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Lesson in Anti-corruption

New Delhi, Tue, 17 Feb 2009 M Shamsur Rabb Khan

Will it not be a good and timely idea to introduce anti-corruption classes in Indian schools? Should India not take lead in tackling corruption, if Indonesia has started addressing the canker of corruption at a nascent stage? Do our children need to learn a lesson on honesty in the classroom so that they could know the itty-gritty of fair practices in later life?

While Indonesia has taken its fight against corruption to the classroom level, it is time India, too, could adopt similar strategy to get rid of corrupt practices prevalent in the official environment. In a significant step, this South East Asian country has introduced a novel technique against corruption: introduced anti-corruption classes in the school curriculum. In comparison to India’s rank of 85, Indonesia ranks 126 on Transparency International's Global Corruption Index 2008, which is far behind India.

In practice, corruption has been a loose talk in various circles, or in the form of academic discussion or legislation to fight it whose regulators are corrupt. Though corruption is as old as human civilization, it never became a part of school curriculum in India. The last time I checked the NCERT book and found ‘corruption’ as word mention in a chapter in class IX, “Democracy in the Contemporary World” in which we have mention of the corrupt practices of Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean dictator and how he usurped the elected government of President Salvador Allende in a military coup in 1973. However, no book on social sciences in Indian curriculum discusses corruption as separate chapter.

While the countries in the South East Asian countries such as China, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines, South Korea, Poland, Ukraine and Nigeria are some of the countries have introduced anti-corruption classes, India needs to moot the idea urgently. These countries have focused on young students to take lessons on anti-graft and 'honest education' theory and practice in the school curriculum. In fact, India could follow the Indonesian example that has started anti-corruption school at Jakarta's new Pangeran Diponegoro, which aims to discourage graft by offering extra-curricular classes on nationalism, humanity, democracy and social justice.

If we look at our response to malpractices, we find that there is a high level of tolerance towards corruption in India. Scandals are normal happenings in this country, and we are perhaps so habitual that it does not shock us any more. Everyone in India likes to pay or accept speed money for speedy work. A 2005 study conducted by the Universities of Auckland and Melbourne on attitudes towards corruption in Australia, India and Indonesia, revealed that Indians exhibit a higher tolerance towards corruption than Australians; Indonesians were found to have the same attitude to corruption as Australians. It is not that we don’t have laws and commissions to tackle corruption but are they enough?

Corruption has become a way of life in Indian society: whether adulteration in oil, selling cheap cloth as expensive one, or paying bribe for petty work to getting vehicle license, registration of land, fake drugs, the list is endless. Now we have fake currency notes in circulation and it is a very difficult task to catch the real culprits. How things will be corrected then?

But we a silver lining among dark clouds as well. St Joseph's School in Darjeeling, for example, has been awarding a certificate of merit on of honesty to students who desist from cheating. And from cheating in initial stage of life begins the long saga of corruption. One of reasons why corruption thrives is the fact that honest people are not awarded or recognized. Hence, raising the 'honesty bar' should be given another dimension in government and private schools across the country.

Perhaps it is time for a well thought-out Indian syllabus to teach Gen Next about the evils of corruption.

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