risk, no reward
acquaintance once remarked, "If anybody came up to me
and said 'India's problems can be solved if the population
is reduced by half', I am willing to die".
doesn't require such a great sacrifice to set India right.
Nor does that kind of sacrifice guarantee things will be right
in the end. Wasn't our population half the present size only
a few decades ago? Haven't we managed to bungle? Far from
any guaranteed success, we would have the additional problem
of disposing off 500 million bodies!
from population, poverty and illiteracy, it has become fashionable
to attribute a good share of our problems to the decline in
values. Many believe that corruption, lawlessness and criminalization
of politics are consequences of declining values. They helplessly
shake their head and predict that unless people change, we
are all doomed.
truth is that values are roughly the same in every culture
and civilisation throughout history. A small fraction of population
always has inherent sense of values that do not require to
be enforced by external compulsion - be it social sanction
or law enforcement. Similarly there is always a small fraction
of population that tends to indulge in bad behaviour unless
restrained firmly by society or law. If good behaviour is
rewarded and bad behaviour is punished consistently, most
people tend to behave well, but if the contrary is true, most
people maximize short-term private gain at the cost of society.
In effect, the overall societal behaviour is a reflection
of the ability of law and society to reward good behaviour,
or correct bad behaviour.
a planeload of Indians travelling west either for pleasure,
business, study or work. Most of them who are not used to
observing any rules behave differently soon after landing.
They notice in the airport that people are standing in lines,
people are following the rules of the road, and if by force
of habit they lower the window to throw a piece of paper immediately
their host warns them against it. If they are students or
job seekers, the bitter cold is no reason for coming late
to school or work and ignorance of the cultural habits of
the new land is no excuse for deviant behaviour. The slow
learner painfully realises that violation of even simple rules
is followed by fines, penalties or loss of job.
after some years of stay in the west, these same people return
to India and try to drive the way they do abroad, they soon
realise that everybody is overtaking them on all sides and
it would take them a painfully long time to reach their destination!
Or if they do business the same way as abroad, nothing gets
done without greasing palms. Most people fall in line quickly
and they seek short-term gain at the cost of society.
crisis is not essentially on account of decline in values
in society, nor is it because we have the wrong kind of people
in politics, bureaucracy and judiciary. We have designed a
system where it is extremely difficult to do good, but bad
behaviour is lavishly rewarded.
lawlessness and criminalization are merely manifestations
of failure of governance. Gladstone, the British statesman
of 19th century said, "the purpose of a government is
to make it easy for people to do good, and difficult to do
evil." Our government does the exact opposite, and the
results are predictable. If we care for our children's future,
all we need to do is work for better governance. Complaining
about values will take us nowhere.