Corruption in India – It starts with YOU!

The past one week witnessed one of the most promising non-violent campaigns in Indian history post independence. A spirited septuagenarian activist by name Anna Hazare got the whole nation lined up behind him to fight the biggest threat that we are facing in India today i.e. political corruption. He adopted the Gandhian model of ‘Satyagraha’ (fasting) to press the government to implement what’s called the Lokpal Bill (Ombudsman Bill) to take on the corrupt public servants in India.

I have mentioned it before that corruption is one of the blockers on our way towards becoming a developed nation. Due to our colonial past and the divide-and-conquer strategies that the British adopted on hundreds or thousands of our regional kings, religious factions and highly sensitive people who spoke multiple languages, ‘corruption’, ‘hierarchy’ and ‘bureaucracy’ etc became part and parcel of our lives. Now, having achieved our independence more than 60 years back, there’s absolutely no point in blaming the past (and the British) because any other country with a positive mindset and strong governance would have got rid off menaces like corruption by now. Since, India could not do it yet, there’s every reason for Anna Hazare and like-minded people to drive a campaign such as the one we are witnessing right now.

The topic of the day is not Lokpal Bill or how corrupt our politicians are today. Lokpal Bill is more of a reactive mechanism to counter the corrupt public servants. But to prevent corruption, the best foot forward is to de-corrupt every individual of this country by way of living with the right kind of upbringing from childhood itself.

Nobody’s born corrupt!

Corruption, bribery etc are nothing but the result of unethical upbringing. Due to socio-economic imbalances that is prevalent in our country for years together along with the colonial aspects that I mentioned above, a big percentage of our citizens (including politicians) may have been corrupt. However, the current generation of youngsters has a huge role to play in bringing up their children the right way so that their kids would not become corrupt. For that to happen, you have to correct yourself the right away even before correcting and educating your kids. By the way, there is a huge difference between ‘getting educated’ and ‘getting a degree’. Many of us have qualifications but not really educated to behave ethically in a society.

In fact, corruption starts at a smaller level at your home or work place, a much bigger level within your social role, and at a mammoth level at those who handle higher positions within the government. It’s stupid to think that only those politicians who cause 100s of crore scams are corrupt.

Are you corrupt?

If you are one of those who stood by Anna Hazare in the past one week, you should ask these questions to yourself to make sure that you are not corrupt.

  1. Do you pay your income taxes on every taxable rupee that you earn? i.e. Do you really pay taxes on income sources such as bank interests, gifts received, freelance-consulting income etc? If not, YOU ARE CORRUPT!
  2. At work, do you misuse your office phone/mobile for personal purposes and not pay for that? Do you claim benefits using false medical bills or rental receipts? Do you claim reimbursements for non-official bills as well? If so, YOU ARE CORRUPT
  3. Do you break traffic rules? If so, you are UNETHICAL and to save your time or severe punishment, do you bribe the policeman? If so, you as well as policeman ARE CORRUPT. And if you do this when you are with your family, YOUR CHILDREN WILL BE CORRUPT, in the future as well
  4. Do you bribe a government officer to get a benefit that you don’t deserve? For example, passing an illegal housing construction plan or registering a property at a lower value? If so, YOU ARE CORRUPT even before the government officer is
  5. In your housing society or apartment community, do you pay your maintenance charges on time? On top of that are you setting right examples to your children by teaching them the rules and regulations prevailing in the society? If not, you are highly UNETHICAL and TAINTED
  6. When you happen to borrow money from someone, don’t you feel like returning it on time. I have known a few people who don’t do that and when such people go to a higher level, obviously they become CORRUPT because they like others’ money

There are huge number of such examples in life ranging from buying movie or match tickets in the black market to skipping a purchase bill to cheat government by not paying sales tax and so on. For all the above tainted and corrupt behaviour of yours, you cannot keep blaming the politicians or system because it’s you at the centre of such incidents.

Now you know where the corruption starts, don’t you? So first change yourself and set the right example to your kids and the society. Rest of the good will automatically happen in a few years without any Lokpal Bill. By the way, as of today the bill is still required as an impeachment mechanism to tackle the current corrupt set of people but hopefully, it’s not much required in another 25 years.

Be the change!

Racism: Are Indians any better?

India is on the way to become an economic superpower in the next decade or so. In the past, I have talked about (what it takes to become a developed nation) and I had touched upon a number of things that we Indians need to do to take us closer towards being totally self reliant and rich. One of the things that I didn’t quite talk about at that time is the racism and even the caste based hierarchies that has been prevailing in India for 100s of years now.

