Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Corruption’

(Non-statutory warning: Reading the article below could be injurious to readers’ mental health and leave them a wee bit depressed. Caution is advised.

The author is reasonably certain that this article is not an outcome of the kind of wholesome pessimism which is believed to envelope one in advancing age.)

There is a mood of despondency which descends upon my frail grey cells once in a while. Dark clouds which have gathered upon me are accompanied by sinister rumblings. Lightning streaks of a menacing kind keep lighting up the sky, duly followed by thunderous howls which pierce my ears. One peers into the future and one shudders to think of the kind of world one would leave behind for our progeny to live in. Tectonic plates of our society appear to be shifting, causing major upheavals.

No, one does not allude to the pandemic stalking us these days. Nor does one refer to such universal problems like global warming, economic disparities, widespread poverty and illiteracy etc. Instead, one refers here to tectonic plates of a different kind – the ones which impact our value systems, human values, social harmony, honesty, fairness and justice, norms of democracy, absence of truthful and factual information, materialistic progress, and the like.

Consider what is happening around us these days.

Some Ground Realities

The Lack of a Conscious Approach to Business Goals

Businesses continue to be driven by greed and avarice alone. Hapless CEOs have no other option but to keep delivering results from one quarter to the next.

There are no guarantees that Volkswagen will not soon come up with yet another technical trick to befool the regulators and its customers. Boeing may yet again secure approvals for launching a model which might put air passengers’ lives at risk. Financial scams will keep tumbling out of corporate closets at a standard frequency which might put an atomic clock to shame.

Think of rising inequalities. Consider a report presented by Oxfam at the January 2021 World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda, titled ‘The Inequality Virus’. It says that the 1,000 richest people on the planet recouped their Covid-19 losses within just nine months of 2020, whereas the world’s poorest could take up to a decade to recover from the pandemic induced setback. I am certain that philanthropic initiatives of the richest have not suddenly seen a proportionately higher uptick.

So, every crisis that humanity faces turns out to be an opportunity for the well endowed to amass greater wealth. Is this the kind of Materialistic and Unconscious Business model that we wish to continue following? Our answer would of course depend based on whether we are from the ‘haves’ side or the ‘have-nots’ side of the society.

The Monkey Business Called Politics

Probity and decency in the public life of our leaders is long since buried. Gone are the days when vibrant democracies needed a strong opposition to thrive. These days, even the President of a country can himself turn against the hallowed portals of democracy and send rampaging mobs braying for the blood of those out to declare him defeated in an election. In other words, it is one of those promotional offers – you vote in a President and get another one for free!

The aforesaid top boss’ term has revealed enormous gaps between the ideals of American democracy and the reality. Even before he exhorted his followers to attack the Capitol and the legislative branch of government, he ignored watchdog rulings and constitutional safeguards, pressed to overturn the outcome of an election, and pardoned those who covered for him, all the while funneling taxpayer dollars to his family business.

In yet another country, the main adversary runs the risk of not only being poisoned but also getting imprisoned on some ground or the other, while those in power brutally suppress dissent marked by men’s underwear and gold-painted toilet cleaning brushes.

World over, there is no dearth of leaders who have dictatorial ambitions but mask these well with democratic credentials. Speak of transparent political funding and all one gets is the silence of a tomb.

In yet another country, lies, obfuscation of facts and clever data management seem to have become a norm. Photo-ops, positive optics and feel-good media feed by devout followers keep the entire nation in thrall. Attempts to stifle dissent and to paint anyone not toeing the rulers’ line as unpatriotic continue unchecked. Getting offended by comments made by those living thousands of miles away appears to have become a national pastime. When a stand-up comedian speaks up, our clairvoyant nature allows us to guess what offending remark he is yet to make. Prompt legal action gets taken, nipping the intended mischief in the bud.

Building physical infrastructure is simply great. So is the drive to embrace technology to make life of a common man simpler. But when this comes at the cost of demolishing social harmony and making a democratic country free of any kind of opposition worth its while, the long term price of a ‘progress’ of this kind is rather high. I am not an economist, but I wonder if an economy can grow while the society itself is getting fragmented.

World over, quite a few governments have even used the pandemic as a cover to suppress dissent and cut short processes to introduce laws of an unpopular kind. In the process, their soft power is bound to dive down.

The Rudderless Social (and Anti-Social) Media

During 2020, in India, when our northern neighbour had encroached upon our land, and when the media should have been doling out useful health tips for people to stay safe in the midst of a pandemic, the only ‘breaking news’ was the suspected suicide of a Bollywood actor and the activities of his girl friend.

Social media, duly backed by smart algorithms, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, keeps shaping our thought processes, our choices, our preferences, our perceptions and our beliefs. We are already living in a fish bowl where the law makers as well as the private players are hands in glove to sell detailed information about us to the highest bidder. Privacy concerns and personal liberties be damned. Pretty soon, it may happen that government support is available only to those who have a pro-government presence on various media platforms.

The whole idea is perhaps to help a lay person evolve into a dumb chum of the first order, unable to use his own judgement in matters of public importance; essentially, to numb the person’s grey cells. In other words, we all become zombies (or jack asses, if you prefer) of the first order.

Little do we realize that there are no free lunches in life. Any service available to us free of cost over the world-wide-web we have spun around ourselves only means that ‘We, the People’ are the product on sale!

If our social media czars do not come up with a realistic code of conduct for themselves soon enough, governments, to salvage their public image, may soon have to start dishing out harsher laws.

Perhaps, one of the czars will soon set up an academy to groom many of our whizz kids into becoming ethical hackers and algorithm developers.

