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If passing law were a solution, India would be a perfect country: Lord Meghnad Desai

Jan 12, 2013

Lord Meghnad Desai, Professor Emeritus, London School of Economics, says the menace of corruption in India cannot be tackled unless people change their behavior. Lord Desai was in New Delhi at the launch of the International Centre on Human Development (ICHD) which is a partnership between the Indian Government and the UNDP. Lord Desai speaks to Ashok Kumar of OneWorld South Asia.

Meghnad Desai

OneWorld South Asia: India has long been plagued by corruption, and of late, the country has seen protests by millions of people. How do you look at these protests, especially the one led by Anna Hazare?

Lord Meghnad Desai: The issue of corruption in India is not a matter of law. India has more than enough laws to fight corruption. The menace of corruption in India is prevalent due to the lack of implementation of the existing laws. Corruption in this country is not a public sector thing, it is actually a matter of private behavior.

Relying on laws will not cure corruption in India. Anna Hazare’s agitation relies too much on laws. He is staging protests for the appointment of the ombudsman or Lokpal and stresses on passing of new laws to curb corruption. But, if passing laws were a solution, India would be a perfect country.

The problem is that we Indians rely too much on the state. We rely too much on the laws. We rely too much on the officials, but we do not rely enough on ourselves. The need of the hour is to start relying on ourselves.

OWSA: What do you mean by your statement that we do not rely too much on ourselves?

Desai: What is actually required is that people of this country should change their own behaviour vis-à-vis corruption to make the much sought difference in the system.

OWSA: How can government officials be discouraged from indulging in graft?

We have to change the behaviour of public officials by private agitation as well as collective agitation. A common man of this country has to join hands with other common men to fight the menace of corruption.

OWSA: How much do you think mass agitations help people in fighting this scourge?

Desai: Mass agitations alone are not of much help in fighting the scourge of corruption.  People of this country need to change their behaviour if they really want to get rid of the menace of corruption.

Media too has to play a more active role and become a part of the process to fight corruption. Every country was once corrupt. Some countries have become less corrupt now. So, we need to study their behaviour. We need to study how the developed countries of the world like the United States of America and the United Kingdom have become less corrupt.

It was public action by individuals with the help of media which helped in bringing down the level of corruption that existed in these countries.

OWSA: Amartya Sen says despite having a lower economic growth than India, Bangladesh has surpassed India on many social indicators including life expectancy, menstrual hygiene and sanitation. Why do you think does India have poor human development parameters?

Desai: Bangladesh has done better than India because it does not have a caste system. Caste system is the biggest problem of India. If you think that it’s the job of a particular community to carry human waste, you will never think about better ways to clear it up.

India can progress by abolishing caste system and by fighting evils like untouchability. How can a society believe in Advaita and Brahma and treat half the population like waste?  How can any society live with a contradiction like that?

OWSA: How can India pursue sustainable development?

Desai: India should evolve its own model to make progress in the direction of overall human development. And whatever model of progress this country adopts, it should be practised after abolishing the age old caste system.

Aridaman Jit Singh says:
Jan 12, 2013 01:18 PM

If United Kingdom and for that reason any other country is provided with all the bunch of laws and governance apparatus that India inherited from its colonial rulers, those country and its public will be worst corrupt than India. It is not that people are corrupt, it is the governance apparatus that is required to implement the laws is completely corrupt for having absolute powers with zero accountability and it is applicable on Judiciary, Executive and Legislature and Media.

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