While conducting a seminar for a large number of principals of schools and colleges on character formation of the students I had emphasized the need for principals and teachers to live as role models and set example by their own lives. They need to practice all the values which they expect the children to practice.
During the interaction with the group, one of the major issues that came up for discussion was the pressure on school managements to give bribes to get any work done from the government officials. All the participants of the seminar spoke in one voice, “today corruption has become the order of the day. Without giving bribe we cannot get any work done. We are helpless.”
While answering I reminded them that as disciples of Christ who are engaged in educating the young we cannot compromise on His values. At each situation a disciple of Christ need to ask the basic question to himself/ herself, “what would Jesus do if he were here? What is the mind of Christ? What is heart of Christ? Will he succumb to pressure and compromise his principles?” I presented the examples of many priests and sisters of our times who refused to pay any bribe and yet got their work done with patience and using other alternatives like public relations and contacts with honest officials at higher levels. This process takes much time and tireless efforts with sustained hard work and strong conviction of not succumbing to the temptation of getting work done easily through shortcuts.
In the same seminar someone had mentioned an example of a priest who refused to pay a small bribe of Rs.3000/- to get government aid for a village school. He gladly opted not to pay any bribe and suffer the loss of government aid. I knew personally how Fr. Jacob Peenikaparambil had been running a rural social work programme in Silwani, MP, with central and state government projects without paying any bribe to government officials. Whenever they demanded bribe for sanctioning the projects he politely refused and explained to them, “we are working for the poor people in the villages. You are giving government money which the poor people deserve. You have seen our honesty in discharging our duty. It is a sin to demand money from the poor when you get good salary and other perks from the government. Moreover you are only instruments to distribute government money. You are not distributing charity from your personal money.” He received over two crore rupees during his tenure of ten years.
Twenty years ago while we were planning to apply for FCRA number from Home Ministry our auditor told us that we had to spend Rs.30,000/- bribe to various officials. We refused this proposal and applied in the normal way. Within two months an IB officer from Delhi and an inspector from state CID came to verify the facts about our organisation and its functioning. We provided all the information and documents as per their requirements. Before they left I spoke to the officials very plainly, “I was told by our auditor that we will have to pay Rs.30,000/- to be distributed among officials like you. Now you are satisfied by your enquiry I want to say that I have no plan to pay a single rupee as bribe. I would prefer not to have FCRA to get it by paying even a small amount of bribe.” The IB official assured me his support to get the work done without any bribe. Though I did not believe in his words at that time we received the FCRA number within two months. The local CID later informed me that the IB official from Delhi was impressed by our work and my frank and firm stand on corruption. It is a fact that even the most corrupt will respect the honest.
One of the problems the clergy and religious face in dealing with the corrupt officials is their incompetence in communication and lack of confidence. This lack of confidence is due to the ignorance of essential information and knowledge about legal matters and the functioning of different government departments and officials. Neither during the long years of formation nor later the clergy and the religious make effort to update themselves by reading, participating in refresher courses and exposure. The vast majority of the clergy and the religious are caught up with the unproductive activities and rituals. They do not give time to read newspapers and magazines dealing with the changing socio-political issues which affect their ministry.
Disorientation and disintegration in the life and working of the clergy and religious are growing because of their failure in contemplation on the life and teachings of Christ. Indulging in corrupt practices of giving bribe to get the work done is like selling of one’s soul. There are some who are overconfident of managing any trouble with the power of money. There are many who run schools without following the government rules. They regularly give large amounts of money to government officials and politicians to avoid harassment. Despite earning much from the school they refuse to give just salary to teachers and workers. They admit more students and overcrowd the classrooms to make more money. Many of these schools do not have required space for sports and other activities. They construct buildings without proper permissions. Whenever government officials came for inspection they settle the problem by giving bribe. Bribe is not a lasting solution. Often they are caught. There are many cases of schools that lost CBSE affiliations due to violation of laws, bringing shame to the Church.
Criteria of choices we make either in our personal life or relationship with public should be Christo centric, i.e. testing them with this question, “what would Jesus do if he were here?” Together with this approach to issues each one should adopt possibility thinking to counter the most difficult challenge questioning oneself, “Why not?” Each one should believe that nothing is impossible. God acts with those who work with patience and uncompromising commitment to truth. The big question is: Are we ready to choose the hard option of taking up the cross and follow Christ or choose shortcuts?(Published on 03th July 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 27)