So Anna Hazare and Team Anna are back with their fight against corruption in India and to ensure the implementation of the Lokpal Bill. There are mixed reports in the media about the success of this round of agitation, as none of the expected fasting, sloganeering, jail bharos, allegations, counter allegations, etc., etc, has really taken off. It the reports are to be believed then it appears that the movement has lost momentum as well as direction this time around.
I feel that part of the reason for the Anna juggernaut not sustaining is due to their simplistic understanding of corruption. Today, corruption is no longer only about those who take bribes; it is also about those who give bribes. Corruption is not only financial; it is moral, ethical, ecological, societal, ideological, creative… It is not only the politicians and the bureaucracy who are corrupt; society itself has become corrupt.
Corruption no longer has a simple definition; today, it is highly contextualised, complex, layered and subjective. What one person perceives as corruption can be another person’s “legitimate” way of securing his/her future! Take the case of a person who bribes his or her way to a lucrative posting within the organisation he/she works for. This is done with the understanding that the returns are worth the bribe paid. Think Customs, the Mumbai Octroi, the RTO… and you’ll know what I mean.
Corruption is so endemic and blatant that we have taken it for granted in a matter-of-fact way. Regrettably, the discourse on corruption in India rarely reflects its subjective understanding or its diversity or its depth or its endemic nature. Mostly, we get to read dry and technical analyses full of academic jargon, tables and figures and how India is being bled dry economically. Most of the articles are dramatic exposes intended to shock and titillate, but which ignore the deeper malaise that grips our society. Though some of these articles go into the reasons behind the corruption, very rarely does it take a mirror to the society we inhabit and present the different faces of the corrupt Indian.
I am surprised at the blinkers that we have on as we only have to look around us to see the many faces and avatars of the corrupt Indian :-(
The parents who scream themselves hoarse over a rise in their child’s school fees, but have no qualms in “buying” a seat in an engineering/medical college for the same child.
The rabid sons-of-the-soil politicians who espouse education in the local language only, but send their own children to English-medium schools.
The film director/musician who slaps a case of plagiarism against another director/ musician for allegedly “copying” their work. Never mind that they themselves have been “inspired” by someone else’s work.
The Team Anna member and a star crusader in the country’s fight against corruption, who claimed business class fare, even though she flew economy.
The industrialist who roundly condemned a state government’s response to communal riots and then shifted his pet project to the same state a few years later.
The Chief Minister of the same state mentioned above who refused to accept responsibility for the gruesomely planned and executed communal riots.
The builders who make a killing from grand residences constructed on the land and dreams of the dispossessed.
The pharmaceutical industry that spends more money on marketing their products, than on developing affordable medicines.
The slum lords who exploit the very people they take money from in the name of protection.
The politicians who change their political parties and ideologies with every election.
The journalist who films a group of sick perverts molesting a girl in the hope of getting that breaking story.
The devotee who donates money, jewels, gold, silver and whatnot to a temple, but will not consider sponsoring his domestic help’s child’s education.
The school teachers who do not teach at school and instead force their students to attend the private coaching/tuition classes conducted by them.
The adoptive parents who want to consider only fair children and that too from their own caste and community.
The motorist who will abuse traffic policemen at every opportunity, but will be ever willing to offer that Rs.500 bribe to the same police to avoid a ticket.
The doctors and hospitals that allow a premature baby to die as the parents could not afford to pay Rs.200 for treatment.
Yours truly, who has knowingly bribed twice before—the first time to get her passport and the second time to register her house. And both times because yours truly was not patient enough to wait out my turn and chose the easy way out.
The government that failed to protect one of its own. All because he told the truth. And successive governments who continue the tradition of letting the honest down and rewarding the corrupt.
The avatars of the corrupt Indian are indeed limitless and everywhere… As I mentioned earlier, we just have to look around us and see them in our midst and maybe in our homes.
Which corrupt Indian have you encountered? Do share.
Related article: The exploitative Indian