Anna Hazare – Can Corruption Be Eradicated From The Top?

27 Aug

This is a translation of a blog post from Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translated by: Skanda Narayanan

Translation from:


Dear J,

It looks like you have so far not addressed  an important point raised in many earlier questions. That question is, how can we remove corruption by starting at the top, when corruption is very much part of all ordinary citizens? Shouldn’t we first fight corruption at the lower level, and then move on to the top? If so, what is the point of Lokpal? Unless each one of us turn against corruption, how will we eradicate it?

Saminathan, Chennai


Dear Saminathan,

We can easily find answers if the question is put as “How to tackle this situation”, rather than questioning Anna’s movement.

Yes, we have corruption at the lower levels. What should be done about it? How do we find it out? How do we punish it? Who will punish it? Someone above that level, right? Subsequent monitoring can happen incrementally, one level on top of the other and so on. So, for corruption at a given level, only levels above can monitor and punish. If the top is completely corrupt, monitoring will become negligible, and corruption will increase. Isn’t that the truth today?

Historically, it has only been about 50 years since our society has moved from a monarchy towards democracy. Many countries that we consider corruption free, have been very much into democracy since about 200 years or so. In a typical monarchy, the king is beyond all reasonable doubt. Everything he does is right. Also, people who are close to the king possess all powers.

In a monarchy, it was ok to pay something to the king to get things done. There was no concept of equality or equal chance to everyone. If one person had all the ability and the other has the support of the king, or the king’s relative, or his courtesan, who do you think will get a chance?  We all know the answer. That was accepted as right, in a monarchy.

We are used to such behavior. We continued with the same mind set througout the British Raj. Everything the Britisher did was right. Their mercy was the route to success. We moved into democracy with the same mind set. The same mind set makes us a society that accepts corruption.

Ok, even with such a mind set, for the first 20 years of independence we had a totally corruption free rule. How was that possible? That was because we had ideological and corruption free rulers at the top. People continued to be the same, and how were they kept out of corruption? During British rule, a Tehsildar could buy 10 houses in 10 years of service. For the first 20 years after independence, nothing of that sort happened. Why? Because incorrupt rulers were monitoring from the top. Control from the top trickled down to the bottom most level.

Forget history, let us consider contemporary times. The same people under Lalu’s regime continue to be the citizens of Bihar even now. How did the boundless corruption of Lalu’s time come down now? It is because of Nitish Kumar at the top who trys not be corrupt. It is as simple as that.

Corruption can be eradicated only from the top. Those countries where corruption was brought under control, it was controlled from the top. Take the USA, or Europe. First, a few people who are against corruption form a people’s movement. This movement changes the mind set of general public. The rules are elected out of this mind set. The rulers in turn control corruption from the top.

You can see this change happening in India as well. Previous generation politicians such as A.R. Antulay, Karpoori Thakur, Karunanidhi, Gundu Rao, Nandini Satpathy have faded into oblivion. People have started supporting leaders who are considered much more corruption free such as Nitish Kumar, Narendra Modi, Oommen chandy and so on. The likes of Yeddyurappa are being driven out.  Soon, this trend will become stronger. People’s movements such as the one lead by Anna Hazare will contribute to this changing mind set. Provided this is not defeated by the mistrusting elitist thinkers of our society.

I do not believe that there will be a golden age where corruption from daily life will be completely eradicated. That would be an ignorant belief of a krutha yuga, where all forms of human weaknesses, likes and dislikes are destroyed. Even in the western countries, strict electronic surveillance and punishment are the means through which day to day corruption is kept under check. The danger of losing one’s entire life if found corrupt, acts as a detriment in these countries.

Even at the top, there cannot be a completely incorrupt administration. If capitalism is corruption prone, communism is prone to boundless corruption. Power and corruption go together all the time. However, if public welfare schemes and fundamental nation building activities are prone to corruption, they would restrict our country’s growth. It will increase inequality. The immediate need today is to control corruption at this level.

The agitations such as Anna’s movement will contribute towards this control of corruption. All positive changes happen through such continuous agitations. History is a standing evidence to this.

– J

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