The corrupt Indian

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 ūüė¶

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The exploitative Indian

“Shyam¬†Singh”, yells¬†Mrs. A. “Shyam¬†Singh, where are you?”.

Mrs. A is one of the residents of our building/housing society. She has run out of fresh coriander leaves and needs¬†Shyam Singh to go to the nearby vegetable market and get some for her.¬†But Shyam Singh is not there;¬†he has been sent by Mr. B, another building resident,¬†to get a pack of cigarettes. By the time Shyam Singh gets back, Mrs. M (yet another building resident) is calling also out for him; she needs him to go and¬†get her a dozen eggs. He takes both the “orders” and proceeds to the nearby shops once again.

Let me introduce Shyam Singh here. He is the¬†48-year old¬†watchman of our society and who has been working for the society and its residents from August 2001. I must also add here that he is our only watchman with duty hours from 9¬†am to 7 pm every day, with no weekly holidays (if he needs a day off, it is his responsibility to arrange for a replacement). During his working hours, Shyam Singh is at the gate, watching over the building and its residents, manning the gate for the residents’ vehicles, keeping out salespersons, allowing the courier and other delivery guys into the building, etc. As watchman of our housing society, it is also Shyam Singh’s responsibility to carry out any bank-related work of the society, as well pay the society’s electricity or water bills at the concerned offices.

At least this is what he is supposed to do. Unfortunately, Shyam Singh is unable to carry out these duties as he is also the unpaid 24X7 errand boy man-cum-help-cum-aid for the residents of our building. He is forever going to the market to buy something or the other for them or helping them lug huge shopping bags to their flats or supervising the children of our building at play, or match-making domestic helps to the residents.

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