Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Adarsh Society Scam - So what's new?

At the risk of sounding cynical, I really think this latest ruckus is just much ado about nothing new. So some politicians and bureaucrats decided they needed new houses in the heart of our financial capital. So they went about doing it in the same way that most politicians and bureaucrats get anything that they want. Blatantly use the government machinery. Just like our brothers in the CWG Organising Committee. Who made enough money to feed the next three generations through this one event!! But corruption is a character which has run through our veins since Independence and before. Every Indian who needs something done in any area of life is likely to have been exposed to it in some form or the other. So what makes the crimes of the CWGOC and Mumbai's finest worse than the usual steady corruption that goes on throughout our country? What makes the press and the public rise up in protest at something that is a way of life in this great nation of ours? What Lakshman Rekha has been crossed that has given strength to the protests and will allow (hopefully) the culprits to be brought to book?

The tentacles of corruption insinuate themselves into every aspect of life in this land but the Adarsh Society Scam has insulted the basic decency of the nation by touching a raw nerve of our country. The culprits have swindled the families of the Kargil martyrs. The heroes who have given their lives to protect our nation's integrity have been bespoiled. And so blatantly! Imagine the reckless dishonesty that can subvert justice in such a public matter with such impunity. So there is public outcry and the chance that the culprits will be brought to book. And in the case of the CWGOC, it was the dignity of our country that was affronted. When the astronomical scale of organised corruption shocked the world and shamed the nation.

But the root of the problem still remains. These branches that have become so obvious because of their blatant scale and because they have struck at the sensibilities of our nation are but the tip of the iceberg. Corruption has grown deep into our nation's soul and uprooting it will mean a loss of even some of the good things. And what is worse, it will cause great pain to the ones who make it their mission to strike at the root of the tree. Nearly every major corruption scandal in the past has ended with the prime culprits either escaping scot-free or serving small jail terms and often returning to their public offices as powerful as ever. And more often than not, the whistle-blowers and the honest men and women who agreed to testify to the truth have been traumatised by the proceedings and their aftermath and in some cases even killed.

And the huge scandals which break every now and then are but the periferal branches. The trunk and root lies with you and me. The corruption that starts with every small bribe we pay to the ticket collector on the train, the clerk in the transport office, the passport officer, the land bureaucrat, the policeman and every small-time government servant on whom we depend for so many of our activities. I remember the story of my friend in a mission hospital in Uttar Pradesh. The hospital refused to pay the officer in the Electricity Board a bribe. He promptly cut the electricity and for about 3 months in the peak of summer, the hospital managed with a few hours of electricity from the generator every day. After 3 months of daily prayer for respite, the officer was transferred and electricity restored. That is the price we will have to pay for taking a stand. It will not be easy and will certainly cost us something. But in the long run, there will be a 'tipping point' reached - when corruption will at last be seen by the majority for the evil that it is. But until that point it is for the individuals with courage to stand against the tide. Scams like the Adarsh Society will keep popping up. Thousands more will remain unheard of. But the root of corruption can be weeded out only by individuals. Like you and me.

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