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India! I dare you to be rich

Are Indians fraudulent, dishonest, corrupt, arrogant, boastful? Do they speak loudly and bother others in public places?

This article by Mohan Murti, which some of you have surely come across earlier, is worth being re-published every month.

Yesterday I noted on this blog post that "As a result of the incessant flow of bad news about India and Indians, the average image of India (and Indians) is very poor." Murti is far more blunt.

He writes:In the European mind, caricature of a typical Indian encompasses qualities of falsification, telling lies, being fraudulent, dishonest, corrupt, arrogant, boastful, speaking loudly and bothering others in public places or, while travelling, swindling when the slightest of opportunity arises and spreading rumours about others. 

I need to get in touch with Murti at once (could someone please send me his email ID?). It is not sufficient, in my view, to simply note these problems. We must change India. He must join the Freedom Team of India (or other such outfit to oust the corrupt incompetents who govern India), or just shut his mouth. What's the point in just complaining?

Is the nation in a coma?

The Hindu Business Line, May 31, 2010.

Europeans believe that Indian leaders are too blinded by new wealth and deceit to comprehend that the day will come when the have-nots will hit the streets.

Mohan Murti

A few days ago I was in a panel discussion on mergers and acquisitions in Frankfurt, Germany, organised by Euroforum and The Handelsblatt, one of the most prestigious newspapers in German-speaking Europe.
 
The other panellists were senior officials of two of the largest carmakers and two top insurance companies — all German multinationals operating in India.
 
The panel discussion was moderated by a professor from the esteemed European Business School. The hall had an audience that exceeded a hundred well-known European CEOs. I was the only Indian.
 
After the panel discussion, the floor was open for questions. That was when my “moment of truth” turned into an hour of shame, embarrassment — when the participants fired questions and made remarks on their experiences with the evil of corruption in India.
 
The awkwardness and humiliation I went through reminded of The Moment of Truth, the popular Anglo-American game. The more questions I answered truthfully, the more the questions get tougher. Tougher here means more embarrassing.
 
European disquiet
Questions ranged from “Is your nation in a coma?”, the corruption in judiciary, the possible impeachment of a judge, the 2G scam and to the money parked illegally in tax havens.
 
It is a fact that the problem of corruption in India has assumed enormous and embarrassing proportions in recent years, although it has been with us for decades. The questions and the debate that followed in the panel discussion was indicative of the European disquiet. At the end of the Q&A session, I surmised Europeans perceive India to be at one of those junctures where tripping over the precipice cannot be ruled out.
 
Let me substantiate this further with what the European media has to say in recent days.
 
In a popular prime-time television discussion in Germany, the panellist, a member of the German Parliament quoting a blog said: “If all the scams of the last five years are added up, they are likely to rival and exceed the British colonial loot of India of about a trillion dollars.”
 
Banana Republic
One German business daily which wrote an editorial on India said: “India is becoming a Banana Republic instead of being an economic superpower. To get the cut motion designated out, assurances are made to political allays. Special treatment is promised at the expense of the people. So, Ms Mayawati who is Chief Minister of the most densely inhabited state, is calmed when an intelligence agency probe is scrapped. The multi-million dollars fodder scam by another former chief minister wielding enormous power is put in cold storage. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chairs over this kind of unparalleled loot.”
 
An article in a French newspaper titled “Playing the Game, Indian Style” wrote: “Investigations into the shadowy financial deals of the Indian cricket league have revealed a web of transactions across tax havens like Switzerland, the Virgin Islands, Mauritius and Cyprus.” In the same article, the name of one Hassan Ali of Pune is mentioned as operating with his wife a one-billion-dollar illegal Swiss account with “sanction of the Indian regime”.
 
A third story narrated in the damaging article is that of the former chief minister of Jharkhand, Madhu Koda, who was reported to have funds in various tax havens that were partly used to buy mines in Liberia. “Unfortunately, the Indian public do not know the status of that enquiry,” the article concluded.
 
