Sunday, July 15, 2007

My speech on "Integrity" to IRDE, Dehradun as part of YI, CII - 13.07.07

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good Afternoon!! First of all I take this opportunity to thank the scientists of this country, who make our lives peaceful and yet take little credit for it. You are the real heroes of this nation. On behalf of the CII’s Young Indians and on behalf of Milagrow Business and Knowledge Solutions, I welcome all of you to a very special event of YI, CII
What is integrity ?
Integrity is the basing of one's actions on an internally consistent framework of principles. Depth of principles and adherence of each level to the next are key determining factors. One is said to have integrity to the extent that everything he does and believes is based on the same core set of values. While those values may change, it is their consistency with each other and with the person's actions that determine his integrity.
The concept of integrity is directly linked to responsibility. Integrity in ancient India has always meant unity of thought, word and deed.
Integrity to me is the wholeness of being. To be morally sound, and stand for a set of values. It is a holistic concept, one which should cover every aspect of our lives. Integrity should signify that we say what we think, and we do what we say When I was asked to speak the key note address on Integrity India campaign in such august audience, the first question that comes to my mind is what is my moral authority to talk on Integrity. Trust me ladies and gentlemen, I thought about it a lot, and it gave me a reason to ponder and reflect upon my own life, my relationships, and my career in general. I personally believe that there is no such thing as personal set of values and public set of values for a human being. Life is funny, and yet extremely fair, and in the long run, our personal values come to reflect upon our public relationships. Having had the opportunity to be an entrepreneur at the age of 17 running an injection moulding company, I have seen India from the grassroots. At the same time having studied in one of the best colleges in India have had the opportunity to interact with the thought leaders of this country.
After graduating from Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, my first job was in London as an investment banker where I worked for 5 years. Being the only coloured guy in investment banking, that is still largely a white strong hold, taught me many cross cultural lessons. Having worked and interacted with British for long hours in a day for many years, I always think what is that these guys do differently than us. If you look at an average British and compare it with an average Indian, the Indian would be smarter in everything – but the sad part is that this smartness sometimes borders to short cuts. In my life in UK, I noticed a strong sense of Integrity for the nation and to a common set of values, that all abide by. One can take things at face value. In India, in every day life, it is more a norm that everything has a hidden agenda. We find that we have a different set of values that govern our different aspects of life. We are driven not by personal guilt arising from a lowering benchmark of values. We are rather driven by public guilt. Everything is fine, as long as the world doesn’t know of it. The western philosophy calls for taking responsibility for one’s actions. However, in India, we believe that everything is predestined. There is a clear sense of evading responsibility and everything is passed on to God. We don’t take it upon ourselves to be responsible for our society, for our motherland, for our country. But the problem is not that the integrity is missing when the call is for the nation, the problem is that integrity is missing even when we are dealing our personal lives. If we don’t stand for things that benefit us directly, what will we do when the benefits are for all?

Today, those of you who are running companies, advertise for a typist, and nine out of ten who apply can neither spell nor punctuate – and do not think it necessary to do so. Can with such attitudes, such lack of integrity for our jobs, we become a great nation?

A government official accepts bribe from a party to a tender and lets him outbid the highest tender. He then justifies that he has done nothing wrong, because he has created a win win situation. He has made money for himself, and in the process his department through the tender process has got more money coming in now, than earlier? How do you justify this? Is this government official ethical to his value system and his job?
If we come on a conference and get paid for it, and don’t declare it to our company, is that acceptable?
“The Letter to Garcia” is one of the most widely circulated articles of the world. When the war broke out between Spain and the US in last decade of 19th century, it was necessary to communicate quickly with the leaders of the insurgents led by Garcia. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain fastnesses of Cuba – no one new where. No mail or telegraph message could reach him. The President must secure his cooperation and quickly. Someone said to the President, “There is a fellow by the name of Rowan who will find Garcia for you, if anybody can”. Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How the fellow by the name of Rowan took the letter and delivered it to Garcia – are things that we don’t have to go in detail. The point I want to make is this: The President gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia, Rowan took the letter and didn’t ask “where is Garcia” –He did it with a “consider it done” attitude with a complete integrity to his task and not searched for excuses and escaping responsibility. The point is that the country doesn’t need book learning young men, nor instructions about this or that, but a stiffening of vertebrae, which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies and to act with completely INTEGRITY. That is when the nation would progress. We need Rowans who can carry the message to Garcia with utmost Integrity. Slipshod assistance, inattention, indifference, and half hearted work are all parts of personal non integrity and no man can succeed unless he has personal integrity, accept of course by bribes or threats, to what we Indians now rely upon.
While I am normally wary of the "Mera Bharat Mahaan" syndrome, all of us can be justifiably proud of the many successes India has notched up on the economic front:
An 8-10% economic growth on a sustained basis is a clear possibility. India has 1 trillion GDP mark ranking 7th in the world. We have earned the reputation of the world at large with our developments in a number of areas - be it Information Technology; bio-technology; Industrial Research and Development or higher education.
The "India Brand" has caught the attention of global business leaders and opinion makers based on our performance on the ground in select sectors. All this is great news.
The converse, which should concern us greatly, is how much we get carried away by our achievements - modest as they may be - and fail to recognize the barriers that come to realizing our full potential.
Various statistics point to the fact that for every Rupee spent by the government on development, less than ten paisa of the amount actually reaches the beneficiary.
This again sums up the biggest challenge that confronts us all : the need for transparency, accountability and ethical behaviour.
Studies by respected Institutions such as “Transparency International" indicate that India ranks a low 88 out of the 159 countries surveyed in regard to integrity. We are clubbed with a number of countries such as Gabon, Mali, Moldova, Tanzania and Iran.
Transparency International, the global civil society organization leading the fight against corruption, brings people together in a powerful worldwide coalition to end the devastating impact of corruption on men and women around the world.
In fact, Milagrow Business and Knowledge Solutions is going to be the first company in India to sign the Integrity Pact and an MoU with Transparency International. We are developing Integrity Pact Programmes with Transparency International. Our own transparency of business, our own standards of ethical growth has given us the moral authority today to stand in front of a larger audience and encourage them to sign the Integrity Pact. If we are able to sign 10 YIs this year on this Integrity Pact, we would consider having made some change. In the last few months since Milagrow has come into existence, we have had numerous instances when we have been offered money in cash, but we have never accepted anything but cheque.

