Kiran Bedi, Corruption and the JanLokPal

I see two equally illogical stands being taken. As usual, polarized by the original decision to support JanLokpal or not. This is not helpful. Thinking is always a good idea. Sharing some thoughts here.

  1. Accounts were released where Kiran Bedi is reimbursed for business class fares but has actually traveled economy. The balance amount is presumed to go to her or a cause she supports or JanLokpal.
  2. There are many factors which make this an unethical thing or not in my eyes. Main one being if the amount was intended as a reimbursement of a ticket or a travel allowance. Generally, if it is a travel allowance, you get paid according to a certain standard and are expected to manage your expense within it. If you buy a more expensive ticket, you can’t expect extra money, and if you buy a cheaper one, you are not expected to return the balance. Other times, you are reimbursed the cost of your ticket – whatever it is. In this case, it would be unethical/illegal to claim more than the actual cost of your ticket. It is not clear what kind of an arrangement Kiran Bedi had with her sponsors. There may be other factors too.
  3. However when people claim that she is being smeared, or she didn’t pocket the money, those are not factors into it being unethical or not. If she fooled anyone, that is wrong – regardless of the reason or who points it out. They are merely excuses to ignore this information. Similarly those claiming that she shouldn’t do it because she is a part of the JanLokpal team or that the Lokpal is a stupid idea because “these are the kind of people supporting it” also have no proof that what she did was indeed dishonest. Both sides are basically playing the outrage to their favorite tune. Illogical. The usual pissing contest.
  4. It is alarming that our lack of critical thinking as a nation is so great that the same people end up on two sides of the same line with no attempt at understanding or compromise. No matter what. Everything Janlokpal is evil or silence. Or everything JanLokpal is good or silence. Never mind that something as simple as their building watchman may have good or bad qualities. This decays capacity to think and get results, because it gives us a fence to think within.
  5. In my opinion, if Kiran Bedi did fudge accounts, it is wrong. If she didn’t that is very good, but it is entirely irrelevant to the JanLokpal campaign.

Which brings me to the other point. Many people have called me all kinds of things ranging from bigot to corruption excuser and what not. The good thing is that they have at least graduated to creativity from the earlier “mouthpiece of <insert name>” I think clarifying my stand is useful, because it is important the country in general learn to make distinctions and apply critical thinking skills. (yes, it is also possible I am being arrogant thinking that I am the logical one and others are not, but bear with me – you can always blast me in the comments)

  • The JanLokPal is a standard proposed to combat corruption in the country. To put it bluntly, it is nobody’s baap ki jageer – Nobody’s.
  • A standard is something that applies to everyone coming under it. No individual is above a standard. In other words, just like a standard cannot be compromised for someone, the actions of someone also cannot break it. The standard is a measure, not a quality of an individual.
  • To detatch it from politics and its warped loyalties. I advocate listening, openness, compassion, generosity, courage… etc as a standard to follow in life. In moments of anger, I may not follow that standard. I may become angry, defensive, unkind, narrow minded, etc. It is definitely wrong for me to act in such a manner, and I have fallen short of the standard in that instance. That doesn’t mean two things:
  • It doesn’t mean that I am always angry, defensive, unkind, etc and I am cheating people by recommending that to them
  • It doesn’t mean that listening, openness, generosity, courage, compassion, etc are bad things, or that I have no right to recommend them, or that they should not be made a standard because they are difficult to follow.
  • Now take the whole thing and apply to Kiran Bedi.
  • This instance of accounts being fudged (if true) does not mean that she is a dishonest person or that she is somehow cheating people by making a stand against corruption and in support of JanLokpal.
  • It doesn’t mean that anti-corruption or JanLokpal are bad ideas or that she has no right to recommend them or that they should not be made a standard because they are difficult to follow.
  • This kind of logic, where people go “oh, look at her, and she is recommending anti-corruption, how scandalous” is the real bigotted thinking, because there is no such thing as perfection. If you have lived, you have made mistakes, if you have not made mistakes, you are not worth following.
  • Saying that someone being corrupt disqualifies him/her to make an anti-corruption stand is a way of sabotaging calls for anti-corruption to happen, because perfection being a myth, no one is ever going to be the perfect candidate to make a call. A good journalist and good motivation will give you dirt on anyone, or they are fake identities. So this is rather like saying a home full of obese people should never diet, because none of them have the moral authority to tell anyone else to diet.
  • The other thing people criticize me about is that they see this as sanctioning certain kinds of corruption by admitting that people are corrupt. That is not true. A standard determines a certain level of excellence. The aim is not to regiment people, but to decrease dysfunctional actions. In my eyes, money that the person most likely budgeted for someone’s travel being used by the same person to through some discomfort and used for another person doesn’t really create any dysfunction as such. Sure, it is still a bad idea, but it isn’t the same scale as say defrauding people out of years of savings. Or one of the government scams. A standard must be functional. Micromanaging defeats that and bogs it down with inconsequential matters for obscure purposes. So, I am not interested in this as a debate on corruption in the country. Sure, I’d probably remember this if someone were talking about Kiran Bedi, but as an allegation among many other things. Is that sanctioning corruption? Frankly, your exact opinion doesn’t matter as long as you have arrived at it with thought rather than knee jerk loyalty.
  • To put it bluntly, while the movement for the JanLokpal was initiated by some people, it was owned by vast numbers of people. And now by the country. Exact attributes of the people are not important to me.
  • Like the judiciary being corrupt wouldn’t mean that a justice system is a bad idea, Lokpals, or Lokpal supporters being corrupt doesn’t mean the Lokpal is a bad idea. Understand that. That is crucial to any understanding of civics. People will come and go, systems running the country are the objects of the country’s trust.

