Corruption Is The Complete Loss Of Purpose- Bribery Only A Symptom

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The first week of November is termed the Vigilance Awareness Week by the Central Vigilance Commission. This year their theme is to eradicate corruption. 

A public sector undertaking called me to address their senior staff on the occasion. Corruption is a topic that is usually discussed only in terms of examples. The problem with examples is they are usually stories of just the symptoms, calling out loud for attention.

Examples usually address the symptom by replacing people. Even if people are replaced or symptoms are addressed, the problem often stares back at us and usually more viciously a few years later.

We rarely, if ever, make efforts to understand what the problem really is.

The Prevention of Corruption Act describes as a punishable offence, the improper or dishonest performance for any consideration, of public duty. It does not make any other effort to define corruption.

Our idea of corruption, therefore, starts and ends with bribery. Bribes are a symptom, just as the resultant alteration in performance of the public official is a symptom.

How can you eradicate the disease you do not define or understand?

When a government creates “special purpose vehicles” with private parties or large projects to accelerate delivery of services it reacts to symptoms of failure to deliver public services. It ignores the purpose of the relationship between the people and their governments.

The purpose of the relationship is to protect public interest, or to ensure justice, dignity, liberty and equality are protected in every activity in the land. It is to protect the national interest, or the sovereign, socialist, democratic republic. We forget that neither public interest nor national interest are a good or a service delivered by private parties. They are the purpose of the relationship of people and their government.

When the government or people lose this purpose to anything else, their relationship is corrupted.

When the Chief Justice of India highlights that over one thousand new cases are filed every week and seeks a solution for dealing with the huge backlog of cases, the symptom of backlogs is crying for attention. Focused on the symptom, we ignore the purpose of the relationship of those seeking justice and those meant to deliver it. Backlogs happen because the judicial system has forgotten that the purpose of the system is to deliver justice.

Justice is about restoring the balance of dignity, liberty and equality between the litigants, not the declaration of winners or losers. The purpose of the Justice System has been corrupted to become a procedure for litigating. That is exactly why the Supreme Court has one thousand new cases every month. 

When institution after institution excludes us from our relationship with them, for want of Aadhaar, we focus on the symptom of exclusion. We ignore the failures of our relationship with these institutions as the purposes of the relationship have been corrupted by the UIDAI that has chosen to colonise our relationships with these institutions.

When scam after scam fills the corporate world we react to the symptoms of frauds — the Mallya, the Modi, the Parthasathy. In our attention to the symptoms, we miss the corruption of the purpose of protecting public interest and national interest between us and our government.

It is the corruption of that purpose that results in every new scam.

When purposes become exploitative and parasitic, systems become corrupt. Corruption is, therefore, the transformation of symbiotic relationships to exploitative ones. It is when those who come together in a symbiotic relationship allow the relationship to turn exploitative or parasitic. It is when third parties, who have no role in the relationships, colonise the relationship altering its purpose.

Corruption is the loss of purpose. Corruption is when the short term interests of the participants swallows their Short Now — or one hundred yeas of the lifetime of a child born now.

Till we recognise the sacredness of symbiosis, we cannot eradicate corruption. To eradicate corruption we have to protect the purposes of our symbiotic relationships and destroy those that are exploitative and parasitic.


#All views expressed in this column are those of the Author and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them.


Anupam Saraph

Anupam Saraph

Dr. Anupam Saraph grew up in a Pune that was possibly a tenth of its current expanse and every road was lined by 200 year old trees. He’s committed to the cause of de-addicting the short-termers.

He can be reached @AnupamSaraph
Anupam Saraph