Cleansing of conscience vital

DEMONETISATION CONUNDRUM : The need of the hour is honesty and integrity. You have to follow the dictates of your conscience, and think and act accord

The entire country has been going through a frenzy ever since the November 8 demonetisation of currency was set in motion. Money no doubt is a demon for has it not been rightly described as the root cause of all evil.

I am a retired English lecturer and do not know much about either politics or economics, I take them in the stride. I don’t evince much interest in all the modern technological gadgets and their multiple uses, beyond sending emails, browsing the internet for power point presentations for my classes and using social media only to stay connected with family and friends.

So things like Paytm and online transactions, RBI approved PPI Wallet and PCI — DSS compliant go over my head and am at a stage when I would rather lead a relaxed peaceful life than get sucked into the frenzy by trying to unlearn what I have known so far and starting to learn things all over again.

But let me begin with positives first. While there have been several governments and policies which have reached out to the poor and the weaker sections of society, like the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s much appreciated ‘Amma’ schemes, it is to the credit of the BJP government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that for the first time the rich have been taken by the horns in attempting to flush out black money.

By ‘the rich’ I do not mean the creamy rich like the Ambanis, Birlas or Tatas; or the tainted rich like Vijay Mallaya, Janardhana Reddy or Kalmadi  or the likes — but the educated and elite middle and upper middle class doctors and teachers, bankers and government officials, traders and small businessmen who seem now to be the main hoarders of black money. These are the bulls the government is trying to rein in.

But unfortunately, ‘Jallikattu’, the popular Tamil Nadu sport of taming the bull by its horns as a show of might and valour, seems to have gone awry with the bull running amok killing a few, maiming many others, leaving scores of bewildered, helpless spectators not knowing what to do and waiting for the next move. The outcome of the entire exercise is yet to be assessed and who will emerge the winner of ‘Jallikattu’ is still not clear.

Will it be the government for its bold decision or the poor and the needy who, rightfully speaking, should be the real beneficiaries and therefore the winners? Or will it be the country as a whole – a corruption-free, technologically-advanced, modern India with high standards of living for every citizen, shining as a role model to the rest of the world?

In Shakespearean terms, these are the stuff dreams are made of, but then you have to dream big to get big and nothing could be better for all of us if this dream becomes a reality. The ‘blood, tears, toil and sweat’ would have been worth it. Having said this much, the big question to be raised at this juncture is whether corruption and black money can be reined in by laws and rules and regulations alone? And similarly, can nationalism and patriotism also be instilled the same way?

Can people be forced to be honest and patriotic and should there not be a natural outpouring of these qualities from within based on character stren­gths like integrity and loyalty? It is really distressing to see that for every positive step taken towards eliminating black money and corruption there are unscru­pulous elements looking for loopholes to subvert and mangle the systems.

While corruption is rampant in other parts of the world too, India really takes the cake in this respect and we seem to need constant policing to monitor the urge within us to break the law on matters both big and small. Therefore, we do need laws, rules and regulations to control us. But this, I believe, is a short-term goal.

Long-term goal

Idealistic as it may sound, the long-term goal should be to build up character strengths within our people, a national character of integrity by inculcating a strong sense of right and wrong, and care and concern having in mind the national interest. Like the same spirit that pervaded the entire country from Kashmir to Kanyakumari at the time of our freedom struggle when we sought our own national identity, inspired by our leaders who set high standards of integrity and moral courage.

Psychologists have observed that the key to changing how we act and live is to change the attributes we possess. We often try to correct incorrect behaviour either through penalties or through restrictions when behaviour itself is not the actual problem.

Behaviour — or rather bad behaviour — is only the manifestation of something else that is lacking within or has not been properly inculcated. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “there are thousands hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root”.

The demonetisation policy is only hacking, not even lopping the branches of greed and black money. The root is character which needs to be nurtured and cultivated. Herein lies the role of educators and classrooms.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “there are 999 who believe in honesty for every honest man”. For the principle of honesty to really impact your life, it must become more than something you know what it is:  it must be something you are, an attribute you possess which does not need either reminders or monitors.

Demonetisation may be a good step towards cleaning up the monetary mess of the country, but simultaneously, there should also be a cleansing of our conscience — that depriving the country of the money that is meant for its development and exploiting your fellow citizens by selfishly hoarding money for yourself and your family is wrong.

The need of the hour is honesty and integrity in all walks of life. You just have to follow the dictates of your conscience and think and act accordingly.

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