“In the nastiest business scam in Indian records (Satyam) the government adroitly covered up the political aspects of the swindle — predominantly involving real estate,” wrote an Austrian newspaper. “If the Indian Prime Minister knows nothing about these scandals, he is ignorant of ground realities and does not deserve to be Prime Minister. If he does, is he a collaborator in crime?”
 
The Telegraph of the UK reported the 2G scam saying: “Naturally, India's elephantine legal system will ensure culpability, is delayed.”
 
Blinded by wealth
This seems true. In the European mind, caricature of a typical Indian encompasses qualities of falsification, telling lies, being fraudulent, dishonest, corrupt, arrogant, boastful, speaking loudly and bothering others in public places or, while travelling, swindling when the slightest of opportunity arises and spreading rumours about others. The list is truly incessant.
 
My father, who is 81 years old, is utterly frustrated, shocked and disgruntled with whatever is happening and said in a recent discussion that our country's motto should truly be Asatyameva Jayete.
 
Europeans believe that Indian leaders in politics and business are so blissfully blinded by the new, sometimes ill-gotten, wealth and deceit that they are living in defiance, insolence and denial to comprehend that the day will come, sooner than later, when the have-nots would hit the streets.
 
In a way, it seems to have already started with the monstrous and grotesque acts of the Maoists. And, when that rot occurs, not one political turncoat will escape being lynched.
 
The drumbeats for these rebellions are going to get louder and louder as our leaders refuse to listen to the voices of the people. Eventually, it will lead to a revolution that will spill to streets across the whole of India, I fear.
 
Perhaps we are the architects of our own misfortune. It is our sab chalta hai (everything goes) attitude that has allowed people to mislead us with impunity. No wonder Aesop said. “We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to high office.”
 

(The author is former Europe Director, CII, and lives in Cologne, Germany.)


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13 thoughts on “Are Indians fraudulent, dishonest, corrupt, arrogant, boastful? Do they speak loudly and bother others in public places?
  1. Tutor

     Corruption has reached prevalent proportions. However there is hope that sooner or later check and equilibrium mechanism of Indian democracy will kick in. With any luck our nations will be able to deal with this before riots hit the streets. Maoist problem is the result of blind capitalism. The thing that hurts me most about India is absolute poverty of millions of civilians like as street children, beggars and lack of essential hygiene. India now recently used up around 20-30 billion dollars to purchase some weapons. now picture if she spent 20 billion dollars each year for 5 years targeting slums and beggars, there will be no slums/ beggars in India. Consequently there is a lack of vision and management. Democracy with freedom is a gradual process.  I can see a number of signs and the introduction of change in India.  AP

     
  2. Tutor

     Corruption has reached prevalent proportions. However there is hope that sooner or later check and equilibrium mechanism of Indian democracy will kick in. With any luck our nations will be able to deal with this before riots hit the streets. Maoist problem is the result of blind capitalism. The thing that hurts me most about India is absolute poverty of millions of civilians like as street children, beggars and lack of essential hygiene. India now recently used up around 20-30 billion dollars to purchase some weapons. now picture if she spent 20 billion dollars each year for 5 years targeting slums and beggars, there will be no slums/ beggars in India. Consequently there is a lack of vision and management. Democracy with freedom is a gradual process.  I can see a number of signs and the introduction of change in India.  AP

     
  3. Mr.A

    The problem is that somehow we Indians are continuously being “educated” that prevarication and falsification for convenience is all OK. The Europeans are not used to such a thing, at least never in such a large scale. For the Germans the line between what is legal and what is illegal, or what is true and what is false, is clear and crisp. Let us admit it, we Indians generally fudge a lot, and tolerate a lot of fudging. Any other nation of people with this level of individual brilliance would have taught the so-called political elite a lesson. It is my own personal experience that educated middle-class Indians will betray the cause and surrender values, and serve-up their brethren, for small personal gains (I am Indian myself, with case studies to share!). I do not know where these national traits come from, but I would like to believe that these can be changed through, and only through, education (I mean real education!).