Neglecting Half of the Homo Sapiens

If they stay at home, their contribution to society is never even acknowledged. Rather, it is taken for granted. If they venture out of their home and hearth, lustful gazes disrobe them mentally. If they get violated, they only have to take the rap. In war zones, they are the instruments used to inflict deep wounds on the psyche of the other.

Yes, I refer to the tribe of the so-called delicately nurtured. They are the ones upon whom Mother Nature has conferred the unique capacity of keeping our civilization alive and ticking. They may be as tough as nails and proving themselves to be better than the so-called sterner sex in all fields of human endeavour. A fact which was reinforced yet again when a deadly pandemic arrived at our doorsteps. In public, they may get put on a pedestal and revered. But in private, they often get treated like a doormat, treated as mere objects, only to be used and abused.

Doting lover boys, upon metamorphosing into husbands, often shed their chivalrous masks and start behaving like dictators. If a family breaks up owing to mistreatment, ridicule, abuse and violence at the hands of their husbands, it is the lady of the house alone who gets the entire blame – for being obstinate and uncompromising. The general view is that she is a gold digger of sorts.

Such a patriarchal mindset is not an exclusive prerogative of the poor alone. Nor does it respect geographical boundaries. Education levels also do not make much of a difference. Take couples across different countries, economic status and education level and one is apt to find this to be a universal phenomenon. The Chivalry Quotient may vary across all these parameters, but a singular shortage of preux chevaliers is felt all over our planet. Religious beliefs and even some spiritual tenets reinforce such derogatory views.

In respect of the legal framework, our experience in India has been a mixed one. The females have learnt the art of terrorizing their husbands and their families by foisting cases of imagined harassment, with the sole aim of securing better settlements while seeking divorce. Surely, the training in chivalry truly begins at home – either in the kitchen or at the dining table. Laws can play only a limited role.

The tectonic shift taking place here is that of divorce rates going up and couples preferring to remain friends with perks. Upwardly mobile wives who can stand on their own feet detest drawing husbands who refuse to wear skirts and help out with domestic chores. Once the family structure crumbles, there is a higher probability of the value system of the next generation going for a toss.

The Silence of the Lambs

In many of the issues brought out above, are we ourselves not responsible for the mess that we are in? The silence of our intellectuals, the self-centredness and public apathy of the middle class which more or less upholds values in society and the mute surrender of the common man – are these not some of the factors which have enabled this situation to have come about?

Many years back, I vaguely recall having read a satirical story in Hindi, written by a well known humourist in the language, Hari Shankar Parsai. A herd of lambs is made to believe that few wily foxes alone can solve all their problems. Pretty soon, foxes get voted in. One fine day, a ruling comes that to save the ruling foxes, some sheep should voluntarily surrender to be sacrificed each day so the patriotic fervour is kept alive and the nation is run effectively!

I am not a political science buff. Thus, I am not qualified to say if democracy as a model of governance is failing us. But one of its enabling factors is the presence of conscious leaders who are not shameless and still have traces of humility, empathy, decency and a concern for genuine overall good.

With No Malice towards Anyone  

Educated youth who have no means of earning a living, will they not have a raw anger simmering within them? Will the poorer lot not take a jaundiced view of grand government schemes the benefits of which do not reach them?

Perhaps there is a feeling of helplessness within them. Perhaps they have dollops of patience.  May be they realize that they are too small to bring about any change and feel it is better to accept things as they are and continue wallowing in misery and self-pity, blaming God for all their troubles.

But is a meek acceptance of murkier developments in the world around us a better approach? Can we not dissipate the seething anger within by at least saying what we find to be reproachable? Can we not break our silence of the lambs and speak up?

With Whom Does the Buck Stop?!

Are we ourselves not a part of the problem? Why have we, reasonably educated and rather wise people, decided to outsource our thinking processes and have instead opted to become zombies?!

Do we not keep patronizing companies even we know they have been cheating in the past? Are we not the ones who get swayed by propaganda and cast a vote for a particular party or a particular leader? Do we ever boycott a media outlet which acts as a mouth piece of those in power?

If we are addicted to, say, WhatsApp or Facebook, can we really blame their inventors for the issues that we face? Don’t we find it convenient to remain in touch with our friends and family members through these platforms?

When we notice a female being harassed, are we not likely to look the other way? Is the onus of ‘adjusting’ not always put on the female? Can we take a pause before we make a victim the facilitator of a crime?

Overall, by remaining a mute spectator and witness to acts of corruption, misinformation, lies and half-truths, do we not become accomplices to such misdeeds?

It is not wise to altogether point a finger at others only. A knife kind of a tool is given to us. Let us use it to prepare a juicy dish and not to hurt someone. The choice of usage is with us.

Our endeavour therefore should be to stand up, be courageous and outspoken. This alone can get us counted. Even if there is one sane voice amongst all the noise and din, it would resonate with other like-minded individuals out there.

Our salute needs to reach out not only to those who are already raising their voices but also to the decision makers who might eventually get around to listening to us.

Some Silver Linings

All this is not to say that there are no silver linings in the dark clouds hovering above us. As P G Wodehouse puts it, even when the air is pregnant with V or W-shaped depressions, there are always silver linings on the clouds. We shall do well never to repine, never to despair, but to work upon our own selves and on others in our sphere of influence. It is good to remember that, no matter how dark the skies may be, the sun is shining somewhere and will eventually come smiling through.

