Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | August 22, 2011

Yet another watch-dog?

In India the root cause of corruption is too much of government control in our lives. If you think deep, you would realise that more you control the more room you provide for leakages. Since our independence, we thus have erected a system which gave immense power to subsequent government to determine the most important things in our life. The governments kept changing but the consensus of keeping the concentration of power in the hands of the government (or its cronies) remained.

Wonder whether it makes sense to erect another institute which is more powerful than government and has got non-elected representative, operating as a watch-dog by blackmailing and threats? If we could not prevent the existing institutions depoliticised, how do we plan to keep the suggested institution unbiased? Further, why are Indians rather than committing to not being corrupt want an insitute to rule above them? In today’s world the thought is really weird.

We seem to have made a habit of giving into mob-frenzy only because we consider we don’t have enough choice. I wonder how would the entire Bollywood and people in Delhi would react if Anna resorts to his movement on alcohol prohibition ! Beat anyone up who does not shun alcohol. Anna scares me. Simply cannot support his method.

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Responses

  1. Just one question for now, Tanmoy, with reference to your very first line: do you think cheating in exams, job-shirking, offering schoolteachers gratification for ‘grace marks’, demanding dowries and greasing the policeman’s palm when caught driving illegally instead of going to court – to take just five very common everyday examples of corruption – are all due to ‘too much government control on our lives’? I hope you will answer promptly. I am really worried that so many people think this way.

  2. No Suvroda. Certainly not. It is caused due to our degrading morality. However, I do feel if for long our choices were not restricted through license raj, a faulty distribution system, moral policing on our films and literature, bad salaries nurturing middle-class poverty, price control, lack of tax on agriculture for political gains – who knows the life could have been corruption free. Social and political systems worked hand-in-hand and have created such a murky situation that it is difficult to isolate them from each other. A student cheats because he sees unless he cheats he cannot move up the ladder as he is invariably studying something which he does not want to, a person shirks in his job because he knew for long he would not be sacked if he does not perform, dowry was a disgusting menace which remained because our under-paid police (a state institute) saw more money in retaining the custom than help catch the culprits.

    In no way I am shying away from the responsibility of the people but I do feel tremendous control for nearly 60 years have perpetually eroded our ability to work hard towards a solution. A bit of freedom brings about a sense of responsibility.

  3. I worry, Tanmoy, and I hope you understand why. Manmohan Singh’s reforms, beginning 1991, have removed a great amount of state control in many spheres, and today the media is screaming that we are living in more corrupt times than ever before. Not every country responds to freedom by making good use of it! As a teacher, I feel very strongly about cheating, since I and quite a few of my students have managed to do well without ever cheating; in the medical sphere, withdrawal of state support has led to the most rapacious fleecing of the public, as virtually everybody agrees; in a country where there really was serious control, either by the state or directly by the employers, job-shirking could not be so rampant, so how can less control be the solution? As for dowry, how many honest policemen would you need (and could you get) in a society where most people tacitly support it? And nowhere in the world is the police very highly paid – how is it then that it is much more difficult to bribe policemen in some places than here? Today public sector employees are far better paid even in real terms than in the 1980s, yet nobody is claiming that their work ethic has remarkably improved: whatever little work they do they do only under severe compulsion (as DSP and DPL officers confess to me frequently). If get-rich-quick-the-shortest way is the maxim for everybody from a contractor to a headmaster, how can less government control make things better? I really think I need more illumination… I’m sure you understand something that I don’t.

  4. I understand and value what you say Suvroda. I would write to you in detail. Government is a tool created by people. It is as efficient as people are. It is as wise as people would want it to be. It is as honest as people would want it to be. If people don’t create a better system and vote for that system then we would always choose the best among the worst. THat is what we do always.

    1991 reforms were not initiated voluntarily. It was a necessity when we ended up spending every thing we had and we were forced to initiate reform to pull ourselves up. By then, our state schools were already rejected by most due to lack of infrastructure, the government hospitals were already in tremendous mess and we could not even control inflation as price control ensured that farmers remained poor and others remain poor too. Opening up did not solve every problem but it created competition. Only when ICICI Bank started operating, SBI employees started talking nicely to others. Do you remember those days when getting a telephone was so difficult. Now MTNL/BSNL is one of the most efficient organisation.

    There have been too many ills of liberalisation but there have been benefits too. I don’t think the failure of Government hospitals in providing proper care can be blamed to rise of expensive private hospitals. A normal person cannot get treatment in AIIMS (a govt hospital) because it is perpetually occupied by Government people and their relatives. We never ever gave chance to our farmers to get a price that the world market trades in. Why should our farmers miss out on good technology?

    Government control on everything meant more and more institutes prone to asking for bribes. I don’t like Anna’s movement. A movement such as this long back trusted upon us the bane of reservation. However, people like Anna are created by us and our systems. If our Government was restricted to provide basic services, law and order etc then I am sure we may have seen a bit of betterment. Subsequent Government for last 65 years have exploited the system and actually we are the ones who allowed that exploitation.

    Now we have no choice. My government even decides whether I should read Satanic verses or not. However, it cannot guarantee our safety if I read Satanic verses and riot on the streets.


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