     
  4. Mr.A

    The problem is that somehow we Indians are continuously being “educated” that prevarication and falsification for convenience is all OK. The Europeans are not used to such a thing, at least never in such a large scale. For the Germans the line between what is legal and what is illegal, or what is true and what is false, is clear and crisp. Let us admit it, we Indians generally fudge a lot, and tolerate a lot of fudging. Any other nation of people with this level of individual brilliance would have taught the so-called political elite a lesson. It is my own personal experience that educated middle-class Indians will betray the cause and surrender values, and serve-up their brethren, for small personal gains (I am Indian myself, with case studies to share!). I do not know where these national traits come from, but I would like to believe that these can be changed through, and only through, education (I mean real education!).

     
  5. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I cite the following from my blog post today:

    Indians don’t have immoral DNA, any more than the Chinese have immoral DNA. The Chinese on the mainland are hopelessly corrupt. In Hong Kong the same Chinese lead the WORLD(!!) on integrity. People in all these places are merely responding to policies and governance. In India and China the people have no choice but to be corrupt (or, like I have done – to leave).

    I don’t think Indians have any greater tendency to ‘fudge’ than anyone else in the world. We have systems that REWARD such things (as in the bureaucracy) or FORCE people to do such things.

     
  6. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I cite the following from my blog post today:

    Indians don’t have immoral DNA, any more than the Chinese have immoral DNA. The Chinese on the mainland are hopelessly corrupt. In Hong Kong the same Chinese lead the WORLD(!!) on integrity. People in all these places are merely responding to policies and governance. In India and China the people have no choice but to be corrupt (or, like I have done – to leave).

    I don’t think Indians have any greater tendency to ‘fudge’ than anyone else in the world. We have systems that REWARD such things (as in the bureaucracy) or FORCE people to do such things.

     
  7. MrA

    Sanjeev – I pretty much agree. It is not an unchangeable attribute coded in the DNA. It definitely is something that can be changed, and must be changed, as I said, through education.

    It would be vastly educational to see fitting punishment being delivered to the corrupt. The integrity index would start buoying up within days.

     
  8. MrA

    Sanjeev – I pretty much agree. It is not an unchangeable attribute coded in the DNA. It definitely is something that can be changed, and must be changed, as I said, through education.

    It would be vastly educational to see fitting punishment being delivered to the corrupt. The integrity index would start buoying up within days.

     
  9. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Mr A

    There’s FAR more to removal of corruption that mere punishment. Hong Kong did not get to where it did through punishment. That should be there, but it is the last resort. The systems need to change first.

    And such general things like “education” are meaningless. What kind of education? Who will educate? Even the most highly educated are often corrupt. There is ZERO correlation between education and corruption.

    Please read BFN for a causal analysis.

    Regards
    Sanjeev

     
  10. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Mr A

    There’s FAR more to removal of corruption that mere punishment. Hong Kong did not get to where it did through punishment. That should be there, but it is the last resort. The systems need to change first.

    And such general things like “education” are meaningless. What kind of education? Who will educate? Even the most highly educated are often corrupt. There is ZERO correlation between education and corruption.

    Please read BFN for a causal analysis.

    Regards
    Sanjeev

     
  11. Swami Parasm

    Sadly, many of the Indian Hindus are not only willfully ignorant of Hindu Dharma but also of basic human kindness and manners. Paracoxically, many of the Indian Doctors seem to be the most arrogant and ignorant. Come on Hindus, you can do much better!

    Swami Param
    Dharma Yoga Ashram

     
  12. Neil

    I would always avoid doing business with Indians because they ARE so dishonest, I have challenged this position of mine repeatedly in the name of open mindedness and combating racism but where I chose to spend my money is the true indicator of what I believe.
    I look for Sikh shopkeepers when I am traveling in India, they are pushy but not liars like the Hindus.
    Indians are profoundly insincere in a way that Westerners cannot comprehend because only a truly ancient culture can develop such a limitless degree of cynicism. Indian strangers can be so seemingly-open, charming and disarming that you are convinced they are old friends but they are just trying to scam you – this is not part of western culture, in the west beggars are surly.
    Surely this profound dishonesty is related to the religion which encourages people to disbelieve the plain truth in front of their eyes (in favor of the miraculous). The first thing that religious charlatans always try to convince you is that “truth is relative”, or in the Indian case, “everything is Maya”.

     

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