Starting afresh

Public life, it is widely considered, mirrors private realities. The events of the past few weeks around the Anna Hazare movement suggest that perhaps finally we- as a nation- are ready to begin to tackle the menace of corruption that so plagues our public life, including our private life, if truth be told.

Its best to be direct. If we are, as a nation, willing to tackle corruption at the highest levels, then as individuals, we need to be able to tackle corruption at the lowest level: the personal.

And since this blog  primarily addresses things concerning UoH, introspection is best begun at home. There are many individuals within the University’s system that indulge in petty corruption… the kind that vitiates the workplace, the work ethic, and the sense of commitment that most of the others have. Some of this is financial corruption- construction, procurement, allotment. This is clearly the worst since the amount of money we are granted is finite, and anyone who steals directly or indirectly, steals from us. This can hurt only others among us, others within the system. Some of it is a corruption of values. An earlier post has asked serious questions regarding Academic Quality. Indeed, where does one begin? We know how to count the ways, but all too often, we desist from confronting such matters directly.

There is no need for us to be so bashful, or so fearful. If we do not wish to accept public corruption, we should not accept private corruption either.  

We have the examples. Now we need to live the life and raise the bar of accountability at UoH as well…

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4 thoughts on “Starting afresh

  1. ‘Corruption’ is not a term that is confined to financial matters alone. As you have rightly said, lack of accountability in all dealings can be covered by the term. So also, wasting the time of others, that too, without proper reason is as serious a crime as the pilferage of money and other articles. Going by this definition, our administrative offices are ‘çorrupt’.

  2. You made me sit up and search google. Corruption can mean many things, e.g.,

    1. the act of corrupting or state of being corrupt
    2. moral perversion; depravity
    3. dishonesty, esp bribery
    4. putrefaction or decay
    5. alteration, as of a manuscript
    6. an altered form of a word

    I mean (in what follows) 1 and 3.

    It has become endemic because of poor education system. If you confront someone the most expected reply will be (in the following order) (i) everybody is doing it, same as blaming the tradition (ii) I have not done anything against the rule, forgetting that rules are made by us (iii) it is permitted, also called passing the buck (iv) do whatever you can, I will take care of you later, meaning that I know I am corrupt and I will continue to be.

    Corruption (in the general sense) begins early in the school. Cheating in the exams, bunking classes, telling lies etc. sets the intellectual foundation of a child. Once in the middle level (college education) these are firmly in place but strengthened by associations, unions and other group activities. I recall one incidence during my college days one boy was found copying in the exams. After two years court ordered a re-examination and the fellow passed. Today I really do not bother about a student copying in the exams. He may pass the exams but fail elsewhere where I will have no roles.

    The worrying thing is that today corruption has acquired the critical mass of self-sustenance. If you point out one, he comes back prompt with the reply why not the other fellow? We have to start somewhere but this point (where to start) remains elusive. I think we should all start at our own levels- self and colleagues. In this matter I agree to both govt and Anna- Govt should take care of the politicians and the common man must expose the corrupt traffic police.

    In some ways, corruption is like cancer in the sense that it induces others to embrace corruption. In this sense, corruption makes you immortal, omnipotent, you see (no, I don’t). Cancer has a strong (robust) metabolic network and uses native genes (I told you so!) and in some ways corruption appears to our (somehow) primitive instincts.

    Somehow I think corruption is linked to our modern lifestyle and petty consumerism. And to return back to my original idea of blaming the education (system) I think we have lost some values somewhere someplace.

    Sometime back (several years) one dean mentioned in a meeting that we used to do better research when we had less funding. Today we are busy managing the money and writing justifications. Using the free scopus service in the university I did some research and I believe that his point has some merit. Money corrupts. Lots of money has come to the university but the infrastructure remains (what is the correct word to use?, please supply your own). Most of it has gone down the drain.

    As (I believe) corruption has reached the critical mass (corrupt people will have an army of colleagues supporting them), the only way to tackle the problem is via introspection. An appeal to your own morality works sometimes even these days.

    One thing that can be done to discourage corruption is to improve the transparency. Why we cannot put all the notices on the intranet? Why we cannot put the minutes of all the meetings on the intranet? Why we cannot put all the major purchases on the intranet?
    Why the students cannot put their grievances on the blogs? Fighting hand-to-hand (the primitive instinct) is no good: fight it out on the blogs!

  3. There seems to be a general and widespread decline in values. So, the corrupt may be found among students, teachers, non-teaching staff and vice chancellors.

    Some steps, in general terms, which might help to control this malady (especially the “bribery” form of corruption):

    Promote transparency in such an aggressive way that the RTI act becomes redundant with regard to UoH – use the inter(intra)net and set up info rooms with copies of resolutions of EC etc., and other documents so that info about the working of the university is readily available to anyone who has the time and desire to inquire.

    Declare and adhere to separate charters for students, employees and contractors/traders.

    Delegate powers, responsibilities and the associated accountability down the line. By dividing large jobs (with regard to service, purchase, construction….) into smaller units, it should be possible to make a single person responsible for a particular unit, irrespective of his hierarchical position. Give monetary rewards to those who perform well.

    Simplify administrative and financial procedures – many of these, including the practice of periodic transfers of ministerial staff – have a colonial flavour, out of touch with present needs.

    The vigilance cell should take a pro-active stand in inviting complaints from the university community as well as contractors, traders and others who deal with the university, and conducting prompt and proper inquiries and making the results public. The vigilance cell may have representatives of all sections of the university community.

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