Blame it on the Genes

Dileep K. Ranjekar

In the bus to the aircraft, he asked me whether I was Dileep Ranjekar and on my confirmation he introduced himself as a training and development professional. I remembered we had earlier corresponded on the e-mail. He referred to my article in Human Capital on “Individual Social Responsibility” and asked me whether “Corporate Social Respon­sibility” has become a fad and whether the organizations really mean what they say they do. His personal experience was not very encouraging. I did feel that there was a much higher scope for the organizations to be much more honest, genuine and forthright about what they are doing. He asked me, “What according to me are the reasons of more and more companies launching initiatives under Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR)?”

There could be several reasons for the organizations launching such activities. Some important ones could be: (1) Genuine desire to make an impact on society or surrounding environment (2) Peer pressure – because many other organizations are doing it – we couldn't be left behind (3) Employee pressure – many employees want to do something that is socially meaningful and it becomes the organization's responsibility to pr ov i de for su c h opportunities (4) Conscious brand building through CSR – a well publicised CSR could be a very effective tool to build a positive image for the organization. Sometimes this could be even to camouflage other illegal activities or to distract the public opinion to something else (5) Need arising out of guilt of having amassed wealth and the realization that the rest of the society is far behind – I must do something to contribute to society in general – approach of charity.

Inside the aircraft, we sat together and continued the discussions. He posed another question – why is it that we have so much corruption and disregard for others and towards the law of the land? Why is it that there are very few organizations that conduct their business honestly?

We began analyzing together and it made a very interesting discussion. My friend told me his experience in a Greyhound bus while travelling in the US . He picked up a conversation with the driver of the bus. The driver expressed dis­appointment that the Greyhound company was not doing too well and that there were talks of reducing employment or reducing salaries. The driver had been working with the company for over 13 years. The interesting thing was the driver stopped the bus at a place that was far from any habitation and began checking individual tickets. Except for one passenger, all had tickets. The driver asked the ticket-less passenger to step out and drove away after off-loading the passenger. My friend asked the bus driver the reason for doing this, since the person would not get another mode of transport for at least another 5-6 hours. The driver said he knew that this person had not bought the ticket right from the beginning but did not want to check when the bus started, since the passenger would have gone by another bus without a ticket. He wanted to ensure that the passenger did not cheat any other transport company as well. He wanted to teach a lesson to this passenger so as to deter the passenger from such cheating in the future.

My friend was quite impressed with the fact that the driver maintained his integrity with the profession and loyalty to his organization, despite the dwindling fortunes of the organization and also acted in a manner that would address the dishonesty of the passenger in a rather systemic way.

It is not that there is no corruption in these countries at all – but the society at large is fairly protected from any corruption that may exist. And the society in general behaves much more responsibly than in India . So why do people in the US , many European countries and Japan behave differently than people in India ?

Just evaluate the response of Mr. Ratan Tata in a recent interview. He was asked

whether he went abroad because it is easier to do business there. He responded, “It is. If we want to set up an assembly plant for motor cars in South Africa, you pick a piece of land, talk to the local government, talk about the rules and incentives, the compliance involved and that's that. The moment you try to do the same here, you are likely to be in the midst of a political tangle. You have little issues all around you that detract you from what you want to do. We all blame the government for regulations but we need to blame the government for letting vested interests manipulate policy to suit them”.

So what are the issues? Why is our socio­political situation so murky? Why is it that community members in some villages are willing to risk the safety of their children by acceptig sub-stand ard quality of construction? Why are we in so much of a hurry to overtake a car on the wrong side and create a traffic jam on the road? Why is it that at a railway crossing, even the urban educated drivers reach up to the end of the crossing – completely on the wrong side and make it impossible for the vehicles to ply on the opposite side? Why do we find it difficult to follow a queue system? Why are we always looking for a shortcut in life? Why are we so prone to find an easier (but corrupt or not so ethical) solution to an immediate problem that confronts us – whether it is a permit or a licence or getting approvals in a shorter period? Why are we so short sighted that we do not realize the value of integrity? The reality is that
customers , bus iness as sociates and employees like to be associated with organizations with high integrity and friends like relationships with those who honour their commitments.

Is it in our genes? It is very fashionable sometimes to blame the genes to cover up the real issues, prevent the real analysis.

Is it arising out of some deep insecurity, scarcity mentality or a lack of opportunity that our society has? Is it because we have been an oppressed society for too long – first by the feudal system, then by the British rule, then by the unscrupulous politicians who in a way have re-imposed the feudal system?

Is it because of illiteracy? But the reality is that the educated class is probably the worst offender in breaking rules and indulging in corrupt practices.

Is it because of our education system? However, the same education system has produced some of the cleanest personalities in the country.

How much is the legal system contri­buting to the state which we are in today?

It is often said that the legal system in the US – largely ensures better law and order and better conduct by the citizens since the speed and quality of justice is extremely high.

Is there a general erosion of values across the levels of society? What is scary is that the lack of values is neither being visibly and quickly punished, nor is the presence of values being recognized in a big way.

The media could be playing a powerful role in addressing and taking up many of these issues, however, they seem to be almost uniformly sensationalizing issues to the extent that people are rapidly losing faith in what is being reported. There is very little in-depth analysis being reported (the way it used to be in the early eighties).

The plane landed in Bangalore and our discussion was inconclusive. Both saw the seriousness of the situation and realized that if we don't do something about it, things can go really out of control. We surely need high quality research to understand these issues.