The media and research keeps on springing humungous corruption numbers at us- 250,000 crores loss of revenue to government through tax evasion,50,000 crores additional cost to the country because of delays in project implementation due to bureaucratic red tape. 2000 crores offered as bribes by truck drivers at various check points in the country.
Each one of us has to contribute, the battle is going to be long, we need everybody to carry the Letter to Garcia with utmost Integrity.
At the institutional level, integrity needs to be promoted by rallying for institutional changes.
In recent years, the nation has witnessed the non governmental associations who have intervened, in significant ways, on behalf of common citizens to ensure the protection of their rights on the one hand and secure the accountability of those exercising power on the other. With the state and its attendant institutions being increasingly subjected to sustained pressure to act in a transparent and accountable manner, the response of the power structure is mixed. It has often attempted to resist pressure from these groups to be more accountable. RTI Act has removed a major bottleneck in the Indian democratic (and legal) framework with free flow of information to citizens on various aspects of the functioning of government. India can reasonably pride itself on the freedom of the press. They have acted as a watchdog, reporting incidents of misuse of power and corruption. Greater transparency would permit persistent social pressures on the administration to ensure probity and honesty. Under the present system, it is possible for those in power to blame lapses on “systems failure.” While the Right to Information Act has come to force, steps have yet to be taken to make it fully useful. The irony is that its successful implementation is once again monitored by the bureaucracy.

We must promote RTI Act to make the system more accountable and decrease corruption.
A serious matter of concern is the inordinate delay in the hearing of routine cases. Judicial activism seems to have drawn attention only to the high-profile cases, while the complaints of common citizens often drag on in the court for several years.
The middle class in India idolizes any public servant who decides to launch a crusade against corrupt practices. While ordinary citizens do have access to the judicial system, the inordinate delays and the complicated procedures often deter individuals from filing complaints.
The opinion of lawyers in general public is best summed up by a quote from Akbar Allahabadi who lampooned them in a memorable couplet:
Paida hua vakeel to iblees nay kahaa
Lo aaj ham bhee saheb-i-aulaad ho gaye
(The day a lawyer was born, Devil said with joy
Allah has made me today, the father of a boy.)
There are over 30 million cases pending in the various courts, a low conviction rate of 6 percent, and a case taking on an average 10 to 20 years to dispose off, it is a miracle if justice is dispensed at all. The conduct of many judges has been questionable, to say the least. But who would judge the judges themselves?
The Supreme Court, however has enjoyed far greater credibility than either of the other two pillars of government. It has often acted as a proactive bulwark of democracy, often hauling up the executive and legislative bodies for making a travesty of the Constitution. In its defense of democracy, a proactive judiciary (mainly the Supreme Court) has been ably supported by a fairly independent media. However,
There has been an animated debate in India about ministers continuing in office even after serious charges of corruption However, in a few of these cases, once the heat of the controversy simmered down, the leaders made a quiet back-door return to the government. The political class seems to have arrived at a consensus that ministers need to resign only when the charges are framed in a court against them.
One has to really strain one’s memory to remember the last time a minister was penalized, let alone imprisoned, even though so many of them are tainted. Statistics and surveys on corruption, though sketchy underscore the majority sentiment. According to the most comprehensive survey of petty corruption in India so far, India figures among the 30 most corrupt nations in the world. The survey also revealed that the greatest sufferers of this petty corruption are not the middle classes, who often have the ability to grease greedy palms (even if grudgingly), but the urban poor—hawkers, rickshaw-pullers and small tea-shop owners, small-time mechanics, poor migrant laborers, slum-dwellers: in one word, the city’s underbelly, bravely trying to eke out a living in the most heartless and trying circumstances.
We are fortunate that the platform like Integrity India Campaign is an inspiration for all of us to realize a transparent, ethical, accountable and responsive civil society in our life time.
Not all is lost, the change is happening. Everyday, we find an inspirational story of people standing up for values. Great Indians keep coming on the horizons who maintain the benchmark for us. Integrity in our personal and professional life brings us a sense of wholeness, satisfaction, and a clear conscience. You can out-distance that which is running after you, but not what is running inside you.
So today let us all pledge to live by integrity in our life. I request you to kindly sign in the statement of commitment provided to you. We will be the catalysts of change. Let us take forward YI’s slogan
“Growth with Dignity, India’s Integrity”

Thank You.

No comments: