Indians have gone global in corruption. The Transparency International has already revealed that India has slid from the 79 to the 81st position in the 180-country corruption index this year. But the recent New York Times story detailing the meteoric rise of the Gupta brothers in South Africa reveals how a small-time business family of Saharanpur has made it big in Africa - but through the wrong means.
The Guptas, in a short span of about 25 years, had almost magically become one of the richest families in Africa vying with the Oppenheimers, owners of the world famous De Beers diamonds. The Guptas came too close to the African National Congress (ANC), the party which brought independence to South Africa under the leadership of Nelsen Mandela. The ANC was the cause of both the rise and fall of the Guptas.
There is an obvious lesson to be learnt - for business, for media and perhaps for all other independent institutions- never pally up with politics. Ever since Mandela became President in 1994, the political leaders of ANC were in a scramble for making wealth. They were also in the process of replacing their European masters and making friends with people from Asian countries like China and India. The Guptas were already there in Johannesburg seeking a fortune - first selling shoes then computer parts – when the revolution happened to replace apartheid in South Africa,
The Guptas made a business partner of one of the sons of a succeeding President (Jacob Zuma) and consequently were there everywhere in the government - from a small bureaucrat to the president’s office – in order to help the ruling party to siphon off international funds meant for development of the newly freed African country. The Guptas had become so powerful that they even helped to decide who would become ministers in the government.
The inevitable happened. The people started resenting and the cornered European business houses also hit back. With the change in leadership of the party, the Guptas fell out of favour and had to flee to Dubai. Even the media houses which the Guptas had bought over a period of time to support and propagate for the ruling President and the ANC party could not save the family.
The story of the Guptas has ominous lessons for India.
We have seen business houses coming too close to political parties – like the Sahara and Sarada – and then going bust. We have seen eminent media personalities losing their independence – and also finally their credibility – by being subservient to political leaders.
Everybody has his own area of operation – and the dividing lines need to be maintained, even while working together in society for the common good. If one segment of society goes bad, the gangrene should not spread to others. In a united society, the divisions are also important. If corruption is the disease, each segment should work within itself according to its own laws and ethics and try to help cure it, rather than hold hands and in the process destroy everyone.
Spirituality could be an answer to self-searching.