That said, a large part of this mental clutter is because our thinking has become one of judging ideas by their origin rather than their merit – a product of our education and other things which need seriously addressed… but that is for another time.

It became inevitable when Anna was objectified into some kind of symbol for integrity and the “original” India because of his age and method of protest. But we must make an effort to retrieve our brains and understand the merit of the movement and its demand rather than idolize its icons – either as heroes, or villains.

Join the Intellectual Anarchy!

Vidyut

Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

16 thoughts on “Kiran Bedi, Corruption and the JanLokPal

  1. Niraj : I second Vidyut’s applause & all that. I agree with a huge part of what you have to say on the larger issue of Lokpal, though I see differences in our takes on Team Anna’s motivations behind the movement. However, those takes are mere speculations and opinions, yours being just as good or bad as mine.

    On Kiran Bedi’s “fudging of expenses”, I agree with Vidyut that the complete truth is not out in the public domain and its not appropriate to come to sweeping conclusions based on what’s known. Having said that, I also felt mighty peeved at the self-congratulatory & holier-than-thou response from Kiran Bedi on the issue. Probity is not a virtue I would associate with key Team Anna members, especially Kejriwal, Bedi & Justice Hegde (the only exception is Prashant Bhushan – though I may not agree with everything he stands for, he exhibits strong moral convictions). In that light, the holier-than-thou attitude of the leadership of this movement has been a put-off for me since day 1.

    In my opinion, we don’t need a parallel bureaucracy to combat corruption. I say “parallel bureaucracy” because of the sheer numbers involved. On a conservative estimate, with the service levels prescribed in the IAC bill, the institution would need a staff of around 1.5Lacs, making it the largest employer in India. Where will all these people come from, in the first place? What we do need is a decentralised grievance redressal mechanism and whistleblower protection, both supported by a legislation. We already have strong anti-corruption legislation in place and the fact that Kalmadi, Raja, Kanimozhi et al are in jail regardless of Lokpal is ample proof that the rampant corruption is a product of a lack of implementation of existing laws and not a lack of laws.

    The real cure though, is a prolonged & painful process IMO, to which there are no shortcuts. We’ll be able to minimise corruption only when citizens of the country are empowered through access to proper education, healthcare & infrastructure. That’s also the optimum level required for the idealism of capitalism that Niraj is propounding, to realize fully.

  2. Niraj : I second Vidyut’s applause & all that. I agree with a huge part of what you have to say on the larger issue of Lokpal, though I see differences in our takes on Team Anna’s motivations behind the movement. However, those takes are mere speculations and opinions, yours being just as good or bad as mine.

    On Kiran Bedi’s “fudging of expenses”, I agree with Vidyut that the complete truth is not out in the public domain and its not appropriate to come to sweeping conclusions based on what’s known. Having said that, I also felt mighty peeved at the self-congratulatory & holier-than-thou response from Kiran Bedi on the issue. Probity is not a virtue I would associate with key Team Anna members, especially Kejriwal, Bedi & Justice Hegde (the only exception is Prashant Bhushan – though I may not agree with everything he stands for, he exhibits strong moral convictions). In that light, the holier-than-thou attitude of the leadership of this movement has been a put-off for me since day 1.

    In my opinion, we don’t need a parallel bureaucracy to combat corruption. I say “parallel bureaucracy” because of the sheer numbers involved. On a conservative estimate, with the service levels prescribed in the IAC bill, the institution would need a staff of around 1.5Lacs, making it the largest employer in India. Where will all these people come from, in the first place? What we do need is a decentralised grievance redressal mechanism and whistleblower protection, both supported by a legislation. We already have strong anti-corruption legislation in place and the fact that Kalmadi, Raja, Kanimozhi et al are in jail regardless of Lokpal is ample proof that the rampant corruption is a product of a lack of implementation of existing laws and not a lack of laws.

    The real cure though, is a prolonged & painful process IMO, to which there are no shortcuts. We’ll be able to minimise corruption only when citizens of the country are empowered through access to proper education, healthcare & infrastructure. That’s also the optimum level required for the idealism of capitalism that Niraj is propounding, to realize fully.

  3. Audited’ accounts of Kejriwal’s NGO – PCRF, is a sad apology for processes of audit, transparency and accountability!

    Two days after Kiran Bedi was exposed for flying on discounted air tickets but taking full fare from sponsors, another prominent Team Anna member, Arvind Kejriwal, now faces charges of diverting huge funds from anti-graft front India against Corruption (IAC) to his own NGO. Swami Agnivesh, a former Anna Team member alleged that Kejriwal deposited between Rs 70 lakh and Rs 80 lakh from donations to IAC to his trust, Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF).

    Team Anna on the other hand responded that they will place all details regarding their accounts on the website of Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF), by this month-end after a special audit.
     
    Such an offer by Team Anna however may not be by itself sufficient to assuage public misgivings and in all probability, may even end up fanning the fires of criticism of Team Anna further.  Why? Just take a look at the appalling transparency and accountability standards of PCRF as reflected in their 5 years of audited accounts their placed at their website. Read on to find out why?

    Read more: http://exitopinionpollsindia.blogspot.com/2011/10/audited-accounts-of-kejriwals-ngo-pcrf.html

     

  4. Audited’ accounts of Kejriwal’s NGO – PCRF, is a sad apology for processes of audit, transparency and accountability!

    Two days after Kiran Bedi was exposed for flying on discounted air tickets but taking full fare from sponsors, another prominent Team Anna member, Arvind Kejriwal, now faces charges of diverting huge funds from anti-graft front India against Corruption (IAC) to his own NGO. Swami Agnivesh, a former Anna Team member alleged that Kejriwal deposited between Rs 70 lakh and Rs 80 lakh from donations to IAC to his trust, Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF).

    Team Anna on the other hand responded that they will place all details regarding their accounts on the website of Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF), by this month-end after a special audit.
     
    Such an offer by Team Anna however may not be by itself sufficient to assuage public misgivings and in all probability, may even end up fanning the fires of criticism of Team Anna further.  Why? Just take a look at the appalling transparency and accountability standards of PCRF as reflected in their 5 years of audited accounts their placed at their website. Read on to find out why?

    Read more: http://exitopinionpollsindia.blogspot.com/2011/10/audited-accounts-of-kejriwals-ngo-pcrf.html

     

  5. Excellent post. excellent points.

    Talking about Kiran Bedi, I feel IT IS ethically wrong to claim an expense of B class travel and then travel in economy and that too with a 75% discounted rate, even if the difference is used for good(isn’t good/bad relative?) cause. Again it eould be good if she could clear the air and accpet mistake committed(if any). No body in current world is Mr./Ms/Mrs clean. And as I mentioned on twitter.. one should ensure their hands are clean(or at least appear to be) before pointing fingers at other. If they are not clean, CLEAN them.

    Talking about corruption, I too would be a little narcissist and post my take on corruption, please delete the link if you feel it is inappropriate http://nonsense123.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/my-fight-against-corruption/

    btw I personally do not feel that Kiran Bedi being ethically wrong has anything to do with Kan Lokpal.

  6. Excellent post. excellent points.

    Talking about Kiran Bedi, I feel IT IS ethically wrong to claim an expense of B class travel and then travel in economy and that too with a 75% discounted rate, even if the difference is used for good(isn’t good/bad relative?) cause. Again it eould be good if she could clear the air and accpet mistake committed(if any). No body in current world is Mr./Ms/Mrs clean. And as I mentioned on twitter.. one should ensure their hands are clean(or at least appear to be) before pointing fingers at other. If they are not clean, CLEAN them.