There are business houses which keep following good values and ethics in their day to day operations. There are leaders who respond well to challenges like social disharmony and stalking pandemics with a dash of human values. They treat dissent as a valuable input for their decision making processes. We also have very few social media and gig economy barons who are being forced by their own employees to either shape up or ship out.

Lawmakers and pressure groups in USA are already reported to be thinking of ways to bring in a wide-ranging overhaul of ethics, laws, the likes of which have not been seen since the post-Watergate era.

Perhaps, eminent legal eagles in India can also take a leaf out of the USA experience. As a country, we had experienced suppression of dissent even during the 1970s, when an emergency was declared. Can some more constitutional safeguards be brought in so that a popular mandate does not give the executive the right to ride rough shod over other arms of the government, thereby increasing the probability of the country being taken in a direction which is not the same as what our founding fathers had envisioned?

Above all, it is the man on the street, busy keeping his body and soul together, eking out a living for his family and even helping others in distress. When the scales from his eyes fall and he wakes up to a life threatening situation at hand, he reacts. The farmers in India are already showing their resolve following the strategy of peaceful protests and civic disobedience used by Mahatma Gandhi many decades ago.

Then we have lone wolf professional bodies. World Without Corruption in Belgium gives businesses a voice in fighting corrupt practices. The Conscious Enterprises Network in UK speaks of conscious leaders leading their enterprises in a holistic value-based manner in all spheres of human enterprise. The Center for Business Ethics & Compliance in Russia is focused on best practices in the realm of ethics and compliance.

Likewise, in India, Spandan Foundation is passionate about human values in organizations and even plans to set up a centre dedicated to the cause. Shakti Leadership highlights the importance of using feminine traits like empathy and compassion in decision making and assists individuals and organizations in their quest for conscious evolution. The Association for Democratic Reforms keeps relevant political issues alive and kicking in public eye.

I am sure there are many others scattered over other continents. Their attempt is to bring like-minded people together and keep the embers of a pious fire aglow, focused on values and ethics.

The Mighty Churning

The society is always in a flux. These days, it appears to be undergoing a mightier churning which reminds one of the episode of Samudra Manthan (The Churning of the Sea) in Indian scriptures. The churning throws up poison as well as the nectar which grants immortality. Those who believe in following the path of righteousness end up securing the latter.

It is easy to see that we have a leadership crisis on our hands. Since a situation also produces a leader, one hopes that more and more conscious leaders keep emerging, nudging us in the right direction.

Admittedly, the silver linings appear to be like a pale parabola of joy, to borrow an expression from P G Wodehouse. This will remain so till the time a bevy of conscious leaders – whether in business or in politics – do not appear on the scene and convert this into a shimmering parabola of bliss.

The solution is not to keep sweeping issues like hunger, poverty, economic non-inclusion and prejudicial animosity under the carpet. Nor is it to raise the existing walls, whether political, commercial, attitudinal or religious. It lies instead in a truly global view based on the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbukam: The World is One Family.

Being a born optimist who believes in having a chin-up attitude, I do hope that some of these tectonic shifts can at least get retarded, if not altogether reversed, in the years to come.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/06/17/why-the-wren-is-a-patriot-and-not-a-nationalist-guest-post-by-prof-badri-raina

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/11/23/jeeves-and-the-social-media-challenge

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/bertie-jeeves-and-the-internet-of-things

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/bertie-social-media-and-blogging-blues

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/01/10/jeeves-seeks-a-placement)

 

Read Full Post »

ashokbhatia

You are the main engine of economic growth,

Making global MNCs continue to fuss over you;

Splurging on goodies, traveling all over the world,

Your hard work yielding fruits which are your due.

You work very hard to secure a better future,

For yourself, for your progeny, and for your kith and kin;

The joint family system you appear to have given up,

Bringing up kids amidst the social media din.

 

You are the upholder of values and character,

Quietly paying your taxes, fulfilling social commitments;

A God-fearing and law-abiding citizen of the country,

Balancing a scientific outlook with superstitious predicaments.

 

Great sacrifices you are also willing to make,

When making India stronger is your belief and view;

You do not mind spending hours in a queue,

Retrieving hard-earned cash which is due to you.

 

Government subsidies you are willing to give up,

So the poor and…

View original post 207 more words

Read Full Post »

 

Psmith put his smart phone away. A sigh escaped him.

“Nothing makes sense”, he muttered.

For the space of about twenty-five seconds, Mike, sitting across a small table on a sunlit balcony in Mumbai, India, sat in silence.

“What is wrong with you?” asked Mike, with a concerned look on his face.

Some time back, Psmith and Mike had returned to the Mumbai branch of the New Asiatic Bank for a short audit spree. It had again taken them some time to get used to the hustle bustle of the metropolis, which they found much noisier than during their last stay, what with elections in India just round the corner.

They were put up in a guest house of the bank located at Worli in one of the high-rise buildings overlooking the Arabian Sea. Being a Sunday, both were in a relaxed state of mind.

“It is a pity to see the hapless denizens of most countries getting bombarded with all kinds of inane propaganda around election time. The level of allegations and counter-allegations leave them totally aghast, wondering if there is any sense of decency left in the world. I am sure they are clueless about being able to separate the wheat from the chaff, especially when it comes to deciding who to vote for”, said Psmith, looking somber and grave.

“Yes. Perhaps, they would end up voting for those who have greater lung power, both in the physical and in the virtual world!” said Mike.

“Elections will come and go. But, frankly, I do not really see any hope for the millions who have put their faith in the concept of democracy without realizing the kind of chaos and confusion it so very often amounts to.”

Mike eyed Psmith with grave concern.

“What gives? I have never seen you so very pessimistic about things.”

