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Corruption—Can we control it through Lateral Intervention?

By Ritu Garg

Contributing Author for Spark Igniting Minds

Who will be India’s 'Alexander, the Great’ to cut the Gordian Knot of corruption? Legend has it that when Alexander could not untie the knot owing to its complicated structure, he simply cut it with his sword!

A fine example of “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

So when I was asked to write an essay suggesting ways to remove corruption from our country, I felt like I am being asked to untie the Gordian knot. I, for one, don’t know where to begin.

The following questions came to my mind

  • Which end of the Gordian Knot should I look for?

  • Where is the starting point?

  • Is it the Common man or the Politicians or Bureaucrats or Institutions or Opinionated leaders or Media?

  • Is it circular or linear?

  • Who is the winner?

  • Who is the loser?

All these questions about corruption remind me of “Blind Men and the Elephant” – by John Godfrey Saxe written in 1816-1887. It is a story of six blind travelers who come across an elephant and touch it. Each of the six blind men touches a different part and thinks that is how an elephant it. None of them gets to experience the whole elephant.

Using the same analogy, I feel corruption is that elephant that everyone has experienced in some form, but not in its totality. It is so big and widespread that to get its full picture is impossible.

However, the fact that corruption in India has survived all rules, regulations, laws, and enforcement against it tells me that it has become sui-generis and exists in the collective conscience of our population. And to change the collective conscience of a society, we need to change the conscience of each one of its people at large and specifically of its opinion leaders and institutions. We need to exhort every citizen of this country to find their own Alexander from within. And for that, we need to “WORK ON THE WILL” of the people. We need to have a paradigm shift in our thinking, orientations, preferences which lead us to either give a bribe or take a bribe. We must know that giving bribes is as much a crime as taking. We need to change people’s attitude towards money and material possessions. I know this is a tall order but we can definitely begin with the following interventions to change our perspectives.

Temper Materialism with Morality

In today’s materialistic society, it is important that we choose our words and actions carefully. For example, as parents and guardians of our children, let us not resort to materialistic motivation every time to get our children to do what we think they should do. For example, bribing them with things on a good performance in school. We do it with best intentions, but we end up breeding in our kids an ‘attitude of transaction’ in everything they do. This seemingly innocuous dealing, later on, can be very precarious in deciding their leanings. However, this is not to undermine the importance of reward. Rewards are great motivators. The only thing is that we should reward them with a token of appreciation. Maybe something like a small trophy made in their name. It is an act of appreciation. In fact, when you do that, you teach your kids the importance of appreciation which is very important for their morality.

Temper Consumerism with Contentment

Who doesn’t know this beautiful couplet written by Saint Kabir centuries ago, beautifully placing “Contentment” higher than any other possessions?

This may sound rhetorical but we should definitely consider the wisdom that lies here.

Here it is

“Go Dhan, Gajb Dhan, Baji Dhan Aur Ratan Dhan khan,

Jab aavesantosh DhanSab dhandhurisaman.”

(One may have wealth of cows, elephants, horses, jewels but once the person finds the wealth of contentment, all these treasures are nothing for a person who has the wealth of contentment.)

Temper Amassing with Aparigraha

Aparigraha is one of the teachings of Patanjali. It emphasizes the practice of the ‘non-greed’, ‘non-possessiveness’, and ‘non-attachment’. It clearly tells us to not hoard and collect things. Surely, the practice of Aparigraha makes one’s life clutter-free, and the mind is free of burden and boredom. It is upon us as to how much Aparigraha we want to practice in life, but we must draw from this perspective.

Temper the desire for instant gratification with gratitude.

The need for instant gratification is another factor that adds to the system of bribes. The attitude of “I want it now, I don’t care how!” leads us to resort to offering bribes to get things done.

We rarely thank the traffic police who issue us a fine when we break the signal. We tend to choose gratification over gratitude. We choose to pay a hundred rupee note and move on rather than follow the law. These petty instances only add to the big devil of corruption.

Add Earthly experiences to Epicurean ones.

It is so sad that a “Good Life” has come to mean expensive vacations, big fat weddings, expensive spa retreats, grand house-warming, fancy baby showers and resplendent lifestyle of the opinion leaders. I wish ‘Good life’ would mean taking a trip to understand ground realities, going for simple treks, working in a palliative care institute, to name a few. It is good to hear of people who have scaled-down. They have given away their material possessions, decide on living on the bare minimum and clutter-free Spartan life. Remember the book ‘The monk who sold his Ferrari’. Simplicity is indeed the ultimate sophistication.

The absence of plenty doesn’t mean poverty.

People are being driven by their greed, not need. And the media is not helping matters. If my neighbor has three cars, I feel poor that I have only one. There is a constant attempt to keep up with the Joneses. The media too needs to act responsibly. I am reminded of the advertisement about television Onida. “Neighbour’s envy. Owner’s pride”. It somehow creates a “need” which probably never existed in the first place.

A resource doesn’t always mean Rupees.

Unfortunately, so much value is being attached to money that it has become the sole definition of being rich. There are people who are rich in talent and may not have material possessions but they lead a very enriched life. In fact, they would steer clear of the distraction caused by materialism. I remember a poet who wrote ‘akinchan’ as a suffix to his name. Akinchan means poor and destitute.

I feel these small shifts in perspectives can help to bring change. Thus creating a ground for people to subordinate their personal interests for the larger interest of the country.

About Ritu Garg

Ms. Ritu Garg

Ritu Garg, a wordsmith.  She collects words like a philatelist would collect stamps or a numismatic would collect coins. Words give her power,  She shares a relationship with them.

Words make her thoughts tactile, tangible and transferrable.

She is a management graduate in finance. She has a strong passion for languages, history, social institutions, food, fashion, parenting and health and now following writing and translation as her profession.

Image by Zelandia from Pixabay


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