It is a long time (1996) since Alphons wrote his book. He may have changed his views in the meanwhile. Or maybe not.
Let me highlight a few things on which I differ from the thoughts expressed in his book.
1) Need for ideological clarity
At various places, Alphons demonstrates a commitment to economic liberalisation and genuine competition. But then he goes off on a tangent. While talking about Jana Shakti, an NGO he has started he says that Jana Shakti has no ideology. I'm OK with an NGO not having an ideology. But then he says:
Jana Shakti stands for anything that works, that produces results. When I talk about eliminating corruption, people laugh at me. They say I am talking in the air because corruption is a universal phenomenon. Therefore, corruption cannot be eliminated. I say 'All right, let us be pragmatists then.' The only objective of globalisation and liberalisation is to create a competitive economy. If this objective is not achieved liberalisation does not make sense. The extent of corruption here is much higher than elsewhere in the world. Due to this Indian projects costs are far too high; if our project costs are too high our products will be more expensive than others; we will be priced out of the world market. I have suggested a pragmatic solution.
We should study the global corruption rate scientifically. If our study shows that global corruption rate is 5 percent, our corruption rate should be +/-1 of 5 percent. This would ensure that we are competitive. I have called this rate 'competitive corruption rate'. I am applying for a patent for the concept and terminology. Maybe I will end up making tons of money! Perhaps every minister and bureaucrat should be made to take an oath that he will stick to the competitive corruption rate when he assumes office. The finance minister can announce the competitive corruption rate for the year in his budget speech.
Now this is the purest form of nonsense anyone has come up with. If one doesn't stick to an ideology of liberty and integrity, this is the kind of nonsense one is likely to come up with. I do hope Alphons has thought further and has rejected this confused and immoral position.
2) Systemic change vs. individual change
Alphons has a post-graduate degree in economics but states:
Many people say that the system does not allow anyone to do what he wants to do. Therefore, nothing much happens in this country. I have never blamed the system. I believe that I am the system. I believe that every officer in the all-India services should create systems under which he can function effectively. Instead of blaming the system, if people get down to applying themselves, they can achieve miracles. One does not have to be a revolutionary, or to have revolutionary ideas either. One merely has to play around and create the system wherever one is functioning. This is what I have tried to do.
Well, India remains precisely where it was in 1996: one of the world's most "third rate" places, with intense corruption, racism and violence. There is no concept of justice, and law and order is almost non-existent. No matter how many Sanjeev Sabhloks or Alphonses apply themselves, the system will defeat them. Because it is the design system that dictates individual behavior.
This kind of confusion in Alphons's mind is surprising given he correctly identifies lack of transparency and low salaries of key decision makers as a part of the systemic causes of corruption.
3) Population "explosion"
At a number of places in the book, Alphons brings up India's population as an issue.
We implemented family planning with the same zeal as literacy. Even though Kottayam district has a 40 percent Christian population, mostly Catholic, whose church forbids any form of family planning, the district became the most successful in family planning. It became the first district in the country to go under ten in birth rate, under ten in infant mortality rate and under one in maternal mortality rate. Infant morality rate in India is 77 per 1,000 and maternal mortality is 4 per 1,000.
Then, he mentions "population explosion" as one of the fundamental issues "that require immediate action".
Now, I have no issues with reducing infant mortality or maternal mortality. That's an absolutely essential health service. But it is absolutely intolerable to reduce the birth rate through campaigns of the sort that Sanjay Gandhi undertook. Alphons is well-advised to read BFN where I've outlined the way population works, and how self-adjusting forces are at work in this area, and the key, therefore, is NOT direct family planning action but focus on equal opportunity and economic growth, as outlined in BFN.
One more issue:
As a corollary to Alphons's lack of understanding of the systemic causes of corruption, his NGO planned to do the following:
2. Increasing awareness among the citizens about the magnitude of corruption … and organising them in groups to take on the system from the panchayat to the national level.
4. Targeting all violators of anti-corruption laws and reporting incidents where functionaries and others demand and accept bribes to the concerned authorities.
5. Establishing accessible and responsive enforcement and judicial process to expeditiously handle corruption cases including improving the existing institutions with adequate resources.
This is a wasteful plan. It is NOT going to eliminate corruption (I will accept nothing less than that). First we need to change the incentives in the system. Just like the IAC's concept of Janlokpal is meaningless without systemic reforms first, this idea of running after individual cases of corruption is totally pointless.
By all means do so AFTER the system has changed to allow for 99 per cent integrity.Then 1 per cent can be removed through these things. But not under the current system with incentives that COMPEL people to be corrupt.
Consider Alphons's own party, the BJP. I've repeatedly shown how this is a DEEPLY corrupt party. Leave alone the big things on which it is second to none, it undertakes "retail" corruption as well as any other. it handed out Rs.18 lakhs recently in cash a just a few wards during the recent elections (see this authentic source). And Ramdev was caught trying to hide BJP's corruption/black money recently. Can it EVER happen that these people/parties won't make PILES of corrupt money after they come to power? Alphons will benefit from reading BFN and – next – DOF.