Monday, November 30, 2009

Do people become corrupt overnight?

The latest in the unending stream of news about corruption is the involvement of top-ranking military officials, as high as Lt.Generals, in a scam relating to sale of land. Some commentators have wondered how people with doubtful integrity have ascended to such levels in the first place. These commentators have made two assumptions. a) Promotion system in the defense services is fair enough to weed out corrupt elements and b) People do not become venal overnight or in other words a person's tendency to be corrupt is a chronic degenerating ailment and cannot be a spontaneous response to a tempting opportunity.

Both assumptions are debatable. Regarding the first assumption, is it not a bit far-fetched to suppose that the defense services can be an oasis of virtue in the desert of Indian corruption? A system's integrity is contingent on the bonafides of the people running it. So even if the promotion system contains objective rules and regulations, it is highly likely that they are subverted more often than not.

The other assumption is a matter for study by HR experts. This assumption has far-reaching implications. If this assumption is proved to be valid, vigilance should be more towards newer employees in an organisation. Risk management experts will find their job becoming easier if they are told that the human element in operational risk exists only in the case of employees new to the organisation. Such a scenario appears too good to be true.


Hummingbird said...

Often we are surprised by the corruption angle as to how such and such person is involved. I often feel that many people in India are honest because they have not been 'tested' with opportunities for corruption. That's why those who were hitherto considered honest are suddenly discovered as dishonest.

I agree with your view that the defence services cannot be an oasis of virtue in the desert of corruption. But there will always be honest people around us - in all places (including in politics and media) and their honesty could be the result of their upbringing and value system in their families/friends with which they were brought up.


K.R.Srivarahan said...

Dear Hummingbird,

Your optimism is encouraging.