Published: Updated On – 01:04 AM, Wed – 15 June 22

By B Yerram Raju

The history of economics of nations reminds us that every nation on its growth trajectory found corruption, frauds, scams and unethical practices. Those that crossed these barriers through smart surveillance grew fast and big.

However, in democracies like India, where people did not find the money for two-and-a-half centuries of British rule, the moment they started finding it, greed overtook need. Initial enthusiasm and pragmatic, as well as ambitious, leadership demonstrated that they mean business when TT Krishnamachari, the then Union Finance Minister resigned following the LIC-Mundhra scandal. It took nearly 70-odd years for a similar incident to happen in politics — very recently, the Punjab government sacked a minister over a scandal of corruption. Why are such things important?

During the last 30 years, we have seen financial scams named after Harshad Mehta, Nirav Modi, Choksi etc. We have also witnessed prolonged inquiries, delayed justice and abused government investigating machinery like the CBI, ACB and ED. We made several amendments to the Companies Act, 2013, to help businesses do better than before. We enacted the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, Labour Code consolidating many labour laws to reduce the inspector raj and established the National Asset Reconstruction Company to buy the bad loans of the banks. Yet, financial frauds, cyber frauds and crimes continue. We are close to the platinum jubilee of our country’s independence. It is time to recapitulate what our nation traditionally stands for — our culture, ethics, and values.

Culturally, India is home to ethics, values, yoga where saints like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, his disciple Vivekananda who kept the crowds of Chicago in raptures, Sant Kabir Das, and epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana, Chanakya’s Artha Sastra, story-telling of Panchatantra are documents of permanence to remind us that it is virtuous living that develops a caring and compassionate society to usher in peace and prosperity. In the economics of politics, management and governance, such things should have remained as real-life assets and not as value to the libraries.

When I and Dr Durgadoss scripted our book — a fiction in corporate governance — ‘A Saint in the Board Room’, we were perhaps ahead of time. Here’s recalling a few aspects of ethics and governance from the book.

Swami Vivekananda advocated that means should take care of the ends. If we take care of the cause, the effect will take care of itself. The realisation of the ideal is the effect. The means are the cause: attention to the means, therefore, is the greatest secret of life. A great error of all ethical systems is the failure to teach the means to refrain from doing evil. While the senses emphasise upon ‘myself first’, ethics say, “ I must hold myself last.’ In one of his writings, he said: “The book is not the proof of your conduct, but you are the proof of the book.”

Lessons from Mahatma

If we cultivate the habit of doing service deliberately, our desire to do service grows stronger and we do it not for our own happiness but for the good of the world at large. When Prime Minister Modi launched Swachh Bharat, or Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao launched Haritha Haram (garland of greenery), they are guided by the long-lasting common good to society. All such efforts lead to positive energy and enthusiasm.

Mahatma Gandhi also emphasised that economics which hurts the moral well-being of an individual or a nation is immoral and, therefore, sinful. True, economics never militates against the highest ethical standard, just as all true ethics must at the same time be also good economics. In the path of morality, there is no such thing as a reward for moral behaviour. According to him, altruism is the highest form of morality. Should these not be a constant reminder to our body politic that is increasingly getting into conflicts hurting democracy?

Aurobindo said the first conditions for human self-perfection are the ‘will, character, self-discipline, and self-mastery.’ The kernel of the true ethical being remains the same, always.

New Markets

Today, we find businesses of various hues — online and offline. Markets also respond differently from the past when they were confined to a few urban areas, village haats and groups of villages. Today, markets are different. Tastes are governed by ready-to-eat packs. Mom and grandma have become signages. Shampoo sachets replaced soap nuts. Several facial brands trade on a queer mixture of turmeric, butter and vegetables. All these have become brand images. The inherent value of goods proved their economic value. Therefore, small firms to large companies acquired their material value faster and consumerism is in a different direction. All these have also become seedbeds for replacing need with greed. When does need become greed? Not a thin line between them any longer.

Values are deeply held beliefs that guide our behaviour and decisions. They reside deep within the subconscious and are tightly integrated into the fabric of everyday living. Like morals, they help us distinguish what is right from wrong.

Values can be further classified into the following four categories:

Personal values: They are principles that define you as an individual.

Cultural values: They are like the practice of our faith and customs. They are principles that sustain connections with your cultural roots.

Social values: They are principles that indicate how you relate meaningfully to others in social situations.

Work values: They are principles that guide your behaviour in professional contexts. They also reveal your potential for advancement.

Greed Drives

Technological advancement in the financial sector is threatened by new currencies — bitcoin and digital. These products are born out of greed and certainly not needs. Needs are met enough by the existing monetary system. Some nations that find difficulty in addressing the risks to the communities at large try to embed them into their system. This is a clear example of adrift values.

At a time when politics and religion are running into conflicts, it is necessary to understand, appreciate and practice the values that all religions hold sacred, which are identical. Technologies retain their primacy only when they embed certain values and ethics. They should be tested through the prism of values and ethics.

(The author is an Economist and Risk Management Specialist)

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