This story played itself out back when I was a teenager. The two protagonists, let’s call them A and B, were locked in a dispute. The dispute was about how the affairs of a particular association ought to be run. Now, it is somewhat important to mention that the association in question was a caste-based association, and the specific caste in question is Brahminism. However, I feel some regret having to mention this, because this fact will prejudice the minds of many of my readers. I, therefore, ask them to try and ignore the caste-based nature of the association and treat it like any other voluntary association of citizens. The import of the story and the morals to draw from it will not change significantly.
With this caveat in order, let us return to the story of A and B. Now, as it happened, both A and B were government employees. A was known to be extremely corrupt. Not a file passed through his desk without a bribe having to be paid to him. His extra-income showed up, not in his lifestyle, but in the assets that he was known to possess. He had no flashy taste in clothes and he had no unbrahminical “bad habits”. His wife, a genuinely good woman, wore much less jewellery than the ordinary middle-class woman at weddings. However, it was well-known that he had accumulated a lot of money. He had used it to buy up houses and stock up enough in his benaami bank accounts to last his descendants seven generations.
B, on the other hand, was known to be an honest man. He had never taken a bribe in his life, and his family’s lifestyle reflected this as well. For long, they lived in the same Central Government Quarters that his employer provided, and while his family did eventually achieve its ambition of buying a modest house, at the time of the story, they had been unable to achieve it. B was widely reputed to be uninterested in wealth – and rumour has it that he was also uninterested in family life, believing himself to be cut out for higher pursuits, one of which was the association that is the subject of our story.
Let us now turn our attention to the subject of the dispute between the two men. We will not get too much into detail, but suffice it to say that the rights and wrongs of the dispute were exactly what one would expect from the character sketches of the two men we have drawn above. A had monopolized the affairs of the association, and it was widely thought that he took a cut from the association’s budget. To be fair to him, however, it was also widely thought that the association was in fact being run well, and its members regularly reelected him. B was proposing a change in the association’s by-laws that would bring in more transparency and bring in some degree of fresh blood in the association’s managing committee.
The dispute between the two men got personal, as these things frequently do. Apparently A struck the first blow – the details of which I do not remember. In response, B retaliated by calling in his contacts – he had many – and getting the CBI to open an investigation of A’s affairs. (“CBI” was the term used in the conversations I listened in on. It might have been some other investigative wing.) The CBI carried out a series of raids on A’s property.
The response to the raids among the association’s members – and here I think it is relevant to point out that almost all of them were middle-class, educated Brahmins – was mixed. Some thought that A had got his comeuppance. Many others felt that B had gone too far in involving the police in an internal dispute.
In any case, these raids shook up A and made him ready to open talks with B for a possible compromise. After extensive discussions, a “compromise” was reached, which can better be described as a surrender. A agreed to the rule change that B wanted – and B used his contacts to call off the CBI raids and hush up the investigation.
I will end this story here. There are of course many lessons to draw from this, and if I start off on them, the size of this post will double, so I will leave those for a subsequent post. But I must mention that this story tells us almost everything we need to know about the Indian’s attitude towards corruption, and the Indian’s conception of honesty. Of course, we will get a Jan Lok Pal who will fix everything.
8 thoughts on “A Little Tale of Corruption”
If there is any other moral to story except that Indians are corrupt, it is lost on me. I hope that subsequent post will not take further two years.
My two pence:
1. If the association’s bye-laws had been originally framed to be transparent, A would not have a chance to indulge in malpractices. Systemic changes prevent or reduce corruption – that is the larger point you make which no one can disagree with.
2. But if in an already imperfect system, it was difficult to bring in a change, force was required. Sometimes, force can be brought about by legal but unethical means. The rights and wrongs of the means can be debated upon, in fact that is what politics is about.
Second the Motion!
This post popped up on my RSS today, and I was wondering if my reader was malfunctioning.
Except for the open bribery bit, this perfectly describes American politics today.
EVERYONE should thank their deity that the Navy is not yet so corrupt.
Even the so-called “honest” are not beyond corruption for the sake of what they think is the “greater good”.
Blog more frequently!
Moral: Neither an A nor a B be. Be
when i was young, one family wanted tenants to leave their house. the tenants filed a baseless FIR against the family because they didn’t want to leave. the family had to deal with the false accusation and the police. what is the moral of the story? No police complaints? baby…bathwater…anyone?
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