Integrity must be part of our lives

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate.

March 14, 2011

By Richard Rekhy

Accountability in the corporate wo­rld is on an all-time high. Governments all over the world have responded swiftly to corporate scandals and have br­ought in or have made efforts to bring in changes in regulation. The Enron scandal led to Sarbanes-Oxley and closer ho­me, Satyam was the big sh­ock that led to many deliberations about corporate governance. The new Companies Bill attempts to raise the standards of governance in the corporate world. The governm­ent’s interest in governance is understandable. Indian companies have a position of eminence in the global business community because geographic boundar­ies are melting. It was only recently that India Inc stood tall at the World Economic Forum at Davos. But today, discomfort arises in the country. Whatever changes we may bring about in the corporate world, the blemished image of India as a corrupt nation continues to haunt us. As an advocate of individual integrity, who considers a corrupt environment a very poor excuse for capitulation, even I believe that the business community cannot remain impervious to its ecosystem. And let us admit today that the ecosystem in India is nothing to be proud of. You hear of scams, investigation, but no convictions. Enforcement is weak.
The government changed economic policies but did not look at the way the institutions are run. The systems and processes that run this country need to be totally overhauled and reflect a modern India. These are dino­sa­urs in an era of iPads. No wonder, India is rated very high on the corruption index and is considered as one of the most difficult place to set up businesses. How can a country th­at aims to grow and be a global economic power allow and tolerate this?

Our entire institutional ecosystem has to play a catch-up game with the state of the economy today. The world has moved on, yet we are trapped in a number of archaic laws, which we may not need any more. While again, on the corporate side, the government has been active and changes are being made to corporate laws, accounting and tax framework; the government has failed to take a hard look at itself and the institutions that supposedly operate the governance framework of this country. The recent events clearly elucidate that unless change is brought about, our institutions will crumble and die at the hands of individuals who can’t think beyond their own interests and for whom integrity is an alien subject. The government could make a start by at least trying to achieve operational efficiency in the present set up and fix accountability.

It could start for example by emulating the corporate world in its recruitment policies. One fails to understand how people with questionable antecedents get leading positions in public institutions. Efficiency, acco­un­tability, integrity — key words in a business institution — do not find a place in the running of public organisations. Why are parameters of judgement different for corporate and government entities and why are we a silent spectator to all this?

Take for example, when you go to buy an expensive item, you are asked for an identity proof if you pay by credit card, even though your picture is on the card.

One is informed that some archaic agency said it is required. Why? Pay by cash and no questions are asked. Are we a banana republic? In this country, where you pay high taxes, even though your only source is salary, you will be questioned and harassed, wh­ile the people who pay no ta­xes are asked no questions. Is it a crime to pay high taxes? I think someone needs to answer these questions.

Is it time to wake up and look at new India, or do we continue to live in a Bharat that is dark and devious and unable to break its shackles? There is no use for political leaders mouthing words like affirmative action and honesty, when the policies, which run the country, do not allow this to happen.

In the words of Elattu­valapil Sreedharan, “The De­lhi Metro is an example for the politicians of what the professionals can do if they are given a free hand.”

The Delhi Metro project defies every stereotype of a public project. In a country where projects are delayed and budgets busted, the Delhi Metro has the reputation of finishing on schedule and wi­thin its budget, and all due to the fearlessness and incorruptibility of the man who heads it.

Why is it that as a nation, we accept incompetence, inefficiency and corruption when it comes to our public institutions? What is it in our psyche that makes us allow corruption and dishonesty to be a part of our lives? In the words of Martin Luther King Jr, “He who accepts evil without protesting against it, is really cooperating with it. He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.” A mutiny in the collective conscience of the nation is required to make the government sit up and notice and realise that we want a change.

A strong political will is required today, lest history remembers us as the nation that had all the potential but failed to make it.

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