“In general, I feel that politicians of all hues have failed the public at large. People should start using the None Of The Above option more aggressively!” said Psmith ruefully.

“Why do you think so?” asked Mike, picking up his cup of tea from the table separating the two.

“One, I do not see any party speaking of issues which really matter. Talk of global warming and the threat people face from rising sea levels is nowhere to be heard. We have come to a stage where we need kids like Greta Thunberg to remind us of our obligations to Mother Earth. World over, use of land is a question which never gets raised, even though instances of urban flooding keep popping up every once in a while. Another crisis which looms large is that of the acute shortage of potable water, but our politicos appear to be behaving like well-fed ostriches on all these counts.

“Two, the basic needs, like providing for affordable healthcare, an education which makes the young employable, and an ecosystem which enables the people to make a decent living, are only touched upon obliquely and never addressed in a meaningful way. We are already well into Industrial Revolution 4.0. Requirement of skill-sets is changing rapidly, creating a new set of haves and have-nots. But I do not see any politician talking about this grave challenge.

”Three, many of the founders of modern democracies had vowed to create a just society. They seem to be nowhere near the goal that their founding fathers had set. Not to talk of either Millennium Development Goals or a gradual shift to Gross National Happiness Index for measuring progress.”

Psmith paused and looked at the seagulls flapping their wings over the Arabian Sea.

“Yes, I understand your anguish”, said Mike. “But this is true for many of our politicians in many countries. They are essentially dream merchants, with an eye on their own seat of power. Lofty promises get made at election time, mostly to be forgotten thereafter. The execution part is left to poor mandarins who sit in their ivory towers and keep swaying like wild grass on a sea coast to the likes and dislikes of different political masters from time to time.

“We live in times of volatile politics and general insecurity. We are just getting used to some stunning and illogical triumphs. Over the past few years, we have seen it in France, Italy, USA, India and elsewhere. A wave of isolationism appears to be washing down upon us. So is a phase of de-globalization.”

“Let us not lose heart, Comrade Jackson. The world follows its own cycles. Pretty soon, the tide could turn again. The omissions and commissions of those who look invincible today may soon return to haunt them. But what amuses me is that rather than focusing on long term key issues, our politicians just keep goading the ordinary person into making a choice between a brand of hyper-nationalism and a secular and liberal outlook. They sound much like our corporate honchos who live from one quarter to the next, dishing out guideline values!”

“We are lucky that elections keep popping up every once in a while. Some work gets done, at least!” quipped Mike, a chuckle adorning his visage. “Also, you ignore the fact that poor politicians have a tough job on hand”, he added.

“Oh, and what makes you say that?” asked Psmith.

“You see, they have to cope with diametrically opposite demands from different sections of the public. They have to persevere. They have to be fleet-footed and switch sides when it suits them. You may recall the case of John Bickersdyke who switched over from being a Liberal to a Unionist!

“Much like the Hon’ble A B Filmer and Roderick Spode, they have to be a model of respectability; their past should bear the strictest investigation. Their misdemeanours – financial, social or entrepreneurial – have to be kept hidden from the public view. Their encounters with angry swans have to be kept under wraps. Hell hounds of media have to be kept off the scent of any Eulalie-type endeavours.

“At all times, when commenting on something, they have to be politically correct. Very frequently, they have to make speeches full of empty rhetoric, a task which could leave many in a befuddled state of mind. Often, they have to listen to addresses of welcome in stuffy halls through the better part of a night. They must kiss babies, even if they happen to be dribbling by the sides of their mouths.

“They even have to undertake arduous journeys to far off villages, sit on the ground and have meals with their sympathizers, and even sleep in cottages with minimal facilities. They have to keep smiling while hugging world leaders who are otherwise sworn enemies of the state. Surely, they are more to be pitied than to be censured, don’t you think?”

“Well, all professions come with their own perks and perils” remarked Psmith philosophically. “And what about political funding, Comrade Jackson, what do you think of it? Would that not be effective in reining in corruption and in keeping the parallel economy in better check?” enquired Psmith.

“Well, some countries have given it a respectable name like lobbying. But the fact remains that a quid pro quo exists between private players and politicos. Surely, private players know how to extract their pound of flesh from whosoever makes it to the seat of power.”

“Hmm. But if political funding is made transparent, the voters would know exactly who stands to eventually benefit from their votes, even if these be such obnoxious businesses as those dealing in arms.”

Mike frowned.

“Yes, but there are so many other subterfuges a government in power can resort to, so as to quietly favour the businesses of their choice!” he added.

“Such as….?” Psmith enquired, raising an eyebrow a fraction of an inch.

“A pliant central bank can come in handy and get treated like a cash cow. In emerging economies, it can simply tinker with the way Non Performing Assets get classified. It can use forward swaps to enable private players to dip into the forex reserves. May be, there are several other ways which lesser mortals like us would be blissfully unaware of!” said Mike.

“Spoken like a true banker, Comrade Jackson! And the tab gets picked up by the common man!!”

“But if the businesses are worried about adverse reprisals when and if the opposite party makes it to the seat of power, and if the politicos do not wish to go to the public in a transparent manner, what do you think can be done?”

“I think power has to be truly secured back by the people!”

“Oh, so you mean riots, civil disobedience and all that stuff? Or, are you saying people should return to a dictatorship model?” Mike said in a surprised tone.

“No, no. I am not a social scientist. I can’t say if the democratic model is at fault here. It fails when those in power do not engage with the dissenters. Dictatorship is not necessarily a solution. God forbid if someone like Roderick Spode ends up controlling the affairs of a nation!”

“On the contrary, he could be very popular with the masses. If he announces plans of giving each citizen at birth a bicycle and an umbrella, a swanky tablet to all students who enter an institution of higher learning, a cooking stove, a pressure cooker and a kitchen cabinet to all those getting married, building world-class infrastructure, and even compulsory, scientific measurement of all male knees, he would romp home with a thumping majority. People just love elections for the kind of freebies these bestow upon an otherwise deprived population.”

“Yes, I have vaguely heard of some politicians from the southern parts of India who have perfected this art”, said Psmith.

“Not to forget the hard cash, occasional meals and a sumptuous supply of tissue restoratives during elections. But we digress. You were mentioning civil disobedience.”

“In fact, days when most Indians were starving and could register their protest by resorting to civil disobedience are long since past. Hunger inevitably leads to a seething anger within, and someone like Mahatma Gandhi who is smart enough to channelize it properly brings home the bacon, so to say. This tactic can now only be used by those at the bottom of the pyramid.

“As to all the others, it might only yield results if the delicately nurtured in their families follow the example of Wilmot Mulliner and go on a crash slimming spree by shifting to a diet based only on the juice of an orange. Pretty soon, their natures would become warped, and they will start spewing off the resultant venom on the men around them. Gradually, the men would undergo a transformation in their characters. From being ewe lambs, they would become crouching tigers, ready to pounce upon anyone who they believe is dishing out injustice to them and their families.

“Or, something more imaginative has to be done in the case of the well-endowed classes.”

“Like what?” asked Mike.

“For one, I think we need professionals from the fine arts side to come up with a sustained campaign to keep the key issues alive and kicking. Not-For-Profit entities can pitch in and so can intellectuals. Above all, we need a band of committed comedians, the stand-up kind or otherwise, who can churn out shows over social media to convey the importance of such issues which are critical to the survival of our race. A silence would willy-nilly imply either a state of resignation and disinterest, or quiet acquiescence. The coming generations would never forgive us otherwise.”

“Interesting” said Mike. “Perhaps you take a leaf out of Ukraine where Vlodymyr Selenskiy, an anti-establishment comedian, has played a role in elections! But who will fund the kind of activities mentioned by you? One would not like this to remain an open-ended challenge,” said Mike.

“Crowd-funding could work. Also, there is no shortage of well meaning people who wish to do something good. But the real challenge is to identify a leader who would be committed to a cause of this nature and magnitude, despite opposition.”

“Opposition will of course be there. I read somewhere recently that eminent lion-tamers like Rev Aubrey Upjohn, Miss Mapleton and Miss Tomlinson have appealed to students the world over to give up their tirade regarding global warming and instead focus on their studies. On the contrary, I thought they would be feeling proud that they have tutored their pupils rather well.”

“Oh. One person who could possibly be consulted on the issue is Jacinda Ardern, the present Prime Minister of New Zealand, who has demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities recently.”

“Perhaps you should then seek an audience with her. But wait, this merely goes on to show that a situation produces a leader. So, if the steps outlined by you are taken and sustained for a long time, one can hope for an enigmatic leader to emerge from such peaceful protests, right?”

“I do believe so.”

Mike rose from his chair and stretched his arms. His gaze drifted off to a couple of fishing boats bouncing up and down on the bluish-green waters of the Arabian Sea. The rays of a setting sun were waltzing over the waves.

“These are deep waters, indeed. I wonder why we are discussing such matters on a lazy Sunday evening! I rather think I’ll nip down to the beach at Santa Cruz and take some fresh air into my lungs,” said he. “You couldn’t come too, I suppose?”

“On the contrary,’ said Psmith, ‘I could, and will. A stroll will just restore those tissues which our intense discussion of the last half-hour has wasted away. It is a fearful strain, this political quagmire. Let us trickle towards the place mentioned by you. Comrade Jackson, lead me to this picturesque beach of yours of which I have heard so much.”

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/10/politicos-in-plumsville-part-1

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/12/politicos-in-plumsville-part-2

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/18/how-about-promoting-election-tourism)

Read Full Post »

ashokbhatia

Bollywood’s take on corruption differs across various time zones. Just as the society has evolved, so has the approach taken by Bollywood on depicting and tackling corruption changed over the past few decades.

In the black and white era of Gandhian simplicity, it was often more about the bad guys being urban gentlemen and the good guys being rural urchins. Movies like ‘Do Bigha Zameen’ (1953), ‘Jagte Raho’ (1956) and ‘Parakh’ (1960) readily come to one’s mind.

Jagte_Raho_1956_film_poster

We have also had movies where the lead cast suffered in dignified silence. The audience was often left with a feeling of disgust towards all those who were shown as corrupt. Movies like ‘Satyakam’ (1969) left us with a fond hope that things would somehow improve in the future. satyakam

Then came the angry-young-man phase. Here, we had the revenge theme. Muscular power ruled and the…

View original post 851 more words

Read Full Post »

ashokbhatia

Movies reflect what is happening in the society. In some cases, like literature, they also hint at what could be in store for us in the days to come. They not only influence what happens in the society, but also take a harsh look at its ills – including their own! There are a number of spoofs, created by some of our best known dream merchants, which reveal the level of maturity the film industry has attained.

Somehow, movies examine only some segments of the society; that too, mostly along predictable lines. Politicians, cops, industrialists and others are mostly depicted in a stereotyped manner. Business and management have so far not merited much attention from our film makers.

