Dialogue October-December, 2011, Volume 13 No. 2


Sorry, I don’t know

Toki Blah*



India no doubt, is currently under the throes of a battle against corruption or is it a fight to bring in a law against corruption or is it someone’s attempt to by-pass Parliament, yet push in an anti corruption law from the streets of Delhi or is it a copycat exercise of the French Revolution to usher in a Second Indian Republic or is it a sincere civil society outcry for better governance? I don’t know. Its beyond me.  I’m totally foxed.

     OK. OK. I admit it’s too serious a subject to joke about. Fine, but will some one kindly tell me what is going on? In attempts to curb corruption, is it necessary to demolish concepts, practices and Institutions of Democracy? How does one define corruption? What exactly does that term convey to an ordinary man on the street.

    Let’s ask the man on the street; the newspaper vendor; the pan wallah behind his  counter; the casual labourer; the maid servant who washes your clothes; the ones who struggles to make ends meet with 50 rupees a day. They in turn will ask “is it really necessary for us to pay Pradhan Ji 100 rupees for recommending our Ration Card application?” How do you explain CWG, 2G or 1 lac crores to someone who needs to sacrifice two days wages for a ration card?   Any one with an answer?  Sorry, I don’t know!

   I mean one would like to have some clarification on the Indian perception on corruption. From all evidence available, an Indian sincerely believes that everyone else but himself is corrupt. It’s a National mindset; it easily explains the popularity of Gandhi’s three monkeys and the mystery of our PM’s silence over the issue of corruption.   Some are prepared to go to ridiculous heights to prove this National view point. The cause perhaps for the current extraordinary outburst of injured self righteousness as we watch Team Anna demanding for their Jan Lok Pal Bill. Well is it? Frankly, I don’t know!

    The ordinary Indian, if given half a chance, then goes on to do something he considers patriotic – to set himself as an example for everyone else to copy. Role model sort of ambition. We  call it  the “Be like me to save India” campaign. We have a proven strategy on how to achieve this. It’s quite simple really. No high tech manoeuvring involved. No lengthy research required. It’s a home grown remedy. Wonderful indigenous stuff.  Simply go on a Fast onto Death.

       By this time the reader must be completely convinced that the writer is trivialising a matter of national importance. Must be off his rocker. Mad beyond redemption. My contention however is that, in India today, a fast onto death to make everyone else agree to one’s view point, seems to be the order of the day. I mean a ‘Fast onto Death’ threat gets not only immediate media attention but brazen and cheeky media support to boot, becomes the hottest news item on every national TV channel, other international channels ignoring the event not withstanding. But this media coverage has a territorial limitation. It will be unable to cover the North East. Sorry fellas, but that’s the way the cards fall !

      The fact remains however that a “Fast onto death” game plan, even if later enforced with a shrill “resist if they dare force feed me” which is then later compromised with a “don’t resist but fill up the jails if they do”, however noble the cause maybe - is too much of a headache for an ordinary person to understand. Try comprehending an Indian patriot’s definition of ‘Fasting onto Death” and you might easily go bonkers yourself. Not worth the effort.  If the Chinese have a Copy right to Chinese Puzzles  we Indians can now claim IPR over a “To die but not to Die” riddle.

    Another puzzle. How come others have failed to recognise the efficacy and brilliance of this “to Die but not to Die” strategy. Why have the Americans or the recent rioters of Birmingham or the Taliban for that matter, not taken up to this extraordinary ploy of convincing others (less charitable souls call it blackmail). Its cool man. No suicide vests; no hightech drones; no brain washing called for. Its simple. You walkup, sit down and you walk out again. Look man it can literally shake up the Government, it’s that powerful. One has simply to threaten a Fast onto Death and all opposition withers away in front of your eyes.

     Cabinet ministers will receive you at the airport; the Govt will arrest you; but it will then haggle for your immediate release; this will convert thousands of curious onlookers into ardent supporters of your cause; TV channels go into overdrive; you will finally be released to do whatever you please (why you were arrested in the first place shall never be explained) and you become a hero in the process. A ‘Fast onto Death’ exercise is an excellent tourist attraction. It also preserves tradition and culture. Its like the old Indian rope trick. Its full of natak and it never fails to attract an audience. 

     But I transgress. Let’s get back to the original topic of corruption. Lets talk about the Jan Lok Pal Bill that apparently is the cause of the whole natak.

     It needed a Fast onto Death threat, to get the Indian Parliament to discuss Corruption. What joy! The PM then shows his true colours of being the kill joy that he is. He tells the nation that he forgot to bring his magic wand. So everyone back to square one. Further  Joy! The Opposition overwhelmed by this unexpected political windfall, lost all sense of direction as a serious political party and its head as well. It has asked the Government to resign. Look Buddy, we are talking about corruption that is killing the nation , not elections to revive flagging political corpses. Has everyone gone crazy? Don’t ask me. I don’t know.

Indians believe that corruption in public life is a national shame and should be done away with. No problem there. Everyone agrees, so please proceed.  Problem is, no one seems to be quite sure how. Snooking a thumb at the idiot who prefers to stand in the queue happens to be a national past time. I have no time to spare waiting for my turn. Better to get in through the back door. Fact is, we are a people who simply love to cut corners and we do so with relish. But the problem refuses to go away. How do we get rid of Corruption?

    Chai ka Paise helps ease the way by greasing the palm! Every self respecting babu knows this. We already have a myriad of laws to deal with graft, corruption and what have you. Everyone knows it but who gives a damn? These laws  are never made use of. As Indians we refuse to acknowledge the Rule of Law. Take great pride in it.  But here we are, demanding for more laws. For a Law to supersede all other graft laws and going into a 'Fast onto Death' by breaking the Law  to get such a Law. Its confusing but everyone is having such fun! Isn’t this fun?  I don’t know.

     In the meanwhile the image of the PM searching for a magic wand haunts the nation like a bad dream. Lets try and help. Scandinavian countries are least hospitable to all forms of corruption. It appears they invented our PM’s missing magic wand.  India is a rising super economic power. Everyone is more than willing to trade with India. I mean we wouldn’t mind signing an MOU for an imported version of such a wand, do we? 

     We might however be in for a surprise. The imports might just be gift wrapped versions of Good Governance which incidentally Indian politicians and policy makers have chosen to ignore for the last 60 years. So do we now call for the introduction of Good Governance? It might well turn out to be the missing magic wand.  Good Governance might just wipe out most of those colourful but useless politicos we managed to elect and cultivate. It might just make a Fast onto Death exercise irrelevant in the future. It might however just help bring in real and meaningful development. It might just help throw corruption out of the window. I don’t know. One never knows. One can only hope!


Dialogue (A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati)                                                Astha Bharati