Racism in India

Well, India doesn’t have any permanent black or white (if I may use those words) migrants here. All that we get to see here are tourists or foreigners on work related deputation. I had a chance to attend a Boney M (re-formed) concert in Bangalore in 1998 where I witnessed a bunch of Bangalorean boys shouting ‘you black bi****s’ etc at the singers. It was a shock to me. It was like you give back what you got or even heard remotely. Something like ragging.

However, we Indians do not need any black or white here to take part in the racism related activities. Historically India had the caste hierarchy system for several hundred years and hence we have been the biggest racists ourselves within. How many times haven’t we heard of the North Indian – South Indian unpleasant references and certain Indian fanatics referring to Madrasis, Biharis or Chinkies using their unparliamentary language and extreme spite? And have you ever imagined our attitude towards some of our neighbour states such as Nepal, Bangladesh etc?

Economic growth and racist behavior

With India getting more and more rich, visible and powerful we are getting to see a different kind of racial behaviour from the Indians – the arrogance of a new rich man who was once underprivileged. At every given opportunity now India tries to take on the ‘white’ nations on racial related one-off incidents. Of course there are certain genuine cases that need international attention but the following are some of the examples where I thought we are being petty (and arrogant).

E.g. 1: There was this Facebook viral video of an Indian man getting electrocuted after touching the railway power line. I have myself seen a lot of Indians calling him a fool and making funny comments. The same was the reaction from other people around the world including some police personnel in Australia. Then it became a racial thing and even Mr. SM. Krishna, our External Affairs Minister, made his statements. Absolutely unnecessary and silly behaviour I would say. There have been, through, genuine situations where he had to actually intervene and he has done so.

E.g 2: BCCI’s (Board of Control for Cricket in India) using their money power and political influence to lift a ban on the Indian cricketer Harbhajan Singh, after he called the Australian ‘coloured’ cricketer Andrew Symonds a ‘Monkey’ is another example of the wrong racial behavior and then defending the same.

Inferior complex, Campaign mania etc

The above two examples, and many such incidents, are nothing but the unwanted inferiority complex that is building up within. Instead of taking part in the globalization and amazing growth potential, at times, we are pulling back ourselves with these kind of behaviors. I would say that, instead of focusing on such issues let us solve our problems within India first.

Yet another related bad behavior is the inability to think in an unbiased manner especially when it comes to sensitive cultural aspects, our iconic figures etc. For example, how many times haven’t you received emails to vote for Sachin Tendulkar, Amitabh Bacchan, Taj Mahal etc to win certain online campaigns? Majority of such spam is generated by us, computer literate Indians, out of unnecessary fanatic thinking process. The recent campaign mania example was the effort to persuade Barack Obama to visit the Golden Temple during his Indian visit. Does anybody really care if he doesn’t visit Golden Temple, Taj Mahal or Tirupati for that matter? Don’t we have better things to do in life?

Learn from the Chinese

My last request to my fellow Indians (global and within) is to learn a lesson or two from our big neighbour China. The Chinese people are actually spread out globally much more than the Indians but they chose to mind their own business and adjusted well with the other people and races without creating any issue whatsoever. They actually do not care about what others say. Instead of picking on every petty issue and blowing it out of proportion, let us follow the Chinese model of co-existence without disturbance (I am not going to talk about India’s stance on Tibet and Chinese stand on Arunachal Pradesh here) without going emotional about what others say.

Hope you understood what I was trying to convey…

Facebook disadvantages

facebook-icon-logoWith social networks (SocNets) and online life taking precedence over real life (offline) face to face meetings, there are a number of changes that all of us are going through without us even realizing it. The convenience of getting connected to people without physically moving anywhere is probably a good thing to have, so is the power to get updates and happenings around your near and dear ones’ lives. SocNets also help people find jobs, promote their products and services etc. I am not really overlooking all those good aspects. However, there are so many disadvantages that probably will make the facebookers altogether different human beings who might be losing certain good things and experiences in life.

Negative impacts of facebook (and SocNets in general)

I am not sure if everyone feels bad about the negative aspects of SocNets, but I personally feel nervous at times at the very thought of exposing and risking everything online. The following are some of the disadvantages of social networking.

Lack of privacy

Even with the best privacy settings available, you are still airing your private information to the web. And sometimes your friends’ friend is not exactly the nicest person around. For example, I do have a lot of people from the blogging world connecting to me, but my real life friends may not like me sharing their information with these strangers, right? In a way, everybody out there on a SocNet is letting each other dig into others private life.

Facebook is selling you

An extension to the privacy problem is the way in which facebook is collecting your data and selling it to external applications and organizations. This include, facebook games, apps, and agencies who are interested in the demographic data of millions of people. We even share our photographs online via facebook on which they have the full rights to share with others.

