Are we corrupt or ethically-challenged?

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Pradip Rodrigues

Following a recent column I wrote on the South Asian tendency to abuse their company benefit plans, I received some scathing feedback from readers who took offence to my conclusion that Indians are basically corrupt wherever they go. One reader tended to make the argument that India is a corrupt country and only Indians living there can be called corrupt. His logic seemed to suggest that Indians who immigrated to Canada could not be described as corrupt.  Perhaps corrupt was too harsh a term, I should’ve ended the column with something more politically correct like ‘Indians are generally ethically-challenged. I decided to discuss the column with some other South Asians like myself who on occasion tend to take a more flexible approach when it comes to making some questionable choices bordering on aiding and abetting corruption.

Another irate reader was upset with what he saw was a case of racial profiling South Asians in Canada. Fair enough.

When it comes to saving a buck or two, we thrifty South Asians who usually have a poverty mindset regardless the bank balance insist on exploring all options, even ones which that we know are not exactly legal, one example that comes to mind is IPTV. We are quick to cancel our pricey but legal Bell TV subscription and replace it with the ubiquitous (for now) IPTV which allows households to enter the world of illegal streaming for an unreal price of under $15 a month. The recent Canadian Federal Court judgement against IPTV has many South Asians worried. I don’t think any of us South Asians really believe we are aiding and abetting corruption by giving our business to an IPTV operator who is breaking the law on our behalf.

Many South Asian subscribers of IPTV are worried that the IPTV crackdown in Canada would be a blow, those most upset are those making six-figure annual incomes. We just cannot see ourselves paying full-price for anything.

Think of the time when buying pirated DVDs from your favorite Indian grocery store was a flourishing business. Did anyone really believe we were stealing?

We assuage our conscience by justifying our actions by thinking that just because the companies and individuals being ripped off happen to be rich and powerful, it is okay. Perhaps it is… in our minds. As the phrase goes, nothing is ever right or wrong, thinking makes it so. We simply refuse to think of our actions as being wrong, period.

There are any number of South Asians in Canada who have wilfully falsified documents and paid agents in India fees to ensure they got passed Canadian immigration officials and were granted PR or international student status. We desis who have lived and adapted to corruption in India have no qualms about other agents and middle-men breaking the law on our behalf.

When I lived in India, a wealthy businessman once boasted that he paid less income tax than me, a working class journalist. Here in Canada I know several millionaires who are either paying less or as much tax as the average working class Canadian. For Indians, cheating on taxes is an art be it in India or Canada. We are very good at it so much so that a white businessman I know told me how he began getting massive refunds from CRA after he switched to an Indian CA to do his taxes. Nothing wrong in exploiting loopholes to save on taxes.

Canada meanwhile has slipped one point and one position in the 2018 Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) Some may wonder if there is a link between immigration from corrupt countries and Canada’s unfortunate slippage in rankings.

The good news is that Canada still enjoys a top 10 ranking thanks to strong institutions and rule of law.

Meanwhile India has apparently improved its ranking on a global corruption index in 2018, rising by three points to 78 in the list of 180 countries in the world, while China ranked 87 and Pakistan 117 in 2018.

Corruption and its corrosive effect have prompted so many of us  to immigrate to other countries. We demand better hospitals, schools and municipal services but use creative accounting to ensure the government gets as little tax from us as possible, is that fair? We refuse to legalize our basements and tax city infrastructure… I can list numerous examples of little wrongs that end up messing up our cities, neighbourhoods and eventually one day our country’s reputation and economy. -CINEWS

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