Sustainable Corruption

There has been a conversation on at LinkedIn about the top 3 priorities for India today. I have noticed that there are many who have sought to ‘remove corruption’. My statement might sound like a very radical approach bordering on impropriety; it will definitely destroy our moral stand: nevertheless here’s what –


Let’s accept that nature’s best creation is imperfect and we live in an ‘imperfect’ world of which every society is a subset. What becomes very interesting therefore is the concept of “SUSTAINABLE CORRUPTION”.

While we are busy blaming the ‘system’ and the powers that be – politicians for the Mumbai terrorist attacks, bureaucracy for their red tape, government for corruption … -, private enterprises are ruling the roost. They have created impregnable fortresses that ‘hide’ the real goings-on.

Simply being critical about the ‘system’, as is seen fashionable in intellectual circles today, without doing something about it is like a dog barking at a car. In my view it is equally the responsibility of each and every citizen – each one of us really – to do their mite in contributing our small efforts into effecting all the complementary changes needed. The key shift has to do with mindsets, attitudes, and a willingness to be a part of the change we’d like to see. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. Let’s not fault our bureaucracy without first understanding the complexities of India. I for one would never want to be in their shoes. Politicians, however, are a different matter. Thankfully their teeth are being blunted by the shift of power to the citizen. It isn’t a case of relinquishing power; rather that individuals have been empowered through access to information in real-time. The old power centres are crumbling on a daily basis. But besides the individuals and governments that comprise a society, there is an animal called the ‘Corporation‘ (if I remember it was outlawed in 1720 by the British Parliament precisely because it was a “recipe for corruption and scandal”) that is the most dangerous of all.

The headlines today are screaming about the Satyam scam. On 6th January, in Innovation 101 – How much is too much? I wrote the following. [Hell, why was I thinking this at the time?]

Attitudes, red tape and bureaucratic disposition of the corporate world [Did I know then that 2 days later Satyam would be a case in point?] are what have caused our misery. The more visible, but ’softer’ coloured tapes of the Government can be cut easily and we all know how. It is the private enterprise’s mercenary and holier than thou attitude – so beautifully cloaked in the marketing acronym CSR – enticingly rendered by their advertising agencies and transmitted through a co-conspiring media, that continues to silently erode the insides of society much like a cancer does to the human body. We are nearing terminal stages. Let’s grant it to our Corporates –  who take the word “Private” quite literally – that the quality of their red tape is infinitely stronger. It is fortified by their presumptuous superiority and composed of materials that cannot be cut through even by a laser knife.

Let me explain my scratch concept of  sustainable corruption through a sustainability example we all understand. When we look at the state of the environment, human excesses are what have caused unsustainability, if one can call it that. It is equally unsustainable to swing to the other extreme and prevent the use of wood since wood comes from trees. For example, if one were to use ‘plantation timber’ that, in any case, needs to be cut so that the soil can regenerate, wooden furniture would not necessarily be not a bad thing.

Same for corruption. So more than trying to remove corruption – which is impossible anyway – we need to figure out how much we can live with to keep society’s wheels turning.


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