    Talking about corruption, I too would be a little narcissist and post my take on corruption, please delete the link if you feel it is inappropriate http://nonsense123.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/my-fight-against-corruption/

    btw I personally do not feel that Kiran Bedi being ethically wrong has anything to do with Kan Lokpal.

  7. maybe not taking things personally (for example focusing on “one more thing people criticize me for”) would be appropriate. Bedi’s fudging/non-fudging is maybe irrelevant to anti-corruption crusade but someone calling you names is as irrelevant to your points.

    besides, there is a possibility that the anti-corruption crusade (or at the very least the middle class participation in it) was not really any anti-corruption crusade … it was just fashionable to participate and now has run it’s course. and perhaps the congress dirty tricks dept is the only one who correctly saw it. now that the fad is passing, they have come out with all guns blazing against the “team of leaders”. Bedi/Anna were just foolish to think that public was rallying for them. they overestimated their hold on the public and probably thought themselves as invincible .. now after the hangover, they are discovering to their horror that the public was just for an epic gladiatorial blood combat. they are booed as much as the congress, much to their horror.

    which brings me to — maybe Team Anna was also not in it for any anti-corruption crusade … they just wanted a rock star status, TV eyeballs, public adulation, etc … the fact that some of them were intelligent enough to understand that a Lokpal is a retrograde step in terms of governance only underscores their real motivation.

    either way, I am happy that Lokpal movement seems to be dying. everything is fair in love and war … and so with all ironies, I too will launch a hypocritical attack on Bedi just so that this movement is discredited. guilty of “uncritical thinking” ? No ! guilty of opportunistic foxiness ? Of course, Yes !

    like the song goes “tum agar mujhe na chaho to koi baat nahi. tum kisi aur ko chahoge to mushkil hogi” … i support anti-corruption movement only as long as the solution does not involve lengthening the arms of the state … else i will unhesitatingly stand up against the crusaders.

    1. Applause. Standing ovation and all that.

      Honored you share your thoughts here. Adds a very clearly thought perspective.

      I can understand what you are saying, though my methods would likely be different.

      Agree with your diagnosis on the misreading of the mood of the public by Team Anna. I found that they began on a far more realistic note and authentic. I don’t think it was conceived as an attention seeking gimmick. Though I agree that it now is.

      Totally understand the foxiness. My issue is not with clearly thought out stands, but with hyperbolic, polarized stands that have little to do with the actual issue and more to do with who is on the opposite side.

      I get your point on the “taking it personally” and grinning let the post remain as it is 😀 Because it is a blog and I am a narcissist 😀 More than that, it is about how personal attacks are used to fudge issues.

      1. About the motivations of the lokpal crusaders …

        These are the people who have been either a part of bureaucracy or very close to it for decades. For these people to claim that a bureaucratic solution is a miracle cure for corruption will be characterized as either disingenuous at it’s worst and “self-fooling but without mal-intent” if one is in a charitable mood. 

        If such people ask for a new bureaucratic arm of the govt, it immediately raises a suspicion that maybe … just maybe … they just want to better their ilk … want to expand the babudom which cozily milks India. Now in the guise of anti-corruption just as it was under the guise of development/inclusiveness/socialism/anti-poverty/etc for decades.

        OK, I must admit one more possibility .. they might be motivated to spur the anti-corruption crusade to a fever pitch so that awareness is raised among the public. And so they just latched on to the Lokpal demand as a symbol of that. This immediately tells us what they really think of the public intelligence. Suffice it to say that it is a blatant insult … nothing less. Communism movement also did the same to public.

        Why is it so hard for people to understand that freedom is the best antidote for corruption ? It is human nature to look for their own good … we are hardwired to acquire wealth, by means fair or foul. Free market capitalism is the only system (if you allow me the liberty to call it a system) which harnesses this most primitive of human instinct. Why should we have a Lokpal if we can do a far better job without it, and esp without it … at zero cost to the exchequer ? 

        Just to be clear, I am not supporting capitalists but capitalism.

        Now, perhaps I am asking the wrong question – (Why is it so hard for people to understand that freedom is the best antidote for corruption ?) It is not hard for them to understand .. they know it already, but it does not serve their purpose. Maybe those who are at the “front stalls” hooting the loudest are just asking for more milk for themselves.

