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"Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in."
- Napoleon Bonaparte

Is Corruption the only way in Public Life?

There is anecdotal evidence that if there is no corruption, India’s GDP will add 3% to it’s annual growth rate & poverty will be a thing of the past in just 5 years.

Let’s not drool over these impossibilities as corruption is not going be removed completely from our country & society, but the larger question beckons –
Is Corruption the Only Way of being in Public Life?

Corruption is all pervasive in our society & daily lives.

Poor are forced to pay officials to get their entitlements but the same poor takes bribe money to pledge his vote. May be his poverty can be his excuse to take money for vote?

Middle class is forced to pay bribe for everything from driving license to land registration but he doesn’t think twice before bribing an official to get a plan sanctioned for an extra floor in his house or getting his house tax reduced. What is his excuse?

The Rich have resources & influence to get their job done bribing or otherwise & they march ahead to their destination of success without caring for the means used to reach there. Don’t care is their excuse?

An official uses the familiar excuse of being forced to collect the bribe to pay the higher-ups in officialdom and politicians. Helplessness is his excuse?

But how about politicians? Who forces them to be corrupt?

I have asked this awkward question to many of my politician friends, some of them sitting MLAs & MPs. First they are shocked to hear such a blunt question as they don’t expect this issue to be spoken about in open. But slowly they open up and start blaming the system, primarily the elections. They lament about the large sums of money they need to spend to buy their ticket from their respective parties and huge election expenses including the money & liquor to secure the votes of poor & slum dwellers.

But, is election the only reason that they are corrupt?
Aren’t there honest politicians? In fact, there are many honest politicians & they win their seats without bribing the party or the voters. Yes, their numbers are few.

The real reason for a politician to be corrupt is his greed, like any other human being.
Politics is their profession & the only means to make money. No doubt, they work hard to get votes and many are sincere too. But most politicians have no other qualification or work experience. Most never had a job nor did they earn money from any business or profession. In fact most ended up in politics as they couldn’t study or get employment. Politics is their only source of money & they need a lot of it. They can’t make it any other way but being corrupt as there is no legitimate way of making money in the profession of politics. Expecting them to live like saints in a materialistic society may be possible but not practical.

Hence, expecting current set of PROFESSIONAL POLITICIANS to become clean & reform the system is not going to happen. While tough laws against corruption will be a deterrent, they won’t root out the corruption from public life.

We need, as in other developed countries, Professionals, who have succeeded in their respective jobs, careers & businesses, to enter public life. They need to work for their community, city & state. They need to spend years working for common man to get the acceptability & recognition. Many do, some as activists & others as thinkers or NGOs. But most of them shy away from entering political fray for fear of unknown & murky world of politics. From among these, we need to identify & promote public figures who should eventually represent us in assemblies & parliament.

Let’s hope that this momentum against corruption leads us to think differently & engage in the matters of public interest & produce “Professionals as Politicians” instead of current “Professional Politicians”.

RK Misra

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