Friday, 2 September 2011


Suddenly, due to Anna Hazare's movement, the subject of Corruption is everywhere. The focus or the target is still the Powerful and the Rich. It has been taken for granted that all of us are upright; but, like the good, sati-savitri, bathed in milk, Hindi movie heroine who is forced into prostitution by the cruel samaaj (society), we are somehow forced into giving bribes. Hence, we'd make ourselves believe that giving bribe has never been our first convenient choice but the last recalcitrant one.

I don't know how many really believe in it and can really say with conviction that they were forced into taking short-cuts; that their conscience didn't go through an upheaval when they reached smartly for the wallet to sort out a minor, insignificant aberration of jumping a red-light and being stopped by the traffic cop; when, if he had any sense, he'd be really concentrating on those who do bigger and more serious offences? You reason it out with your conscience, "Red light hi jump kiya na; daka to nahin dala, chori to nahin ki hai?" (Only red light I jumped; (for havens sake) I didn't commit dacoity or theft?)

I am reminded of the my young Sub-Lieutenant days. I was travelling by a train from New Delhi to Bombay. The train had started from Amritsar and there were these young students as my co-passengers in the Second AC compartment. They were playing cards and the subject was extolling the virtues of the TTE. Amongst other things, here is what I heard, "Marvellous and well behaved TTE (Traveling Ticket Examiner) really. Took a hundred rupees from each one of us and provided reservation without any fuss." At this, another solemnly observed, "People like him are becoming rare these days."

Then there is another incident I brought out in Adarsh Society, CWG, Corruption in Armed Forces and Public Morality; I am re-producing it here because of its relevance:

Most of the First Class compartments had been booked for our course as we headed towards Jamnagar. To pass time, we played Bridge and drank beer and rum. When the TTE (I still remember his name on the his name telly: V Srivastava) came to our compartment he saw that we were drinking. He was visibly shocked at this and addressed us in chaste Hindi which is translated thus: "Young men, you should be ashamed of yourself. You are passing through Mahatma Gandhi's state wherein drinking liquor is prohibited. And yet, here you are - young men who would be responsible to defend our nation - shamelessly breaking the law and drinking."

I was, at that time (perhaps I still am) an idealist and moralist. I was so mortified by this that I left the gang, collected my Ayn Rand and climbed to the upper berth to hide my head in shame. I was so immersed in 'The Fountainhead' that after some time when I looked down I found the TTE having a drink with my friends. I got down from the berth and berated him, "Srivastava ji, you had no right to be pseudo moralistic. Look at you, now, a TTE on duty having liquor. I think at the next station we shall hand you over to the Vigilance people".

His reply is pointer towards the central theme of this essay, "Ab chhodiye bhai sahib. Main to ek do peg pi ke chala jayoonga; vigilance wale kam se kam poori botal lenge aapse". (Just forget it, brother. I shall (quietly) go after one or two pegs; the vigilance people would demand a full bottle, at the least).

Is this what we are, honest and upright by comparison to the bigger fish? If that is the case we should be conscious of the fact that where we are today and the nation is, is not merely because of the neta and the babu. In the Indian society, as of now, it is a smart thing to be a man (or woman) of the street and know the tricks of the trade.

Have you ever considered asking your lawyer or doctor for a receipt of the fees paid to him? Are you scared that in case he/she get annoyed with your effrontery he/she would spoil your case or your health, or worse still that of your children or aged parents? Does your not asking for receipt make a difference? Of course it does because he/she then obtains - what is called - black-money and the government doesn't get tax on his black income. Have you ever thought why is it that whilst a doctor or lawyer gets large amount of fees he/she is shy of receiving these in cheque or even by credit/debit cards? Is it because all these instruments leave a trail that he doesn't want to leave?

Have you looked the other way when the vendor tells you the price of a thing and that it would be cheaper by a certain amount if you don't insist on a bill or receipt or invoice? Have you ever considered that the cumulative sum involved of these kind of sales is much more than the loss to the state caused by A Raja?

Well, chances are that you actually thought of these things but have argued that a drop is really a small thing as compared to the ocean of corruption. Isn't it the same convoluted reasoning we give for not voting or for littering or for playing our loudspeaker?

Yesterday I was listening to Kabir's dohai (couplets) and the most appropriate to the situation that I heard was:

"Bura Jo Dekhan Main Chala, Bura Naa Milya Koye
Jo Mann Khoja Apnaa, To Mujhse Bura Naa Koye"
(I went looking for an evil one, I couldn't find one;
Then, I looked into my inner self, I found I was the most evil."

Lets do everything to set right public corruption. However, lets set right ourselves too.

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