It’s a relationship spoiler

With all these SocNets coming in, people have stopped connecting with each other via visiting them. People even hesitate to pick the phone and talk to their dear ones. Please note that humans are originally programmed to communicate with each other via our five senses and not via keyboard and mouse.

If things go at this pace, it may be even possible that husband and wife and their kids will sit in their respective rooms under the same roof and communicate via facebook.

The other problem is that, even though, it’s easier to be in touch with your facebook friends initially, as the list grows you have to either find more time to track everyone, or neglect many of them. And many times, your priority friends or relatives get missed out.

Reduced soft and communication skills

Many people who are addicted to facebook are either already introverts or they are becoming one. They are losing their communication and presentation skills further by only typing in stuff.

Wasting human resource

Mobile phones and social networks are two major challenges that many employers are facing at the moment as their employees’ productive time at work is rapidly reducing with all these distractions. In countries like India, the social networks and mobile phones are even used for the wrong purposes. Some people use social networks like IMs (Instant messengers) just like the SMS misuse in India. And when the mobile phones are enabled with facebook, it’s a double whammy! Basically, even while on the move, people are distracted.

Cyber stalking

With people connecting with real strangers, the number of cyber stalking and related crime rates are growing at an alarming pace. Many times it’s the teenagers who get cheated when they actually meet the real face behind facebook. There’s been cases of murder, cheating and blackmailing, after people got too close with their facebook lovers. Of course, there are cases with happy endings as well.

In most cases the teens’ parents don’t even know with whom they are communicating and what all activities are they doing online. Inability to monitor kids completely is a big issue. I mean, they expose themselves to the whole world but their parents.

Lighter side of facebook

If used in moderation, facebook or any SocNets can be fun provided that you are using it at a predetermined time and duration without really getting addicted to it. The following are some of the standard behaviors of facebook addicts.

  • Standard comments on photos (especially in India): ‘Very nice family photo, all of you look great 🙂
  • Some people join facebook only to keep ‘like’ing others updates and photos as if their puters don’t have keyboard. Some others don’t even ‘like’ people they just created a facebook account to watch what others are up to
  • Good looking women – hoping that they have posted their original photo – generally get a lot of friend requests – surprisingly even from married middle-aged men
  • Some people use FB only to redirect their tweets (from Twitter) and spam links to facebook
  • Things that girl and boy wouldn’t talk directly face to face is done via facebook. In other words, many facebook super heroes are super zeroes in real life
  • …add yours here…

Over to you

Could you share what have been your facebook experience so far? Do you think, social networks are causing some social problems along with the advantages that they offer? Are you addicted to facebook?

Happy networking!

What is a developed country and what does it take to build one?

India is cruising on an economic boom following the reforms that started a decade ago! As a result it is now leading the rat race of attracting the foreign investment – ahead of countries like China, Brazil and Russia. India has some advantage over the relatively non-English speaking and ‘closed’ business world in the other countries. However, the spending pattern seem to be much more planned in their cases and there are a few things that India needs to workout carefully in order to take the country to a different level in the next fifteen to twenty years.

Most of the developed nations in the Americas, Europe and Oceania achieved that status in the 20th century via exploiting the aftereffects of the industrial revolution. Some of the parameters that supported their positive development included low population figures, early democratization, less corruption and education reforms. If India has to get there in that list it needs to work on more topics than the above in a more intensive fashion. Let me try to analyze some of the key issues (not necessarily in the order of priority) that we have and try to identify some solutions for the same.


The population growth in India for the past few years have been at an annualized growth rate of around 2%. While for the developed nations this figure sounds perfect, India has to really work on cutting down this growth rate by half. If we go at this pace, by 2020 we will have 1.5 billion people in this country. There has to be strict measures to bring the population growth rate to around 0.75% annually at least for the next twenty five years. This can result in a manageable figure of 1.30 billion people by 2030, taking into account the current mortality rate. Further on, the growth rate has to be brought down to 0.4 to 0.5% which is optimal for typical developed nations. The drastic guidelines to achieve this target for a better tomorrow, could include enforcing the one-child-per-family rule. An easy way to enforce this is via imposing heavy consumption taxes (Chinese model) to the government, if there is more than one child in a family. Further more, increased school fees, power/water bills etc can be enforced if the size grows further. But this can work only with 40 or 50 percent of the middle class community. For the slum dwellers and illiterates there has to be a special drive to induce awareness and prioritize the rehabilitation of those who are following one or no child rules. If there are religious, social or racial rules that promote more children, it’s time to abolish such rules via constitution amendments. Providing free contraception and free consulting etc are other options. The government could even think of providing additional benefits and tax exemptions for those who plan to go childless. Some of these things may sound unethical for typical Indian culture, but we have no other go.

