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Gandhi on Corruption
|by Mahesh Chandra Dewedy|
Mahatma's view of corruption was all encompassing- total probity in one's thoughts and deeds. He believed that the thoughts are precursors of deeds and, therefore, it was necessary not only to be honest in one’s deeds but also to eliminate desire for unnecessary hoarding of material goods beyond one’s necessities. In his many writings Mahatma did not dwell much on corruption possibly because he took honesty in one’s dealings for granted for anybody in public life. His wider view of honesty becomes manifest in one of the rules that he made for anybody wanting to become member (guest) in his Ashram.
The Vow of Non–thieving
Mahatma Gandhi enunciated ten rules that had to be observed by anybody wanting to become member of his Ashram. The fifth among them called ‘The Vow of Non-Thieving’ encompassed in it all aspects of corruption. It was far wider in its scope and meaning than the usual meaning of the word corruption; in effect, it amounted to Non-Possession. In Mahatma’s own words:
In an affluent society this view may look rather outlandish, but if it is judged keeping in view the all-round poverty and want prevailing in this country during Gandhi’s times, it would emerge as the most humane view. Any poor society must reduce consumption and hoarding if it wants to cater to the needs of the maximum. Gandhi considered superfluous consumption and hoarding to be an act of dishonesty towards the poor and needy.
There is no doubt that this rule becomes regressive, if applied to a properly fed and clothed society. And, I think, if Gandhi Ji were born in an affluent society, he might have not objected to every kind of hoarding.
Mahatma’s ‘Zero Tolerance’ of Dishonesty
Mahatma Gandhi's life was of continuous experimenting, learning and improving. That is why he named his autobiography 'My Experiments with Truth'. He put his ideas about truth on the anvil of real life situations to experiment and draw conclusions to improve one's knowledge, beliefs and conduct. However, little does one find in his writings or writings of others on him about his experiments with monetary corruption! The reason behind this unique absence seems to be the fact that the Mahatma had little doubt that there can be no other rule on corruption than the rule of ‘Zero Tolerance'. The following outburst of the Mahatma caused by the anger that swelled his veins when he found that many Congress leaders elected to state assemblies in 1935 were indulging in corruption makes out that point amply clear:
In fact the Mahatma was so aghast with corruption indulged in by some Congress leaders that even after attainment of independence he suggested that the Congress should be disbanded as it had served its purpose and a new political party should be formed to contest election.
Indifference towards Corruption
Mahatma considered it to be the duty of those in authority to deal with corruption with a heavy hand. In his view an indifferent attitude towards corruption was criminal. He felt highly disgusted with the persons in power not only for indulging in corruption, but also for lack of vigilance and moral courage towards curbing it among those who were themselves free of taint.
Morality and Ethics
Mahatma believed that no form of government will be able to cleanse itself of corruption unless morality and ethics are imbibed and observed by the society- and particularly those in power. His views published in ‘Hindu’ in 1947 make the point amply clear.
Gandhi placed the major responsibility for upholding probity in public life and keeping the dignity of our nation on the shoulders of the leading men of the society. He declared,
Unfortunately for this nation of ours after attainment of independence some leading men in all wings of administration had become either corrupt, or non-vigilant, or indulgent, or too democratic to deal with corruption with a heavy hand. The moral and ethical society of his dreams was fast vanishing.
Mahatma died at the right time to escape the spectacle of indignity that he would have been forced to witness, had he survived.
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10/02/2011 19:17 PM
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