        And some of the gullible are being taken for a ride.

        1. I hear you. I have my differences, but this post is about logical fallacies in making stands and I think it is more dangerous than corruption, so I’d like to keep this discussion on that track.

  8. maybe not taking things personally (for example focusing on “one more thing people criticize me for”) would be appropriate. Bedi’s fudging/non-fudging is maybe irrelevant to anti-corruption crusade but someone calling you names is as irrelevant to your points.

    besides, there is a possibility that the anti-corruption crusade (or at the very least the middle class participation in it) was not really any anti-corruption crusade … it was just fashionable to participate and now has run it’s course. and perhaps the congress dirty tricks dept is the only one who correctly saw it. now that the fad is passing, they have come out with all guns blazing against the “team of leaders”. Bedi/Anna were just foolish to think that public was rallying for them. they overestimated their hold on the public and probably thought themselves as invincible .. now after the hangover, they are discovering to their horror that the public was just for an epic gladiatorial blood combat. they are booed as much as the congress, much to their horror.

    which brings me to — maybe Team Anna was also not in it for any anti-corruption crusade … they just wanted a rock star status, TV eyeballs, public adulation, etc … the fact that some of them were intelligent enough to understand that a Lokpal is a retrograde step in terms of governance only underscores their real motivation.

    either way, I am happy that Lokpal movement seems to be dying. everything is fair in love and war … and so with all ironies, I too will launch a hypocritical attack on Bedi just so that this movement is discredited. guilty of “uncritical thinking” ? No ! guilty of opportunistic foxiness ? Of course, Yes !

    like the song goes “tum agar mujhe na chaho to koi baat nahi. tum kisi aur ko chahoge to mushkil hogi” … i support anti-corruption movement only as long as the solution does not involve lengthening the arms of the state … else i will unhesitatingly stand up against the crusaders.

    1. Applause. Standing ovation and all that.

      Honored you share your thoughts here. Adds a very clearly thought perspective.

      I can understand what you are saying, though my methods would likely be different.

      Agree with your diagnosis on the misreading of the mood of the public by Team Anna. I found that they began on a far more realistic note and authentic. I don’t think it was conceived as an attention seeking gimmick. Though I agree that it now is.

      Totally understand the foxiness. My issue is not with clearly thought out stands, but with hyperbolic, polarized stands that have little to do with the actual issue and more to do with who is on the opposite side.

      I get your point on the “taking it personally” and grinning let the post remain as it is 😀 Because it is a blog and I am a narcissist 😀 More than that, it is about how personal attacks are used to fudge issues.

      1. About the motivations of the lokpal crusaders …

        These are the people who have been either a part of bureaucracy or very close to it for decades. For these people to claim that a bureaucratic solution is a miracle cure for corruption will be characterized as either disingenuous at it’s worst and “self-fooling but without mal-intent” if one is in a charitable mood. 

        If such people ask for a new bureaucratic arm of the govt, it immediately raises a suspicion that maybe … just maybe … they just want to better their ilk … want to expand the babudom which cozily milks India. Now in the guise of anti-corruption just as it was under the guise of development/inclusiveness/socialism/anti-poverty/etc for decades.

        OK, I must admit one more possibility .. they might be motivated to spur the anti-corruption crusade to a fever pitch so that awareness is raised among the public. And so they just latched on to the Lokpal demand as a symbol of that. This immediately tells us what they really think of the public intelligence. Suffice it to say that it is a blatant insult … nothing less. Communism movement also did the same to public.

        Why is it so hard for people to understand that freedom is the best antidote for corruption ? It is human nature to look for their own good … we are hardwired to acquire wealth, by means fair or foul. Free market capitalism is the only system (if you allow me the liberty to call it a system) which harnesses this most primitive of human instinct. Why should we have a Lokpal if we can do a far better job without it, and esp without it … at zero cost to the exchequer ? 

        Just to be clear, I am not supporting capitalists but capitalism.

        Now, perhaps I am asking the wrong question – (Why is it so hard for people to understand that freedom is the best antidote for corruption ?) It is not hard for them to understand .. they know it already, but it does not serve their purpose. Maybe those who are at the “front stalls” hooting the loudest are just asking for more milk for themselves.

        And some of the gullible are being taken for a ride.

        1. I hear you. I have my differences, but this post is about logical fallacies in making stands and I think it is more dangerous than corruption, so I’d like to keep this discussion on that track.

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