Justice Hegde Decries Decline of Moral Values for India’s Corruption


FIS board members and volunteers pose with Justice Santosh Hegde (center). Mrinal Chaudhury (left), Raghavender Nednur, Narayana Ponnada, Krishna Vavilala (FIS Founder- Chairman), Col. Dr. Raj Bhalla, Chief Guest Justice Santosh Hegde, S. Gurusiddappa, Parul Fernandes (Event Chair), Lakshmi Vavilala and Hiren Sarma. Photo: Dr. Nik Nikam, NNN.

By Pramod Kulkarni

HOUSTON: Foundation for India Studies (FIS) featured a crusader against corruption as the latest speaker for its Distinguished Lecture Series. Despite the short notice, more than a 100 FIS members and guests attended Justice Santosh Hegde’s passionate lecture on the causes of India’s systemic corruption and possible solutions on Thursday, Sept. 29 evening at India House.

A native of Karnataka, Santosh Hegde served as a judge on India’s Supreme Court from 1999 to 2005. His judicial attention turned specifically to corruption issues in 2006 when was appointed Lokayukta (anticorruption ombudsman) by the Karnataka state. During his five-year tenure in this position, Justice Hegde helped more than 28,000 people obtain justice and charge sheeted at least three ministers and nearly 700 civil servants for a corruption case involving illegal mining.

Justice Hegde shared a number of examples of corruption involving crores of rupees at the state level to as little as Rs. 25. In one case, an exasperated old woman with a deaf grandson complained to Justice Hegde about a bribery problem. Her postman would not turn over her pension of Rs. 250 by money order unless she paid him Rs. 25. Hegde asked a policeman to intercede on behalf of the old woman, who responded that the amount was too small to be of concern.

During the Q&A session, Justice Hegde agreed that even the judiciary department is corrupt, though less so than the legislative and executive branches. Hegde’s criticism extended equally to the fourth pillar of democracy, the media. While he appreciated help he received from media, Hegde said the planting false stories had become easy in India, where money is the absolute ruler rather than the people.

“The corruption situation is so bad,” explained Hegde. “It is not likely that Mahatma Gandhi could get elected to any elected position in India.”

Hegde insisted that the society must stop respecting and honoring people who have ill-gotten wealth. He gave the example of Pappu Yadav who, in spite of his criminal record and being sent to jail repeatedly, was elected to parliament.

Hegde concluded by reiterating that we as a society should inculcate humanism, shun those with ill-gotten wealth, and resume teaching moral values in schools.

The Distinguished Lecture Series is part of FIS’ mission to enrich the understanding of India’s contributions to the world as well as understanding of the role of the Indo-American community in Houston’s multicultural tapestry. FIS hallmark project is the Indo-American Oral History Project to capture a piece of Houston’s history through the voices of the first-generation Indian immigrants.

For additional information on FIS, please contact Krishna Vavilala, Founding Chairman at (713) 795-5169 or visit www.foundationforindiastudies.org.

This article includes significant contributions from Bhamy V. Shenoy, former President of India Culture Center of Houston.