“Youth is a spark which can either burn or lighten the country”, it is said.  India and China are the countries having maximum youth population and suppose to enjoy the demographic dividend.   However, this demographic dividend would become a demographic disaster, if the youth are not properly guided and their energy is not harnessed.

Well, today there is a tremendous pressure on the youth of our country in every field, to achieve, excel and take the country forward.   When it comes to fighting corruption, everyone looks towards the youth(conveniently!?).   There appears to be exasperation out of this expectation from the ‘not so youth’ and elderly, particularly in the area of fighting corruption.  While every citizen has to play an effective role in the fight against corruption, the youth, by virtue of their very nature and in their own self interest, should go the extra mile in the fight against corruption.  

In this direction, it is worthwhile recalling the call of Mr. Ratan Tata to the youth of our country sometime ago, when he said, “The youth of today will need to recognise that they shoulder a great responsibility.  They will need to fight for rooting out corruption, for ensuring that no one is above the law and uniting the citizens of India as ‘India first’ instead of communal or geographic factions”.  

Now, it is a question of taking responsibility and rooting out corruption.  Where does the journey begin?  In my opinion, the role of youth in the fight against corruption should happen at two levels.  One, at their personal level and secondly, their professional level.

I have been closely associated with a faction of the youth of our country in the e-mode, thanks to the online essay contests conducted for the past 7 years through SIV-G (www.siv-g.org) involving the youth on topics such as integrity, good governance, fighting corruption etc.  With this experience, I can say categorically that there are good numbers of youth in our country who are ready to shoulder greater responsibilities as Mr. Tata envisaged.   May be the numbers are not good enough!  At the same time, it is very difficult at this stage to explain to the youth that corruption is risky and does not pay, especially when examples of flourishing corrupt people have become common!  The experience in involving the youth in forming the National Governance Corps (NGC) on the lines of NCC and NSS also gave a clue that the present day youth, driven by their parents’ pressure in most of the cases, ask the question ‘what is in it for me’ when they are expected to be good and honest citizens.  Perhaps, the feel of ‘India first’ as Mr. Tata said, is hard to find.  

This has lead to a situation where the youth today tries to relate everything to success, sadly in terms of monetary terms.  First of all, one must be clear about what success is.  Is it to be rich?  To be a world icon? To be famous? To be rich and famous or to be a great visionary or what else?  And…. One has to have a logic for thinking so.  I only recall the story of Aristotle (I think).  Once when he was sitting near the border of his village, a stranger who wanted to migrate to the village approached him and asked, ‘do you have thieves in your village?’  Aristotle replied, ‘yes’.  Then the stranger asked, ‘are there people who fight with each other in your village?’   Aristotle said, ‘yes’.  Then the stranger came out with another question, ‘are there people indulging in bad habits in your village?’  Aristotle replied again, ‘yes’.  Hearing all these ‘yes’, the stranger decided to move to another place.  After a while, another stranger approached Aristotle and asked, ‘do you have honest people in your village?’  Aristotle replied, ‘yes’.  Then the stranger asked, ‘do you have people having concern for others in your village?’ Aristotle replied, ‘yes’.  The next question from the stranger was ‘do you have people with good character in your village?’  Again the reply from Aristotle was a big ‘yes’.  Then the stranger moved in to the village happily.  So it is important for the youth to know what they want and more importantly, how they want what they want!  In fact, one can not blame the Google for providing a bad search result when the ‘key search word’ itself was bad!

Therefore, it is up to the youth to look up for the role models and derive inspiration and keep their heads high.  They should have higher ideals in life which goes beyond the self-centered boundary and the precinct of the narrow mind.  The higher the goal, the greater the potency in action and fruitful results rather than those of lower ideals towards accumulation of wealth and indulgence in earthly pleasure.  This is the first and foremost step the youth has to take in the fight against corruption at their personal level.  

In fact, one of the participants of the online essay contest expressed the following when asked to write on ‘does integrity mean anything to me?’: 

“Well, so does integrity mean anything to me? The answer is, it does and it means to me not just to be united and to have high moral principles, but also the key to the growth of our nation, the ability to make ethical judgements in the face of diversity, to be united as a nation in spite of being faced by thousands of differences, to uphold the ideals of morality taught to us scores of years ago, to be the change and to be nothing less than oneself and find pride in it.”

‘India first’ is all about this!  The youth has to raise at their personal level in the fight against corruption, as it is a matter of individual’s integrity. It is said that integrity requires three steps: "discerning what is right and what is wrong; acting on what you have discerned, even at personal cost; and saying openly that you are acting on your understanding of right from wrong." In fact, integrity is being regarded as distinct from honesty.

It is ultimately the question of building national character.  National character is nothing but the collective awareness combined with braveness.  As Rajaji said, “National character is the keystone on which rests the fate and future of our public affairs, not this or that ‘ism’”.  The youth has to contribute in a greater way in building national character through personal integrity.

The next contribution that should come from the youth in the fight against corruption is at their professional level, immaterial whether they take up a job or become an entrepreneur.   The youth should not allow themselves to become a money making machine.  They should become leaders through their right action.  Also, they should understand the limitation of technology in distinguishing between human values, human good, human need and human pleasure.  In fact, few years ago, I was invited by the Hindu Businessline, Chennai to interact with a group of college students.  I was asked to give five guiding principles which the youth can put in practice in the fight against corruption.  This is what I had to say:

(i)Self disclosure – speak out or send out clear signals right at the beginning of your career that you stand by certain ethical values and demonstrate such values in your work and exhibit your honesty.  Remember, honesty is doing the right thing even when no one is watching!  For entrepreneurs, it is important to come out with a code of ethics while evolving the systems for the enterprise and equally important is to stand by those laid down codes;

(ii)Be sure that you do not become an object for blackmailing – do not do anything which gives room for others to blackmail;

(iii)Be fair and transparent in all your actions.  Fairness comes when your action or decision does not make the other party to lose.  Such fairness must be visible to others.  If at all you had to violate any of the existing system and procedure, it has to be only to benefit the organisation and do it in a transparent way.  Soon you will realise that such violations gets updated to the existing systems and procedures!

(iv)Learn how to call a spade a spade and learn to tell ‘no’.  Do not be a ‘yes man’ and do not allow ‘yes man’ around you.  Remember Tata once scrapped one of his project proposals after a board meeting when everyone said ‘yes’ to his proposal!

(v)All the above four principles can be put into practice only when you know yourself and believe in yourself.  With this belief comes an absolute faith in God, no matter what, you are bound to succeed.

Ultimately, the truth lies in what Mr. P. Shankar, former CVC said in his message to SIV-G sometime ago in the context of role of youth to fight corruption, when he said, “We cannot and should not wait for a Mahatma to come and fight for this.  Each of us should raise our voice and the resultant roar should frighten the evil forces of corruption.”  He further said, “once the youth of the country recognize corruption as a weed to be destroyed from our midst and show themselves as determined to fight it and not be passive, we can, indeed, hope for a good future for the country.”  

 

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