Sunday, 8 January 2012

Whistleblowers,Civil Society and State in a Democracy

What  influences  the ethical values of society in a mass democracy like India?It is the larger organizations in public as well as private sector .It is sad but true that our values at work place are increasingly becoming devoid of ethical content .Our tolerance to unethical practices is increasing at an alarming rate.Our values at work place also undermine our values of the rest of our lives.These large organizations have become the enemy of individual morality .The result is a large scale crisis in the moral values of our society.
       On the other hand , the participation of individual citizens in local groups and associations , which constitute civil society is quite low . Besides , since the participants in local associations are drawn from the society at large , their ethical values are no different from the ethical values of the people working in large organizations in the public and private sector .As a result , when  a few "leaders" of civil society raise a banner of movement against these large organizations , their actions  are seen with circumspection and  suspicion.The values of their followers are no different from the values they want to be punished in others occupying places of importance in large organizations.Their participation has something hollow and false about it.As a result , the top leadership of civil society has major problem of finding followers with strong ethical values. .This causes such movements to become a fashion or a hobby .The result is that there is more harm to the cause of reform in the ethical values.We have the "False Dawn of Civil Society"(David Rieff).

It is a well known fact that large organizations nearly destroy the individual who displays ethical values by becoming a whistle blower.There is very little room or tolerance for a whistle blower in large organizations.They do the same to civil society movements , which in turn ,have structural problems of their own .The role of the State is to render powerful private organizations accountable to public.But who is to watch the watchers?Who will ensure that the public organizations are accountable to public?
I have a doubt that any whistle blower protection law can make much difference .The reason is that a whistle blower is never charge-sheeted on the ground that he or she has blown the whistle .The charge-sheet is manufactured on issues totally unrelated to the issues involved in the whistle blowing .Therefore , no whistle blowers protection law can ever protect the whistle blower.A whistle blower will always remain vulnerable to punishment ,irrespective of whether he or she does an act of internal whistle blowing or external whistle blowing. .This has been the experience the world over.
I assume that there are still  a few people in this country who are more serious in removing corruption (than being interested in the cause in a manner of speaking).I have seen the most articulate champions of the cause becoming morally , intellectually and even financially corrupt .Therefore I write this with some cynicism.
Civil society can play an important role in ensuring ethical values in big organizations  if it can influence that political world which matters most to people's life in terms of career , health insurance, mortgage and economic security.This requires creation and strengthening of  associations with ethical base  at grass roots level.This also requires a higher emphasis on ethical values in our educational system  at basic and high school level .It also requires a civil service grounded in ethical values .It requires people with ethical values to contest elections .It also requires a better governance in executive , legislature and judiciary .It requires speedy and impartial investigation of criminal offences  including those related to corrupt practices and speedy trials to punish the guilty.
Our country  urgently  needs visionary leaders who can bring an all round transformation in all  the above areas with a sense of mission , patriotism and selflessness .I have a faith that this great nation will have such a visionary leader in not so distant a future,who will match the requirement of this herculean task of enormous proportions .Till that time , we may have to do with the cosmetic changes. .