Literacy & Education reforms

The population issues are directly linked to the literacy rate. The proof is the state of Kerala (my home state), the most literate state in India, that has the lowest annual population growth (~0.9%) and the highest health index. Back in the 80s this particular state government triggered a mass campaign with the help of various non-profit organizations and thousands of individual volunteers to achieve 100% literacy and at the end of one year they were very close to that reality. This is something that other states can easily implement. The need for education reforms comes next. It is about time the state governments set up larger number of free basic education institutes for primary and middle schools.

Public health

Health is indeed wealth for a state, not just for an individual. Health awareness is primarily induced via basic education and if the latter is taken care of, the health index will naturally improve. What the government has to do is to improve the free supply of basic medicines via more channels than just the government hospitals. In addition, the vaccination drives etc, has to be done via more effective campaigns. The public sanitation facilities really need a face lift the availability of good quality drinking water has to be ensured in each and every village of this country.

Arresting corruption

Bureaucracy is synonymous to democracy in many developing nations. Corruption complements bureaucracy very well and this usually begins with the politicians themselves. Most developed nations have managed to arrest corruption at all levels and this makes sure that funds and taxes collected for development purposes reach the targeted audiences or projects. In India, we need to definitely act fast on a few things. It is high time we set some basic qualifications and clean history requirements for somebody to compete the state assembly or parliament elections. Many of our politicians come from criminal backgrounds and to top it all their educational qualifications are questionable.

For India to become a developed nation, we need people with good sense, great knowledge and vision ruling us. Laws need to be enforced to make sure that our
rulers and leaders are acceptable personalities. Recent developments of disqualifying many politicians from competing the UP elections is indeed a great move. To curb corruption, it is also necessary to empower independent bodies like Lok Ayukta (in Karnataka) that has the power to bring corrupt government officials to the law.

Continue the reforms

With a GDP growth rate of above 9% and current approximate GDP of USD 800 billion, India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world today. Right now it has a healthy foreign reserve of USD 200 billion that has doubled since 2003. At the current pace, it is safer to use part of it to pay off some of our long term debts. Also, the measures taken by the current government to boost exports of cotton products, jewelery, software etc should take the country into an accelerated growth orbit for the next few years. Improved tax collection, extra ordinary performance of Indian companies, resurgence of PSUs, alarming growth in profit of the Indian Railways, Indian companies buying out companies in Europe etc are some of the examples of a great developed nation in the making. We just need to and continue reforms and keep up this pace (or even better it) in the next ten years or so.


If there is one single thing that stands in the way of development in India, it is the infrastructure related issues. We are nowhere near many of the leading developing nations in terms of providing infrastructure to attract even bigger foreign investments. We really need world class road-rail-air connectivity in this country. This has to be supported by uninterrupted power for industries and good sanitation, drainage and pollution-free air and water. These issues have to be addressed with utmost priority and rest of the things will fall into the right places automatically. It is time we concentrated on tier 2 and 3 cities and even satellite towns to build the infrastructure rather than relying on stagnated metros and cities.


In India we have a variety of crops, oil seeds and spices produced in its states. What we have been doing so far was to bank on the huge man power available and do agriculture the traditional way. This is not a good approach going forward. We need to really modernize our agriculture sector by adopting scientific methods and machinery to prepare the country for a better agricultural growth rate for the future. The agricultural products can top our exports chart if we revolutionize this sector and enough funding is made available. ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kissan‘ is still a great slogan, but I would really like to see the defense budget cut by 20% (for the next ten years) to allocate the same towards agriculture. The agriculture sector growth prediction is not so interesting for the next two years. It stands at around 2% annualized and this is what pulls down the GDP which otherwise is doing great due to stable services sector and manufacturing.


Maintaining a growth rate of above 10% (as in the case of past year) in manufacturing sector is a great thing but India would be targeting a growth rate of above 14 pc in FY2008. This is indeed a great news though long term target should be more realistic, say 9-10pc. Looks like the current government wants to prove a point by reaching a great milestone in manufacturing while the growing inflation rates and slower agricultural growth doesn’t do any good to anybody.

Change mindsets

More than the scientific ways to maximize growth, what really can take India to the next level is its greatest asset – its people. Historically Indians have been having laid back attitude and we were taught to be lenient and tolerant. This cannot be the case going forward. We need a new generation of people that is aggressive, hardworking, focused and career oriented. This does not mean that our forefathers didn’t do any good to us. They fought their own way and fetched us freedom. The next generation built on top of it and now it’s time for us and the coming generations to maximize the opportunities that lie ahead. This has to be our pledge going forward!