Demonetisation: 'VIP' privileges should count as corruption too

Of course I am all for rooting out corruption. I just wish we could also have a little less of the sort of nice little conveniences that very important people take for granted, and we don’t generally think of as corruption.

David Devadas November 14, 2016 13:20:11 IST
Demonetisation: 'VIP' privileges should count as corruption too

I watched a clip online over the weekend. It showed a young woman carrying an infant, venting her anger while standing in a serpentine queue outside a bank. In the course of her tirade, she spoke of not having enough cash to buy vegetables. She was really angry.

A thought crossed my mind: If she were a 'VIP' living in a bungalow built by Lutyens, the young woman would have vegetables growing in a part of the back or side garden. She would even have an efficient maali (gardener) paid by the taxpayer to tend to those vegetables and the flowers in the flower beds on the side of the house and the lawn in front.

Come to think of it, the young woman would also have had the finest fruit, not to speak of nuts and sweets and cakes, brought as gifts by less important persons.

If she were a member of Parliament, she might even have convenient access to nicely priced fruit juice, coffee beans and tea leaves, not to speak of extremely nicely priced meals. But for that, she would have had to have had the wherewithal to get to become a very important person. But then, she would quite likely have been the son or daughter of one.

Demonetisation VIP privileges should count as corruption too

Representational image. Reuters

Of course I am all for rooting out corruption. I just wish we could also have a little less of the sort of nice little conveniences that very important people take for granted, and we don’t generally think of as corruption.

Misuse of free air and rail travel, for example.

Easy reservations too. I was to travel by train recently but, when I got to the station with my luggage, I was amazed to find that my booking was still on the wait-list, and so was to be treated as cancelled. I had been second on the waiting list when the ticket was purchased a couple of weeks before, and so I had presumed that the booking would have been confirmed by the time it came time to travel.

I went to the ticket inspector’s office to see if I could be accommodated. The man said it couldn’t be done. The coach was already chockablock with RACs (I had forgotten the category — reservation against cancellation). As I looked deflated, he said sympathetically that I should get a 'VIP' to help out next time, in case I knew one.

While it may be very laudable to get people to transact online or by plastic, it would be so very nice if we could also level the playing field for all citizens, including 'VIPs' and the owners of online operations. Could 'VIPs' also get into line please and pay like everyone else, the same prices and overhead costs as everyone else? Please? I was with a 'VIP' friend one morning recently and saw some houses that were all furnished, carpeted and set up. Apparently, that’s the way they are handed over to 'VIPs' — in the most swanky, easy-to-live areas of our otherwise polluted, congested cities.

Very nice.

But if we’re serious about cleaning out corruption, shouldn’t we take a brief moment to ask how much the taxpayer pays for all this?
Don’t get me wrong. I am, as I said, all for rooting out corruption. Let’s just expand our focus on what constitutes corruption a tiny bit.

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