Well, here we are then. A new year and everyone foolishly pretending that in some cosmic fashion, the torch has been passed from the cruel fates of the past to the benign fates of the future and that by some curious chemistry, the fact that it is now 2017 things will change.
The new year has nothing to do with change. There is absolutely nothing to indicate that the calendar leap has any bearing on what tomorrow brings. It never has.
Corruption did not die last night and nor did black money do a Houdini and disappear. The problem that resonated in the words of the prime minister on Saturday was the inability in most of us to appreciate and acknowledge that simply scrapping currency notes is not the be all and end all of the cleansing.
Until the bureaucracy, the political firmament and the keepers of the law are recognised as the worst offenders of the deceit that has bathed us these 70 years, not even ten Modis can win the war. Even the private sector is not exempt.
Our political system is so skewered that the very idea of having politicians who are not venal and vain and loaded to the gills with ill-gotten gains is absurd. It goes with the territory. Plundering the exchequer after winning an election or being bought over for a price is integral to this game.
Our bureaucrats are largely corrupt and irrespective of their cadres making money on the sly is par for the course. Every damn gazetted officer’s signature on every damn piece of paper is written with counterfeit ink. Every damn document in India’s endless paper chase and her choke by red tape makes it nigh impossible to ever reach that point where we shall be freed of this bondage.
Lawyers, doctors, cops, bankers, Customs, media, railways, you name it, each one has its own blueprint for making money and if anyone stands up to them, he is quickly warned or led into a trap and removed from the chessboard.
We pay capitation fees to get our children into school. Even copybooks and uniforms are forcefed to students courtesy conspiracies between principals and manufacturers. No major purchase is made without kickback. State borders reek with the stench of daylight theft. Coolies (is that still politically correct?) can get us seats on a train. The prowling Bittu at the courthouse can guide us on to the fast track for a price. Bribe the plumber, the electrician, give the ‘bakshish’ or stand in line and hope they will serve you. One can give a thousand examples but how do you break down a mindset that sees nothing wrong in the ‘give and take’ option?
Even the armed forces have divorced themselves from Caesar’s wife and are now no longer above reproach. At this very moment, a four star officer is on bail for possible skullduggery. This was once unthinkable.
Which political entity do you know who hasn’t made millions after coming into power, settled his family, got the indolent and lazy relations into jobs, usurped land and exploited the system, used nepotism and influence to carve through justice?
Let’s talk about the poor, too. Modi extols the virtue of poverty as if poverty and probity were twins. They are not. They are part of the murky package. The office boy runs the office, your government peon is a powerhouse in himself. The typist at the courthouse, the millions of Mr Fix Its, the hoodlums for hire, the terrorising by gangs functioning from ‘addas’ where police are afraid to go, the police sub inspector, the tehsildar, the Sarpanch, the Khap brigade, all of whom run fiefdoms, how will they ever change?
The cop at the airport who cheats the innocent traveler, the secretary to the VIP, the legions of underlings swinging surrogate authority like a machete, the hangers on, the lickspittles, the line of middlemen who form the chain to the ‘open drawer’ and the lack of receipt, the ‘topping’ of the cream for every transaction between citizen and government, even paying for an appointment, this is where the roots lie, Sir, in the day-to-day dealings where your land can be resold ‘officially’ under a patwa and the devil take the hind leg, where squatters can lay siege on your home, where builders can add on ‘extras’ and you can do nothing, where the lowest bidder is manipulated and quality flung to the winds, when the banking system is your enemy not your friend, where you take away so much that the only way out is to take in an equal amount and more.
If we keep dancing around the issues and we do not want to discuss exactly how easy it is to make us crawl to get our work done, surrender our esteem to obtain that affidavit, to have our innocence exploited, to be beaten into submission because we don’t understand the codicils, the profound declamations count for nothing.
I sometimes wonder if Modi had a professional death wish in opening this Pandora’s box. In doing so, he did not see the two scorpions on the floor. The complexities of our love for bumf and paperwork on the one hand and how it feeds corruption at every step because the counter clerk is king and don’t you forget it.
India’s babus will be the most difficult fortress for the Modi Juggernaut to breach.
And the other scorpion. The sanctity given to the ‘chai pani’ concept in the nation at every level, that is where it started from. To ask for that extra is a right, a ‘hakk’ and so deeply ingrained in us that it has led us all to accept corruption as intrinsic to the lubrication of the survival machine.
Together, these two scorpions will begin a pincer movement unless the flanks of this war are widened and widened swiftly. And they will go for the wheel of the Modi chariot. Like a swarm of locusts, there are so any of them…of us.
Truly, we have only just begun…it is going to be a long and bloody campaign.
Updated Date: Jan 01, 2017 17:11 PM