INTEGRITY AND IMAGE
J. Antony Raj
While checking my inbox, I came across an email received from one Mr. Jacob. He was not known to me. He had sent the e-mail to appreciate me for my article entitled, "The disfiguration meted out to the minority within the minority." What he had written, particularly his self-introduction, attracted me. "I was an upright and efficient officer in Customs Department and served the country in the best possible way." He had written these words not for any boasting, but to emphasise a point in the subsequent paragraphs.
Follow My Example!
When I read this mail, the Apostle Paul's exhortation to the churches came to my mind. In many places, he asked them to "follow his example" and "imitate him" (1Cor.4:16; 1Thess.1:6; 2Thess.3:9; Phil.3:17). I also remembered the uprightness and integrity of Biblical personalities like Nehemiah, Ezra, Daniel and Esther. History could reveal only a few names with such impeccable and unblemished character. Present day scenario is much worse where persons who could boldly demonstrate their integrity and uprightness have become a rare commodity.
Be Proud Of What?
More than before and more than everything else, India now needs self-discipline and integrity of her citizens. The country doesn't need a thriving economy, a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, marvellous growth in scientific field, becoming numero uno in cricket, astonishing development in the computer field, phenomenal rise in the field of information technology and the highest level of educational growth that would cause even the US to look at us with envy. India remains a corruption-ridden and a morally-bankrupt nation in spite of being boastful about its thriving democracy, spirituality, unity in diversity, secularism, human resources, etc. As if to prove all these things as nothing but simple lies and mere slogans, corruption cases and scams are coming to light day in and day out. People have become accustomed to hearing such news about people in authority from the highest level such as Cabinet Ministers to the lowest rung postman involving in unethical and criminal activities. With such periodicity the scams are unearthed that people have no time even to wonder about the magnitude of the crime and the methodology adopted by the perpetrators in brazen disregard for the rules. As this country touts its cultural, religious and spiritual past and invites the world to visit 'Incredible India,' it remains one of the most poverty-stricken, strife-ridden and corrupt nations in the world. Kashmir is rocked by civilian unrest. The Maoist guerrilla movement now spans the entire eastern flank of the country. Assam, Nagaland and Manipur face their own separatist fires. Complementing the violence and unrest at sickeningly regular intervals are fresh revelations of multi-crore-rupee scams resulting from the nexus among politicians, criminals and profit-hungry corporate entities.
An article I read recently portrays the real face of the economic growth this country has achieved. "As a people, many Indians feel proud of the undeniable economic progress the country has achieved over the past decade and the attention it now gets on the global stage. This is largely because it offers multinational companies a market comprising an affluent middle-class, which, in number terms exceeds the entire populations of many, if not most, countries."
The government proclaims that poverty levels are decreasing. This indicator of economic well-being (rise in the per capita GDP) is quite inadequate as a measure of the level of actual economic deprivation in a population. As has been rightly mentioned by P. Abraham (Light of Life, Sept. 2010), poverty is multi-dimensional: people can be poor with respect to a range of criteria-for instance, with respect to income, hunger, health, education, housing, access to means of sanitary living, and so on.
It is when we view poverty in a multi-dimensional context that we will come to know the correlation between poverty and corruption. Corruption incapacitates the government from eradicating poverty and its root causes. Tax evasion by offering bribes reduces the government's income and this, as a result, hampers various welfare measures needed to be taken by the government. Recently, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed his concern that the poor still remain poor in spite of satisfactory economic growth.
"The fertile ground for support among the local people for the violence in Jharkhand, for instance, is in no small measure due to the two-year reign of a certain Chief Minister who allegedly looted the State of the equivalent of almost a billion dollars. Unchecked and massive expansion of mining operations without regard to tribal or environmental concerns was allowed, setting in motion a process that in the next five years will have tragically displaced half a million of the State's poorest and most deprived tribal people, who depend on the fast disappearing forest land for livelihood. Thus connection between corruption and chronic poverty coupled with marginalisation and violent uprisings, is exemplified in the Maoist movement." This is true to many other violent uprisings being witnessed by this country.
Absence of self-discipline or personal integrity among the citizens is the root cause for the ills of our society. We do not show the same amount of keenness in practising personal integrity as we show in promoting the country's image. Demanding bribes, using government property and facilities for personal gain without fearing for conscience, not working for the salary one is paid for, digging the roads for various purposes but leaving them without re-laying, government doctors wasting their time at the cost of the waiting and ailing patients, rash-driving of the vehicles unmindful of the traffic rules, unnecessarily blowing horns-the list would go endlessly. Such acts have become common habits to most of our people.
When a Minister visits a town for a government function, the normal life is disturbed and people are put to untold miseries. The traffic is diverted and cut-outs and banners occupy pathways and even roads, creating traffic congestion. The normal life of the city comes to a standstill. The leader's visit brings misery, instead of joy.
How Can We Celebrate?
The decision to postpone the inquiry of the alleged corruption in the Commonwealth Games, fearing that the image of the country would be tarnished, will only lead to loss of the evidence. This will certainly not safeguard the personal integrity or the country's reputation.
According to a newspaper report, every year two million children under five die of treatable and preventable diseases, and 40 million children are engaged in dangerous and unlawful child labour. How can the country celebrate the successful conduct of the Commonwealth Games by spending thousands of crores?
Where Is The Fear Of God?
It is said that this country is deeply rooted in spirituality and the people have faith in God and are spiritual. But people indulging in unlawful activities without fear of anything and anyone could be seen everywhere. An officer who is in the habit of accepting bribes makes it a point to visit a temple at a distant place to 'fulfil his vow' regularly! A majority of the people would like to confine God to a particular place, day and time, and are not willing to relate God with their activities. It is only when man tends to relate God to everything i.e., his look, thought, activity, talk, character, relationship, responsibility, etc., and tries to act accordingly, will corruption vanish, violence end and the country's image be promoted.
Showing interest in the construction of unauthorised temples, mosques, churches, gurudwaras and other places of worship on roads, pavements or in other public places causing traffic snarls, congestion and inconvenience to the people will only invite the warnings and strictures from the courts of law, but it will never exhibit one's spirituality. Tamil Nadu has the highest number of such unauthorised places of worship, which stands at 77,450, followed by Rajasthan (58,253) and Gujarat (15,000), according to a recent newspaper report. If we show some concern in the humanitarian and social welfare activities, it will take the country on the path of development.
In his report on the maladministration and misdemeanour rampant in India's richest temple, Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam (TTD), former Chief Vigilance and Security Officer wrote thus, "These employees have no fear of God, no fear of punishment and no integrity." This statement confirms the fact that, though religious people are more in this country, God-fearing people have become a rare commodity.
Why This Article?
I am writing this with a heavy heart. The sole intention is not only to blame us, but to bring the sorry state of affairs to our mind with an appeal to ponder over and take remedial action for its redemption.
Mr. Jacob could bear witness to his faithfulness and integrity that he maintained during his long government service. How many of us could say so about our career and our public life? Why can't we lead such a witnessing life? Why can't we lead others to such a glorious life? Why can't we show the light to those who are in the darkness? Are we not the 'ones' who know 'the way'? Are we not the 'ones' who possess 'the light'?
You and I are the light of the world. Let our light shine before people, so that they can see our good deeds and give honour to our Father in heaven.