Mega scams put focus back on integrity

The recent spate of mega frauds carried out against our banking system, and running into thousands of crores of rupees — diamond jeweller Nirav Modi is alleged to have stacked up a fraud of ₹11,400 crore against the Punjab National Bank, and Rotamac Pens’ Vikram Kothari another ₹8,500 crore — have left the nation stunned. And ordinary mortals, to which category I guess most Rotarians belong, are stupefied, if not totally stunned. Till now, we in India would quote, both with awe and contempt, the figure of ₹9,000 crore, the amount by which the so-called king of good times, Vijay Mallya, cheated the banks and scooted. But then, come 2018, and we’ve made progress indeed, with our fraudsters crossing the 10k crore-mark!

Predictably, the social media is having fun… what to do, when you are too stunned to cry, laugh, seems to be its credo. Tweets ranging from “finding NiMo” to “Gujjus looting Sardars (PNB)” are trending. But what is mind-boggling is the impunity with which our dishonest businessmen and industrialists innovate ways to cheat the system, and dupe our regulators. The political clout, irrespective of the government in power, and big business/industry nexus they have, ensure that the bankers, who would give you and I the run-around for most modest loans, roll out the red carpet for them. Each time such a scam erupts, in the midst of all the political mudslinging and blame-game that follows, we, the hapless taxpayers, are left holding the baby, who is growing heavier scam after scam.

The sheer dishonesty and web of lies that come to the fore when such frauds are hoisted on the country and the unsuspecting middle class citizens can put to shame Hollywood or Bollywood potboilers. But in more ways than one, such rank dishonesty, corruption and effortless manoeuvring of the system to plunder PSU banks and send their NPAs to dizzy heights, even as the Government refinances these banks with our tax rupees, is linked to the core message that Rotary has inbuilt into its ideology. And that is honesty, truth, integrity. Once again, RI President Ian Riseley’s strong words at the Kuala Lumpur Institute come to mind: “The Four-Way Test is not something that you just hang on the wall.”

Absolutely. Because being a member of Rotary means you are a person of integrity and honour, not only in your business or chosen profession, but in personal life too. Such mega scams should be used as opportunities for each of us to pause, reflect and take stock of our day-to-day life ethics and business/workplace dealings. As the seniormost leader of Rotary in India, Past RI President Rajendra Saboo keeps reiterating from various platforms, when you wear your Rotary pin, be extremely conscious about the way you talk, behave or conduct your day-to-day affairs. Particularly, how you behave in public. At the Vanakkam Chennai Institute, he had related the extremely disturbing story of a Rotarian he had chanced upon from the balcony of his room in a five-star hotel spitting out paan-juice into a decorative vase! “This is not the behaviour I expect from a Rotarian,” he had said.

This is revolting behaviour, but worse is lack of integrity and misuse of trust. As President Riseley and incoming President Barry Rassin said at the International Assembly, the public image of Rotary is made by “you and me”. So let’s use the recent scams to turn the searchlight on ourselves and ensure that we remain what Rotary is supposed to make us — better human beings with great values.

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Rasheeda Bhagat

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