Corruption, Kautilya and Manmohan

It seems, Kautilya is relevant for India again today. I don’t understand why Manmohan though an economist doesn’t take note of some of his advices. There is one more unique aspect of his character- his transparent ruthlessness,that may not be considered today as politically correct.

Whoever imposes severe punishment becomes repulsive to the people; while he who awards mild punishment becomes contemptible. But whoever imposes punishment as deserved becomes respectable. For punishment (danda) when awarded with due consideration, makes the people devoted to righteousness and to works productive of wealth and enjoyment; while punishment, when ill-awarded under the influence of greed and anger or owing to ignorance, excites fury even among hermits and ascetics dwelling in forests, not to speak of householders. But when the law of punishment is kept in abeyance, it gives rise to such disorder as is implied in the proverb of fishes (matsyanyayamudbhavayati); for in the absence of a magistrate (dandadharabhave), the strong will swallow the weak; but under his protection, the weak resist the strong.


Can Manmohan provide that protection?

I quote from Bruce Rich’s ‘To Uphold the World’:

For Kautilya the king’s duty and happiness lies exclusively with the happiness of his subjects, “what is beneficial to the subjects (is) his own benefit.

Tulsidas after many centuries wrote, ‘jasu raj priy praja dukhari so nripu awasi narak adhikari’. Ram was trying to convince Lakshman to stay back in Ayodhya with the argument.

Kautilya singles out corruption as a major threat to the state. He enumerates forty varieties of embezzlement and recommends again an elaborate system of espionage, paid informants, and incentives, both negative and positive, to check corruption. Penalties range from death for theft of objects of high value in state mines and factories to a varying scale of fines. Other penalties include publicly smearing the corrupt official with cow dung and ashes and ‘proclaiming the guilt,”shaving his head and exciling him. While a system of informers and publicly smearing corrupt officials with dung may not be politically correct in today’s mores, these approaches would certainly be more effective than the fullhearted measures we see today in international system….. Kautilya realized that corruption was a deadly threat to the state and that it is extremely hard to detect and requires rigorous controls, penalties, and incentives to keep it in check.

Will not Manmohan agree to Kautilya doctrine? But there is one difference Kautilya never look for the King’s favour for his primeministership unlike Manmohan. Kautilya created a king out of a brave boy, not the reverse of it happened.

Let Anna, Kejriwal, or Bhusans and the enlightened middle class of India realize this. It’s good that the whole of India is in its favour and backed Anna’s Jantar Mantar episode. But every one of them must also ponder over their own actions while sitting on both sides of the powerful tables. As consumers we are oppressed of corruption, as deliverers we expect to be corrupted.

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