If business has been captured, it has mostly been depicted to be ruthless. Catering to mass appeal, the film makers have propounded the belief that big money is invariably bad. The fact…

View original post 1,939 more words

Read Full Post »

You are the main engine of economic growth,

Making global MNCs continue to fuss over you;

Splurging on goodies, traveling all over the world,

Your hard work yielding fruits which are your due.

 

You work very hard to secure a better future,

For yourself, for your progeny, and for your kith and kin;

The joint family system you appear to have given up,

Bringing up kids amidst the social media din.

 

You are the upholder of values and character,

Quietly paying your taxes, fulfilling social commitments;

A God-fearing and law-abiding citizen of the country,

Balancing a scientific outlook with superstitious predicaments.

 

Great sacrifices you are also willing to make,

When making India stronger is your belief and view;

You do not mind spending hours in a queue,

Retrieving hard-earned cash which is due to you.

 

Government subsidies you are willing to give up,

So the poor and the needy may live a better life;

You live the life of a silent but true patriot,

Ignoring social unrest, mobocracy and strife.

 

Corruption in high places you do not like,

Petty bribes which save you time you do not mind;

Inefficient delivery of public services you hate,

To trains and buses running late you are often kind.

 

But much like the three monkeys of the Mahatma,

Unpleasant things you do not hear;

You remain blind and muke to many a thing,

Indignities which do not touch you directly, silently you bear.

 

You remain faithful to the concept of democracy,

Keeping the flame of our independence aglow;

Pushing the Indian nation on its path of glory,

Hoping for a better tomorrow, even if the progress is slow.

 

Perhaps a day would dawn when you would speak up,

Push also for social, judicial and political reforms;

Chasing not only GDP and per capita income numbers,

But also Gross National Happiness in its myriad forms.

 

Strive for India to excel in its Millennium Development Goals,

Contribute towards building up Gross National Character;

Refuse to let caste and religion determine vote banks,

Of the unfolding Indian drama, be the outspoken main actor.

 

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/05/13/the-perks-of-being-a-vip)

Read Full Post »

Can a business be run without resorting to corrupt practices? This was one of the several questions attempted to be answered by management experts at a recent seminar organized by Sri Aurobindo Center for Advanced Research at Pondicherry (SACAR) at Pondicherry in India.1 Inaugural Session IMG_2266At every step, a business faces a choice – whether to indulge in corrupt practices to get what is its legitimate due, or face hardships and bottlenecks in meeting its obligations towards such stakeholders as its suppliers and employees.SACAR Dr ReddyThere are no simple answers to this vexed issue. However, there could be innovative ways of handling such challenges. A strong anti-corruption image helps. The conviction, that this is just not done, takes time to radiate to those who place such a demand on the business.

Another way to face such a challenge is to politely decline meeting an illegal demand. Instead, an offer to fund a legitimate activity which falls in the realm of CSR and shores up the image of the official/department concerned could get readily accepted. This could be by way of toilets being set up in schools, trees being planted and maintained on a main thoroughfare, or by investing in a scheme of social benefit.

???????????????????????????????The conviction emanates from an inner strength and a resolve to ensure that the dealings of the corporate concerned remain above board. Once adopted and marketed as a strategic choice, the business gains in the long-term – by adding value to its own brand equity and by gaining public trust. In turn, this could be leveraged to command better margins in the market place and also to attract better talent at a lesser cost.???????????????????????????????According to a business captain who addressed the participants at the seminar, the core mantra is to not to readily give in to illegitimate demands and to do simply what is in one’s control. The path of righteousness is not easy to tread but can be adhered to successfully if the top management has the necessary conviction. Decision making based on good values and an inner connection always helps a business person to strike this delicate balance in its operations.

Speakers at the seminar also touched upon VUCA and the increasing rate of change in the business environment. Studies which have proved that businesses which adhere to the basic values of honour, truth, beauty, justice and love were quoted do better in the long run. Participants were exposed to leadership lessons drawn from such Indian scriptures as Ramayana, Mahabharata, Thirukkural and also from Sri Aurobindo’s works.???????????????????????????????The value of meditation and resultant control of one’s mind was demonstrated. A panel discussion explained the likely changes in the business environment over the next decade and outlined the leadership and management attributes which would become more relevant in the times to come. The emphasis was on leaders who steer their businesses not only directed by an economic compass but also by a moral one.

The seminar, entitled ‘Preparing Future Business Leaders and Managers: An Inner Approach’, drew an enthusiastic response from business managers, scholars and students alike. It was addressed by Dr. Ananda Reddy, Director of SACAR, Mr. R. Mananathan, Chairman and MD, Manatec group of companies, Prof R. P. Raya, Dean, School of Management, Pondicherry University, Dr. Saikat Sen from SAFIM, Prof. Kisholoy Gupta, Mr. J. V. Avadhanulu, Mr. Ganesh Babu and yours truly;  a heady mix of management educators, lifestyle coaches, business thinkers and influencers.

Read Full Post »

The new government in India has promised to cut red tape and substitute it with a red carpet. This is a great promise, but one has to wait and see how it actually unfolds. India has a federal structure in place. So, unless states come on board, wannabe entrepreneurs might still be found running from pillar to post negotiating their way through the dense maze of policies, procedures and rules at all levels. A major MNC recently stated that as many as 167 approvals were required before its project could see the light of the day.

The Doing Business 2013 report of the World Bank ranks India at 134 out of 189 countries in ease of doing business. India has questioned the methodology of the World Bank. This could satisfy the ego of some patriots amongst us. But the stark reality is that the costs of setting up and running a business in India are unreasonably high.

One also needs to consider the fact that India’s infrastructure is anything but world-class. There is a mismatch between the skill set available in the labor market and the needs of the industry. Policy framework is inconsistent, giving rise to a sense of uncertainty in the mind of investors. Add to this India’s poor record in enforcing contracts due to legal delays and the tendency to slap taxes on a retrospective basis, and the high level of discomfort experienced by investors can be readily explained.

One of the most serious stumbling blocks to India’s growth story is the widespread corruption. Businesses which are driven by pure greed find this rather handy. But those which stand by business ethics and operate within the paradigm of a value system detest this scenario. The latter surely deserve all the encouragement they can get.

The new government in India would do a great service to the nation by seriously cracking down on corruption. Some baby steps do appear to have been taken, but these do not attack the root cause of the problem. It is good to chase black money stashed abroad. But steps need to be taken to stem the rot at the root level itself.

Here are some steps which could possibly help to curb the growth of the cancer of corruption:

  • Political funding needs to be brought on a transparent plane. This can only be done if there is a clear message that witch-hunting of businesses, especially in case of a change of regime, would not take place. Suitable changes in India’s taxation laws would also help. Till the time political expenditure remains obscure, red tape would continue to hinder the country’s growth.
  • Bureaucracy performs a critical function. Safeguards can be improved. A well thought-out stick-and-carrot policy can be introduced and then ruthlessly implemented. This would ensure that the tendency of some to seek rent for grant of mandatory approvals is curbed.
  • A strategic policy for use of natural resources needs to be announced and implemented. It is not only about mineral resources but also about India’s rivers, airwaves and other bounties of nature.
  • Real estate sector needs structural reforms. A stronger MIS system is the need of the hour. Uniform rates of stamp duties attracted by property transactions across the country would go a long way in creating a level-playing field. Administering collections and detecting frauds would also become easier.
  • Pushing through DTC and GST would result in better revenues. This would give the government better leeway to reduce taxes across the board. In turn, this would improve Indians’ collective honesty levels.

On their part, businesses also need to do some soul-searching. By raising the bar higher on the compliance front, they could improve their market valuation. Their brand image is bound to get a makeover for the good. In turn, this helps them to attract more business as also more skilled employees.

Once a demonstration effect sets in, the government machinery would also develop confidence and stop viewing them through a jaundiced lens of suspicion. Instead, this would enable the government to go ahead with self-certification in several areas, thereby utilizing its own human resources better.

All of these are bitter pills to swallow. But unless this pain and suffering of chemotherapy and surgery is undergone, the cancer of corruption would continue to thrive. A strong political will alone can achieve this cure of the Indian system.

[Related posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/05/03/a-16-point-agenda-for-the-16th-lok-sabha-of-india

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/combating-the-cancer-of-corruption%5D

Read Full Post »

Bollywood’s take on corruption differs across various time zones. Just as the society has evolved, so has the approach taken by Bollywood on depicting and tackling corruption changed over the past few decades.

In the black and white era of Gandhian simplicity, it was often more about the bad guys being urban gentlemen and the good guys being rural urchins. Movies like ‘Do Bigha Zameen’ (1953), ‘Jagte Raho’ (1956) and ‘Parakh’ (1960) readily come to one’s mind.

Jagte_Raho_1956_film_poster

We have also had movies where the lead cast suffered in dignified silence. The audience was often left with a feeling of disgust towards all those who were shown as corrupt. Movies like ‘Satyakam’ (1969) left us with a fond hope that things would somehow improve in the future. satyakam

Then came the angry-young-man phase. Here, we had the revenge theme. Muscular power ruled and the law of the land took a back seat. The hero, whether single-handedly or along with his buddies, went about killing the corrupt ones with gay abandon. Movies like ‘Deewar’ (1975), ‘Ardha Satya’ (1983), ‘Andha Kanoon’ (1983), ‘Shool’ (1999), ‘Rang De Basanti’ (2006) and ‘Rajneeti’, (2010) typified the violent kind of response to the scourge of corruption.

Rand De Basanti_poster

In some cases, the message was that of joining the system, so as to be able to reform it from within. ‘Yuva’ (2004) represented a treatment of this nature.Yuva_(movie_poster)

Yet another genre in the corruption-related movies churned out by our Dream Merchants is that of comedy. The script presents corrupt practices laced with a liberal dose of humour. The underlying message is serious, but the packaging is satirical. Over time, this mode appears to be becoming more popular.

Here are some of the movies which have successfully attempted to comment upon the issue of corruption in a humorous manner.

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron

Jaane_Bhi_Do_Yaaro_1983_film_poster(‘Just Let it Pass, Friends’, Kundan Shah, 1983)

A great spoof on the unholy nexus between politicians, builders and media people, with great performances by Naseeruddin Shah and Ravi Baswani.The climax scene which is a rip-roaring mix up of vignettes from Mahabharata and Mughal-e-Azam is a must watch for all cinema lovers. In an irony of fate, both the main protagonists end up going to jail for a crime they merely reported but never committed.

Lage Raho, Munna Bhai

Lage_raho_munna_bhai(‘Carry On, Munna Bhai’, Rajkumar Hirani, 2006)

By re-packaging the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and interpreting them to suit the present context, the movie gave an effective anti-dote to corrupt practices. Property sharks, blind faith, dating do’s and don’ts, depression arising out of failure – all get treated head-on by the ultimate virtue – truthfulness.

Khosla Ka Ghosla

Khosla ka ghosla(‘Khosla’s Nest’, Dibakar Banerjee, 2006)

How property sharks operate and how a simple family can tackle such issues was brought home in a light-hearted manner in this movie. As a side benefit, the incident of property grabbing brings all the family members emotionally closer to each other.

