As with all the scams and alleged scams, the impact the revelations and accusations made at the India Against Corruption press conference yesterday will take time to play out.
However, there are two visible and predictable trends.
The first is that we will see more such press conferences with more allegations — allegations against politicians, against powerful personalities of India Inc, against bureaucrats and other government servants and against those close to all these sections of society.
This leads to the second predictable trend — that politicians, bureaucrats and government servants will find it increasingly difficult to ask for, and get, bribes.
For a moment, forget about the mega scams and the politician-businessman nexus, and look at an example of ‘small’ corruption — corruption which most of us have experienced or know of well through one degree of separation. You want to travel by train, from Howrah to Chennai; a last minute decision. No tickets are available — even the Tatkal quota is sold out. You go to the station, loiter around near the booking counter and a tout approaches you. He tells you that he can get you on the train after ‘fixing’ it with the Travel Ticket Examiner (TTE). A price is discussed and negotiated. The tout takes you to the TTE and confirms the arrangement. Money changes hands, and you board the train, happily en route to Chennai. The TTE you have done the deal with disembarks a few hours later, and the new TTE comes on board. This happens three or four times during the course of the journey — and no one bothers you. Finally, you reach Chennai and all is well.
When you agreed to the price at Howrah, you bought a guarantee that you will reach Chennai with no fear of being offloaded anywhere on the way; you bought a guarantee that you would not get into trouble with any new TTE or any other railway employee.
Now, we get back to the impact of recent scam and scam allegations. Many are in hot water; in the Adarsh scam, for example, we have politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen and their relatives all caught in the net. None of the bureaucrats imagined, when they approved of decisions which were allegedly illegal, that such a day would come to pass. None of the politicians who made the allegedly illegal policy decisions imagined that they could ever get into trouble. None of those who trusted the politicians and bureaucrats imagined this day either.
It’s like they bribed the TTE and, suddenly, found themselves being asked to leave the train at a mid-way point — and face arrest and jail terms for illegally being on the train.
The whole corruption system, then, is questioned.
That’s what the new environment has done — created a situation where the corruptor is no longer confident in the ability of the politician or the government servant to ensure that the deal, once struck, is a permanent one with a promise of no changes, no dangers, no legal issues, no court proceedings and no jail terms.
It’s now apparent that no one is too big to target, no one is safe from prying, probing and accusing eyes — which will cause the corruptor to ask many more questions — and think many times on whether the possible upside is worth the possible downside.
Corruption will never be the same again.