Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Honesty and sincerity form the basis of the character in a person and sacrificing these traits for limited immediate gains will be foolhardy in the long run. A person is remembered after his life time for his good deeds and actions, not for the amount of wealth amassed as many seem to think. Psychologists and sociologists always stress on 'character building" amongst children before they become full grown adults. It is not that character development does not continue during adolescence but what is achievable is incremental improvements. If proper parenting and schooling benefits are denied to children at their impressionable year, it is more likely that they may fail to become honest citizens later.

In the ladder of corruption India has the enviable position some where at the mid-point and one often wonders why this nation got itself into this sorry pass, in spite of the glorious history behind it and superior intelligence and capabilities which can be the envy of any country. There may be many excuses but fundamentally it is due to disintegration of the old joint family system yielding to nuclear families where neither the parents nor the education system could replace the wisdom and restraining hands of the elders in large families. With both the parents working and the education system we have currently in shambles, the chances of the children imbibing all wrong values are very high. It is good to hear the new HRD Minister at Delhi talking about overhauling the system to make it more transparent and value-based. According to Transparency International, India occupies 72 nd position while top 3 countries with least corruption include New Zealand, Singapore and Sweden. Bottom 3 positions are held by Somalia, Myanmar and Iraq. It is no consolation that there are more than 100 countries more corrupt than us in the corruption scale!

Indonesia, which scores 143 in the corruption scale is notorious for its wide spread bribery and corruption, seems to have realized the need for setting their house in order for the sake of the security of their future generation and is reported to be trying to reverse the trend through voluntary efforts. Since students are the future citizens destined to shoulder responsibility to hold the country's flag high, the government there is trying out a novel approach involving them. A series of "Honesty Cafes" have been conceived where students and other customers are expected to pay for the food service voluntarily and more than 10000 such establishments in private and public sectors are expected to be established through out the country by the end of this year. This is a 'managerless' system with high degree of transparency and the hope is that participants will feel the pleasure of being honest, to begin with in these cafes and later practice the same in their lives. Their experience so far in its 6 months of operation, indicates that these honesty cafes are doing very well in locations like schools while some resistance was discerned in other places. Though it is too early to predict the outcome of this venture, if found effective can be a model for other countries to try out.

In India, it is doubtful whether such experiments will succeed though there is nothing wrong to try it out in some of the metros. More effective will be to evolve teaching techniques at the kindergarten and primary school levels that will reward children for being truthful and honest. There could even be honesty courses, to be compulsory for all, in order to pass out to the next class. Moral lessons should be part of the curriculum of every school though pessimists may baulk at such schemes as sheer waste. The idiom "catch them young" is highly relevant when it comes to inculcating honesty amongst youngsters.


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