Krishval Musings

Friday, 15 May 2015


Lord Curzon , Viceroy  of India from 1898 to 1905,  made the following statement in his speech in the convocation of  Calcutta University(1905)  “I hope I am making no false or arrogant claim when I say that the highest ideal of truth is to a large extent a Western conception. I do not thereby mean to claim that Europeans are universally or even generally truthful, still less do I mean that Asiatics deliberately or habitually deviate from the truth. The one proposition would be absurd, and the other insulting. But undoubtedly truth took a high place in the moral codes of the West before it had been similarly honoured in the East, where craftiness and diplomatic wile have always been held in much repute.”  It meant that India and Asia came to know about Honesty only after the advent of Europeans. He drew flaks from the  Indian intelectuals   at this denigration. They charged back that  “India is  a Dharma Bhoomi, a Karma Bhoomi. We are the people who taught the world about  Dharma and honosty is on of its innards”. More than a century had elapsed  since the departure of Lord Curzon.  India got independence from the  British and probably from Honesty as well!
There is no second opinion  that India is a corrupt country as evidenced by its rank 85 in the corruption perception  index 2014 analysed by the Transparency International . (    Transparency International defines “Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. It hurts everyone who depends on the integrity of people in a position of authority.”  Corruption   in India prevails with least resistance from a street vendor to a conglomerate , student to vice Chancellor;  peon to chief secretary; court clerk to chief justice; ward boy to chief surgeon;  labourer to chief engineer and Panchayath  counselor to Prime minister.  

George Curzon (1859-1925)              

 Generally bribe is given to get things done out of the way either breaking or circumventing the rules, whereas in India bribe is common even to go by rules.   There is a strong instinct among the business and general public that bribing is an inevitable part of the system which speeds up the process.


(Times of India Mar/10/15)

 John Stuart Mill, political economist and advocate of individual liberty remarked that “Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians".  As an advocate of liberty against authoritism he did not want individual liberty to be extended to all.  He was of the opinion that except Europeans the rest of the world is occupied and run by barbarians and benevolent despotism is the right form of government for the uncivilised world.

There is no point in frowning at John Mill. The first 15 in the list of perception index are all European nations with the exceptions of Singapore and Japan. 

The Columbia University Professor  Jagdish Bhagwati said the problem in India is that "nobody gets punished. In America, if you are caught, even God can't help you."  (Hindustan Times Dec/2/2010)  According to him the yearly cost of corruption to the Indian economy is around Rs. 20,000 crores. This is a clear proof that Indian politicians are well united in feathering their own nest and protecting their escape routes.  Accountability will never be allowed to take shape and become a force in India


Tarun Kumar (IDSA Issue Brief – Oct/12/2012) who analysed the 2000 years old  Kautilya’s Artha Sastra  in relation to corruption has given shocking revelations..   Kautilya reflected serious concerns about opacity in the operations of the corrupt. He compared embezzlers to fish moving under water and the virtual impossibility of detecting when exactly the fish is drinking water. He also noted that while it is possible to ascertain the movements of bird flying in the sky, it is difficult to gauge the corrupt activities of government officials. Artha Shastra furnishes a comprehensive list of 40 different types of  embezzlement in public administration and also provides  the methodologies to  find  and punish the culprits.

This  is a clear indication that corruption in public life was rampant   even in ancient India.   

Indians, by instinct, speak, write, discuss, advise and preach endlessly about Dharma and Karma with least inclination to implement them in real life.  All the reform programmes of the government are delayed or blocked by corruption.   John Elliot wrote in Times of India (Mar/30/2014) that our democracy and free elections are tawdry and a ‘fig leaf” to cover our weak corruptive system. It is difficult to digest  a foreigners’ sneer  but If we mull over these statements, we may  have to  reluctantly accept them .



Sri Kalyanam (94) living Chennai  , the last private secretary to Mahatma Gandhi, lamented  that Gandhi would  have started another revolution against corruption had  he  lived now. (The Hindu Nov/28/14)

Are Indians cursed to be basically corrupt ?  There seems to be no improvement in the last 2000 years.  We can not blame the politicians  because they are not aliens but  one among us. 

What is the solution?  There is a saying in corporate world “you pay peanuts you get monkeys” meaning less pay will fetch only mediocre managers.  This saying has to be revised as “ you vote and elect crafty demagogues ,  you get only peanuts”, which we have been getting since independence.  The ball is in our court.

Dr. Krishnan Arunachalam

Ref: .org/stream/lordcurzoninind00curzgoog/lordcurzoninind00curzgoog_djvu. https://archive txt

www.wikipedia .com


(Published in Mylapore Club magazine (May/2015)