Confucius defined several levels of Honesty. Starting from shallow and ending with deep, the levels are as follows:
Li, wanting to appear truthful for your own personal gain.
Yi, doing what is right on the basis of how you would like to be treated in return.
Ren, based on the most sincere form of empathy toward others that are different from you in age, gender, culture, experience, family, etc.
The word "integrity" stems from the Latin adjective integer (whole, complete). In this context, integrity is the inner sense of "wholeness" deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. As such, one may judge that others "have integrity" to the extent that one judges whether they behave according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold.
Today, the Indian media—both print and television—is focusing on the recent corruption scandals involving the UPA Government with unusual zeal. However, I fail to understand why almost every commentator, every TV anchor, every editorial writer feels compelled to pay ritual obeisance to the “personal honesty and integrity” of Dr Manmohan Singh while dealing with the scandals emanating from his cabinet colleagues. They do so even when there is clear evidence that the Prime Minister was well aware of various shady deals, as in the case of Telecom scam, and that he did nothing to stop the brazen economic crimes indulged in by his ministerial colleagues over the last 6 years.
Corruption is not only about personally accepting monetary bribes and stacking them away in hidden bank accounts overseas, buying benami properties or accepting diamond sets for your wife. Corruption can come in insidious avatars, such as knowingly turning a blind eye to the misuse the entire machinery of governance to serve private ends of a few individuals, even to the point of endangering national security. For example, not a single person has been punished thus far for supplying sub standard bullet proof jackets to the police handling the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai. Not surprisingly, we are right now witnessing yet another scam involving sub- standard bullet proof vests.
In recent weeks, some of our most respected columnists have been warning us that we should look at institutional reform rather than target individuals because it can lead to loss of faith in democratic institutions. But how do you retain faith in democratic institutions if powerful individuals use their office to systematically subvert the autonomy and credibility of institutions meant as watchdogs of democracy? The best of institutions take no time in becoming slavish instruments of partisan agendas if you plant subservient and heavily compromised individuals at their helm.
Dr Manmohan Singh cannot escape responsibility for appointing people with dubious credentials to occupy key positions of power — starting with the appointment of Pratibha Patil as the President of India. This despite the fact that that Congress leaders of her own district protested vehemently against her appointment because of her and her close kin's direct involvement in criminal cases. Thereafter, all key institutions, including the Election Commission, the Central Vigilance Commission have been filled with people whose credentials have been questioned not just by the opposition but also the media and respected public figures.
He has also provided key portfolios to people with a proven track record of brazen corruption. For example, IAS officer, Mr Lalli the CEO of Prasar Bharati that manages Doordarshan has been charged in countless corrupt deals and practices. Despite
numerous agitations by the staff of Doordarshan to get him punished, he continues lording over the institution because he is supposed to have the PM's backing.
This regime has also gone out of its way to protect those judges of the High Courts and Supreme Court who have such serious corruption charges against them as to merit impeachment and criminal trials. Justice Dinakaran of the Karnataka High Court was saved from the wrath of and boycott by the legal fraternity of Karnataka by being transferred to Sikkim High Court despite loud protests by people in
circumstances in jail.
Supreme Court Justice Sabharwal was likewise protected from prosecution even though the allegations against him during UPA’s first term were no less serious than that of Kalmadi. He is alleged to have ordered demolition of numerous commercial centres and
The CWG scam is not just about misappropriation of funds through inflated bills and money being paid to bogus companies. It all started with the politician-contractor mafia being allowed to violate all environmental laws to convert Yamuna floodplains into prime real estate by building luxury apartments in the name of
The choice of the company that built the Games Village, the names of its real owners, its unknown and known partners, and the list of its known and unknown beneficiaries will reveal a scam more insidious than the Adarsh Housing Scam of Mumbai which
involved Congress Party CM and other politicians, top ranking officials of the armed forces and bureaucrats cornering luxury apartments in a prime location in a housing society set up in the name of Kargil widows. In this case too, the only visible
action taken by the Prime Minister is to replace the Chief Minister of
Or take the example of the most politically sensitive state of Jammu & Kashmir. Manmohan Singh allowed an anti- Omar agitation to turn into an anti India agitation much against his own counsel, all because he dare not sack Omar Abdullah from the
CM’s post even when the entire Valley rose in revolt against his high handed, corrupt and callous regime. Senior Congress leaders admit in private that Omar cannot be touched since he is a buddy of Rahul Gandhi. Dr Singh knows well that Omar’s continuation has given a new lease of life to the Pak inspired separatist and terrorist movement in
People attribute his pliability to the fact that the prime minister was appointed and not elected. He has never won a Lok Sabha election. But that cannot be used as an excuse to justify overlooking such gross mismanagement and loot as well as the political drift one witnesses even in areas involving national security.
In fact, his defeat in the one and only election he ever fought is related to his lack of personal integrity. He was defeated in the predominantly middle-class
" when a big tree falls, the earth is bound to shake." The Congress Party also ensured that those who masterminded and executed the 1984 pogrom did not get punished.
Similarly, in the case of
BJP-RSS combine in
Likewise, getting a Rajya Sabha seat from
A PM who compromises national interest, as in Kashmir,just to indulge the personal fancy of the PM in waiting, a PM who looks the other way while his Cabinet colleagues brazenly loot public funds and get away with extorting thousands of crores by way of kickbacks, a PM who is widely perceived and lampooned as a “rubber stamp” does not merit being called “an honest man” or a “man of integrity” because integrity in his job demands putting national interest above partisan politics and personal loyalties.
Integrity also involves taking full responsibility for all his acts of commission and omission which have earned UPA II the dubious distinction of being publicly named as the most corrupt and rudderless government in post independence India
Madhu Purnima Kishwar is Founding Editor, Manushi Journal, Founder, Manushi Sangathan -- Citizens First Forum and Senior Fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.