn’t a dream. It is a true incident that happened in Switzerland about 50 years back, narrated to me by HSK.

Can this ever happen in India? I believe it can. If many, many of us believe it can, and if we work hard and work persistently, we can surely make it happen! If it can happen in Switzerland, why can’t it happen in India?