Welcome to Sajjanpur

Welcome to sajjanpur(Shyam Benegal, 2008)

Shyam Benegal is renowned for having exposed oppression and corruption of different kinds in his earlier works during the ‘parallel cinema’ wave. ‘Ankur’ (1974), ‘Nishant’ (1975), ‘Manthan’ (1976) and ‘Bhumika’ (1977) etc left us stirred and shaken up in the earlier years. All these were very intense and serious movies. In the recent past, he has effectively used satire to convey a similar message. A remarkable transformation!

In ‘Welcome to Sajjanpur’, romance blossoms against the backdrop of corrupt politicians and hapless administrators. How the honest ones get to win in the end gives out a clear message as to how the ordinary citizen can indeed make a difference.

Well Done, Abba

Well done abba(‘Well Done, Dad’, Shyam Benegal, 2009)

How do you handle rampant corruption which makes a mockery of the benefit schemes rolled out by the government? A father-daughter duo, after having failed to get a well dug up with the aid of government funds, report to the police that their non-existent well has been ‘stolen’! What ensues is sheer hilarity. Upcoming state assembly elections ensure the complaint gets heard and acted upon.

Do Dooni Chaar

Do dooni chaar(‘Two Times Two Make Four’, Habib Faisal, 2010)

The movie was basically a hilarious take on the ambition of an ordinary middle class family to somehow upgrade to a four-wheeler. In a crucial episode, the hero, a teacher with modest means, endears himself to us by refusing to accept a bribe to declare an otherwise failing student successful.

Chala Musaddi Office Office

Chala_Mussaddi..._Office_Office(‘Musaddi Goes to Office’, Rajiv Mehra, 2011)

What does a person do when an inefficient and corrupt system declares him dead on government records?! An amusing story of how the hapless person goes about knocking the doors of justice to get his pension and identity restored.

Bhootnath Returns

Bhoothnath_returns(‘The Ghost Returns’, Nitesh Tiwari, 2014)

The nexus between crime and politics was etched out rather well in this movie. To fix mundane problems in a locality – power, water, roads, sewage, et al – a ghost decides to contest an election!

Admiring Bollywood
One admires Bollywood for several facets of its collective character. Other than the ability to handle a serious issue like corruption in a lighter vein, it also has the capacity to laugh at itself. Movies like ‘Rang Birangi’ and ‘Om Shanti Om’ are proof enough.

Bollywood is also secular. It does not matter which religion you believe in – meritocracy rules. Look at the credits of any movie and you would notice the diversity of faiths amongst those who have contributed towards making the movie.

Taking Corruption Head-on!
In most of these movies, the basic premise seems to be that an ordinary citizen can also make a difference to the system. If he/she refuses to pay for services which are his/her right, a change can start happening. Also, there is a strong need to clean up our political system. On this hope, we continue to live!

Read Full Post »

The heat, the dust and the vitriol thrown up by the campaign for general elections in India has already started fading away from public memory. Media has had a field day, what with rival claims being made by the contestants in the fray. Quite a few voters have been at a receiving end of a different kind; of freebies, money and liquor. In some pockets, sheer muscle power has been on overt display. Some armchair revolutionaries are disappointed; when it comes to real issues, whether in the realm of economy, diplomatic relations or delivery of public services, very little light has been generated in the past few months.SansadBhavan

The denizens desperately hope to collectively bring in a stable and strong government at the centre. They also realize that it is the right time to set the agenda for the 16th Lok Sabha.

Here are a few things which our new representatives need to consider:

1. Boosting infrastructure across the board, especially in the farm sector.
2. Containing inflation.
3. Giving an impetus to manufacturing, especially to check projected imports of IT products and selected white goods in the years to come.
4. Simplifying investment processes with clear goal posts.
5. Boosting revenue and simplifying indirect taxation by introducing GST in a time-bound manner. Bringing in DTC so as to reform direct taxation.
6. Revamping our definition of growth which should include not only economic growth but also social indicators like the Millenium Development Goals. Eventually, like one of our neighbours, a Gross Happiness Index should become the cornerstone of public policies.
7. Upgrading skill development mission and related programs so as to reap the benefits of the demographic dividend.
8. Instituting Power and Coal sector reforms.
9. Redefining basic principles of natural resource allocation.
10. Judicial reforms.
11. Law and order reforms.
12. Political reforms, especially in the areas of poll funding and decriminalization.
13. Curbing the parallel economy; building sector reforms and rationalization of stamp duties.
14. Implementing women’s reservation in all legislative bodies, public services and institutions. Enabling women’s education, empowerment and safety.
15. Focusing on IT-based enablement of citizens. Building on Aadhar card to improve the delivery of services to citizens. Replacing ‘narrow band’ by broadband. Special focus on the greying population.
16. Restoring the dignity of our legislative bodies.

A heartening feature of the 2014 election campaign has been the higher voter turnout. The aggregate turnout so far in the first 7 phases for 438 parliamentary seats has been 66.20%, significantly more than 57.41% figure in 2009 general elections. It appears that the silent majority wants to register its aspirations more effectively. This is a clear indication that our politicos need to sink their differences and work together for improving the quality of life of all its citizens.

Concerned citizens eagerly await the future contours of their ‘tryst with destiny’ to emerge on the 16th of May, 2014. Irrespective of the shape and composition of the new government which takes charge, a vigorous thrust in the areas mentioned above alone can ensure that India performs better and improves upon its image and stature in the comity of nations.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »