Can I ask you an uncomfortable question?
Are you corrupt?
Yes, I am talking to you—the person reading these lines.
“Me? What? No, I am not corrupt.”
Cool. Maybe your father is, or your mother, perhaps.
“Are you out of your goddamn mind? Nobody in my family is corrupt.”
Okay, okay, don’t get angry. I was just curious. You see, India is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. And that’s interesting since nobody even acknowledges that he or she has anything to do with corruption.
“Oh, yes, politicians are corrupt, and so are the clerks in government offices. And how can you forget the police, those folks are corrupt like anything.”
Really? Eh…now we’re talking.
But where do these people—politicians, police personnel, and clerks come from—don’t they come from us—the people?
Why is it when police take bribe we label them corrupt, but when we indulge in unethical practices to avoid tax, we don’t even acknowledge that we’re also corrupt?
Corruption in India: Real-Life Examples
Under the Table
My uncle’s friend’s younger brother had started his new job as a government servant. And it’s when I heard my uncle congratulating his friend, “Your brother will make a fortune out of this job. You know, he’ll make lots of money Under the Table.”
I had no idea about Under the Table then. Today, I know what exactly does it mean.
My uncle was ranting about corruption in India:
“These bureaucrats are so damn corrupt. Corruption is rampant in every government department—you can’t get work done unless you pay a bribe. God knows what will be the future of this country.”
Okay, let me get this straight:
When it comes to you, Under the Table is normal, when someone else demands a bribe—in other words, Under the Table, it’s corruption, right?
Playing Loud Music During Board Exams
A relative was bragging how he managed to play loud music till midnight in his daughter’s marriage, despite the ongoing board exams in Delhi.
Can’t tell you how disgusted I was listening to his pep talk. If loudspeakers were not allowed post 10 pm, how did he manage? By offering a bribe to the authorities? (Apparently, he had “contacts” with the SHO of the area. Well, that explains everything). And that same person keeps on complaining about corruption in the country. His favourite line is, “God knows what will happen to India.”
You call others corrupt, and at the same time support corruption with money-power. Isn’t that awesome?
Had it been your children trying to focus on studies, you would have cursed the whole system. And I can understand why? Because it’s their right to study peacefully, but what about others’ children?
Forced to Reach Office on Time
It was 2015.
A relative was revealing he’s not going to vote for Narendra Modi in 2019 loksabha elections.
I was curious, “But what happened?”
“I thought he would do some good work.”
“And hasn’t he?”
“Hell no! Since the Modi government came to power, government employees are forced to reach office on time.”
Wow! So, that was the wrong Modi had done to anger him.
This fellow is a government servant, and before the Modi government took over, he was a free bird: Reach office by noon—enjoy tea, lunch, and gossiping. Leave for home around 4 pm. Life was a breeze.
Receiving a salary every month for doing almost nothing was normal. It surely was not corruption because corruption only means taking the bribe. Getting paid for nothing is not corruption, correct?
It’s Normal Being Dishonest, and Religious Simultaneously
All the people mentioned above are “religious” people (or so they claim).
They believe in god.
Some of them observe “Tuesday fasts”, and also, some organise “Jagrans” (not to mention they don’t give a damn about the Loudspeakers not allowed post 10 pm rule).
They visit temples on Janmashtami, keeps fast during “Navratras” and also, occasionally visit “Vaishno Devi.”
But are they religious in the real sense? You decide.
Demanding a Bribe Makes One Corrupt, But What About Not Following the Rules?
In case you didn’t know, I am a radio jockey (Fm Gold Channel—100.1 MHz), and a freelance voice actor as well.
Once I was in the studios with a fellow radio presenter – she requested to get some snacks, as she hasn’t had a chance to eat. I got her some. She offered me a piece, which I accepted and kept in my backpack.
“Why aren’t you eating?” She asked.
“Well, it’s against the rule. Radio jockeys are supposed not to eat inside the studio premises.”
“Oh, come on, it’s cool.” She laughed. But I didn’t give in. She, along with another RJ (who had arrived just then) started mocking me like I was some retard.
After her show, we left the studios to the metro station. Seeing me crossing the road via zebra crossing, she again made a sarcastic remark, “We need more law-abiding citizens like him.”
Well, I am used to such reactions. People make fun of me when I try to follow the rules.
(Just the other day I realised that I had been using the wrong side of the road to take a U-turn after getting CNG filled in my car to save some 10-15 seconds. It made me felt sorry for myself. It made me realise that disrespecting road safety rules had infected even my DNA. You see, I had been using the wrong side of the road for quite some time by then without also feeling guilty).
And guess what? People still make fun of me:
- When I try not to jump the red-light despite people honking like crazy at my back
- No dustbin? I do not litter on roads – public places are not landfills, are they?
- No more than one pillion rider on my bike – two-wheelers are for two people only
- I refuse to give in despite peer pressure to disregard the rules
But I am still so confused – why people feel proud while breaking the rules? And frown when somebody else does the same?
Do you know what’s funny? These very people leave no stone unturned to condemn the politicians (which is our next point).
How Come Corrupt Leaders Come to Power?
My cousin had once asked me “Brother, if people know that a particular party is corrupt, how come they come to power?”
You see, the majority of the voters come from the underprivileged section of the society—JJ colonies, slums, BPL families, rickshaw-pullers, daily wagers and like. It’s an open secret that they’re offered liquor, money, biryani, etc. for votes. (Usually on the eve of the voting day).
And we know what happens next, don’t we?
The next morning, the “aware” and intoxicated voters reach the polling booths—stomachs full—hearts indebted to their “wellwishers.” They get rid of the debt by pressing the button.
But wait, that’s half the truth.
The complete truth is that most of our “Educated” people don’t care. They believe, ‘सब चोर हैं, किसी को भी वोट दो कोई फर्क नहीं पड़ता, इसलिए मैं वोट दूंगा ही नहीं।’
(All of them are a bunch of crooks, it doesn’t matter for who you vote. And so, I will not vote. I’d instead go for an outstation trip than stand in a queue).
So, there are two types of people who make corrupt people come to power.
- The “Underprivileged” people
- The “Educated” folks
And we continue to be known as “A rich country with poor people.”
I know it hurts, but you cannot eliminate corruption unless you understand it begins with you, and only you can end it.
Is It Possible to Be Corrupt, and Also Religious?
Looks like it is because we have been balancing both since eternity.
But has it changed anything?
If you pray in a temple built on public land—meant for a community centre—can you call yourself a religious person? If I cannot abide by ordinary rules formed by the government, how can I possibly travel the path of religiousness, which is a million times harder than the mortal world?
Can you be corrupt, and also religious at the same time?