Controlling corruption

Controlling corruption

Multiple layers

Power corrupts. Corruption from times immemorial is imprinted deep in the minds of our people. There is nothing new in the corruption of our present politicians. Question is how did our civilisation manage to survive for 5,000 years despite such corruption?

The key, it seems to me, lay in the invigoration of multiple entities that were independent of the government. The king was not the anchor of the society in our tradition. He was accountable to the religious and professional organisations. No single institution was supreme. These other organisations used to exercise control over a tyrannical king.

The Puranas narrate story of King Vena. At one time there was anarchy in the society. There was no king. The people appointed Vena as king to establish rule of law. But Vena became a tyrant. Then the Brahmins killed him. The Brahmins were able to do this because their existence and power was independent of the king. There existed other independent entities as well.

Many of these exist today as well. First, there is entity of the village. People of a village or an area spontaneously get together and feel affinity with each other. People of Rajasthan and certain other areas, for example, have made their associations in Delhi. They meet occasionally. They can act collectively in times of need. Second, there is the religious entity. We have devotees that are connected with Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist and Christian religious leaders. Third, there are professional organisations. Workers have their trade unions, farmers and businessmen have their organisations, lawyers have their Bar Council, and so on.

Fourth, there is kinship or extended family or gotra. All persons of an extended family may collectively protect a member of their group from excesses by the politicians. Fifth, there are caste groups like those of Gurjars, Jats, SCs and OBCs. Sixth, there are political parties in opposition. Unlike the Lokpal, all these entities are independent of the government or the ruling politicians. These are not structurally dependent upon the politician for their existence. They can stand up to the tyranny of the politician if the need arises.

Baba Ramdev will not lose his entourage if he stands up to the state. The government cannot succeed even in banning his outfit. Such outfits quickly regroup in another name if banned. Indira Gandhi banned the RSS during the Emergency but could not kill its existence. The present government has banned SIMI to no avail. The independent existence of these entities enables them to stand up to the tyranny of the government.

This is the secret of continued existence of the Indian civilisation for more than five millennia. Decadence of the government, such as that of Ravana or Kamsa, did not lead to the collapse of the society. People regrouped under the banner of these independent entities and survived.

Primacy of govts

The western society does not recognise any entity other than the state — almost. Only the Church gets one-half the recognition. It too has accepted the suzerainty of the government. The western civilisation is wholly revolving around the government. It collapses if the government becomes corrupt. Greece and Rome collapsed under the weight of such tyrants. They failed to create other independent entities that would hold the society together in event of a degeneration of the government. This is why the British and American societies are in decline today. They do not have independent entities that could control the materialism and consumerism being promoted by the government.

Our constitutional forefathers made a critical mistake. They were taken aback by the decadence of the caste system and rightly tried to eliminate it. But they eliminated all other independent entities in the same sweep. Our constitution gives no recognition to entities made around the village, region, religion and kinship. Only professional organisations and political parties have got one-half existence. I say one-half because they are bound by the law made by the government.

After having eliminated the independent entities like those of kinship and religion, we are now thinking that subordinate institutions like that of the Lokpal, Lokayukta, courts, CBI or Comptroller and Auditor General will control the government! Having removed the policeman from the street crossing, we are thinking that the conductor will control the errant bus driver. We are forgetting that an independent entity alone can control the government. I believe this to be impossible. These institutions are headed by individuals appointed by the politicians. Why would they appoint a person who would check their own excesses? To expect one arm of the corrupt government to check corruption of another arm of the same government is like expecting a thief to control theft by another thief.

All are equal before the law, it is said. However, only a façade of equality can be created between the bully and the lame. It is like telling them that they have equal right to pluck fruits from the tree. Obviously the bully will get the fruit and the lame will get only the leftovers. The poor cannot, therefore, be protected by law.

It is my experience that the law intervenes in favour of the poor only when there is a higher authority that is so interested. The law, for example, can ensure that the poor get jobs under MNREGA because the politicians so desire. Only other entities that exist independent of government patronage can protect the people from tyranny of the government. We must invigorate and strengthen these multiple independent entities. That alone will help control tyranny of the government.