(Published in the XIV Anniversary Souvenir of Vigilance Study Circle, Hyderabad - released by CVC on 14th July 2017)

 “A problem well-defined is a problem half solved”, said the American Philosopher Jown Dewey.  Perhaps, time is ripe now to apply this philosophy to redefine the problem of corruption.

The most widely referred definition of corruption has been that of the World Bank.  According to the World Bank, corruption is ‘the abuse of public office for private gain’.  Of course, this definition is perfect, but is it not incomplete?  It apparently looks so, because it talks only about those who occupy the public office.  Does it mean that those who do not occupy public office are not indulging in corruption?  

Recent press reports about the review petition filed in the Supreme Court by a convicted person in a disproportionate asset case arguing that she could not have been convicted for disproportionate assets as she had never been a public servant is a glaring example of how the definition of corruption is applied in a limited way in our country. 

Similar is the definition of Transparency International – “Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain”.

A wider coverage is available in the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA)’s definition of corruption in development co-operations, which is 'when institutions, organisations, companies or individuals profit inappropriately from their position in the operations and thereby cause damage or loss. This includes giving and receiving bribes, extortion, favouritism and nepotism, embezzlement, fraud, conflict of interest, and illegal monetary contributions to political parties.'

A much more difficult, scientific definition developed by Professor (emeritus) Dr. Petrus van Duyne, ‘Corruption is an improbity or decay in the decision-making process in which a decision-maker consents to deviate or demands deviation from the criterion which should rule his or her decision-making, in exchange for a reward or for the promise or expectation of a reward, while these motives influencing his or her decision-making cannot be part of the justification of the decision.’

All these definitions of Corruption are as much incomplete as the Newton’s third law.  Newton’s third law says, ‘For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction’.  But Newton did not specify when the ‘equal and opposite reaction’ will happen.  The timing is missing! 

One of our former Prime Ministers said long ago, ‘corruption is a universal phenomenon’.  Be it universal.  Then why is it less in one country and more in another country?  Why does it affect common man in one country like ours and doesn’t affect common man in other countries (mostly developed ones)? There is something which causes the difference.  Perhaps, the difference lies in properly defining the problem (of corruption), as advocated by John Deway and applying right remedies.

Therefore, there is a fundamental need to redefine corruption to address it.  Do we need to reinvent the wheel for this purpose?  Isn’t it defined already in our Sanatana dharma?  This article is to draw attention in this direction.

We are a nation known for practicing Sanatana dharma.  Sanatana dharma literally means ‘eternal duty’ and is known as a way of life.  Unfortunately, we have now come to a stage of practicing ‘sanatana adharma’ and eternal corruption has become the way of life!  This is particularly because of the alienation from our roots in sanatana dharma and adopting incomplete and narrow definitions for corruption such as ‘‘the abuse of public office for private gain’ etc.

It is high time that we take shelter under our own traditional system of ‘sanatana dharma’ and follow our eternal duty so that ‘Corruption free India’ becomes an attainable ambition.  

Well, it is in this context, we can think of a ‘KD approach’!

KD in the Indian Police parlance is used to classify criminals as ‘Known Dacoit / Known Depredator’ which is a residual word from Macaulay-era.   However, the KD approach we are discussing here is not on these KDs but on the KD of ‘Karma’ and ‘Dharma’ as prescribed in our Sanatana Dharma.  

Karma refers to the actions undertaken by the body and the mind that determines the state of an individual in the next existence or birth.  It is the system of actions and reactions leading to reincarnated lives forming a cycle of rebirths.  The effects depend on the action.  It is believed that beneficial effects are derived from past beneficial actions and harmful effects are derived from past harmful action.  Therefore, it become imperative that one live life according to what is right.  

The big challenge is, how to know what is right and what is not?

Here the ‘D - dharma’ factor comes to our rescue.  Dharma is the path of righteousness and living one’s life according to the code of conduct as prescribed in our sanatana dharma.  For instance, the ‘10 Rules of Dharma’ prescribed by Manusmriti written by the ancient sage Manu provides the code of conduct in the form of 10 essential rules for the observance of dharma: 

(i)Patience (dhriti), 

(ii)Forgiveness (kshama), 

(iii)Piety or self control (dama), 

(iv)Honesty (asteya), 

(v)Sanctity (shauch), 

(vi)Control of senses (indraiya-nigrah), 

(vii)Reason (dhi), 

(viii)Knowledge or learning (vidya), 

(ix)Truthfulness (satya) and 

(x)Absence of anger (krodha). 

Manu further condenses, "Non-violence, truth, non-coveting, purity of body and mind, control of senses are the essence of dharma".

The principle of dharma applies to all beings.  Every human being from all walks of life and at every stage of life while undertaking all different activities are governed by the principle of dharma.  It does not differentiate between public service or private employment or business or any other profession or students etc.  So, every act is governed by its own dharma.  When we fail in its dharma (D) while performing an act, we are subject to the karma (K) and become a sort of KD in police parlance. 

Therefore, instead of applying the limited definitions of corruption which perhaps was adopted for convenience, forgetting our traditional deep rooted values, we need to redefine corruption, more particularly in the Indian context to address corruption in the Indian way of Sanatana Dharma.  This can be done with the powerful principles of Karma and Dharma (KD) so that it effectively covers every citizen.  Corruption cannot be eliminated through a compartmental approach of trying to cleanse one section of the society while leaving the rest.  

The starting point for achieving a Corruption Free India should, therefore, start with an effective Indian definition to this global problem of corruption. 

Perhaps, a simpler definition of Corruption in terms of Sanatana Dharma could be -  ‘Corruption is the failure on the part of performer of an act, to adhere to its Dharma and thereby attracting the Karma and its consequences’.  

In fact, this failure is what is known as ‘dereliction of duty’ as prescribed in our statute books.  Unfortunately, this term ‘dereliction of duty’ is largely applied only to the public servants while performing their duty.  On the other hand, the principle of dharma applies to all for their every act.   

In other words, any adharma should be treated as corruption and all anti-corruption laws like Prevention of Corruption Act and Indian Penal Code and related laws should be suitably amended to accommodate such a definition of corruption based on Sanatana Dharma in terms of adharma.  

To deal with all types of adharmas, they may be divided in to four categories based on the acts performed (by every individual) in matters relating to (i) Personal (ii) Professional (iii) Social and (iv) Spiritual.  These four dimensions cover every aspect of human life and each and every act performed by all individuals at every stage.  

In fact, such a definition of corruption will have universal application.  

After all, Dharma and Karma are like Yoga, which is universal in character.  They are meant for practice and application irrespective of culture, nationality, race, caste, creed, sex, age and physical condition.  That is the beauty of Sanatana Dharma, which propagates Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family).

Perhaps, this KD approach may be the starting point to infuse the essence of Sanatana Dharma in Indian Statute Books and pave way for a Corruption Free India!

-Govindarajan Suresh 

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