I heard some newer examples of corruption–at-least the ones I couldn’t imagine–from a singular source. I don’t intend to investigate it further but just felt like sharing. So an uncle, father of a close friend, arrived from India recently. He always has some opinion on everything and is game to hear you out on the issue. He is also well-connected in the sense that he knows people, successful (I think), from different fields. He is a warm person in general but these stories will give anyone a chill.
Similar to western world, now even Indian citizens are also complaining, at-least with more intensity than before, about corruption in India. We always focus on seemingly obvious places of corruption, may it be by politicians or government employees or traffic police or as some repentant indians would point out, themselves giving bribes to all these folks. It’s not the place of corruption or people involved that surprised me from all the cases he told me. On the contrary, the sheer organized way things are happening and how people are oblivious, even appreciative in some of the cases. The funny thing about corruption as with anything is–its most interesting to read or hear about when its unexpected.
Now the trains traveling to different cities from Mumbai usually leave from certain stations, at least some major stations. The trains are in the yards to be cleaned and washed before they start their journey, in some cases lasting multiple days. Railways gives out the contracts for the water, in tankers, to be supplied to them for this purpose. The way system works is very similar to other places such as Hospitals where doctors would charge for 4 bottles of saline but will send one or two back to hospital pharmacy to be resold to next victim. Now what happens here is that they bill for say 40 tankers but would only supply 10 and those too partially empty. The dark comedy comes from something that one of these contractors said –I paraphrase– All the effort with this job goes into making sure all the paper work is spot-on, the appropriate people are paid ‘their dues’ and the tender calculations are correct. It would probably be easier and cheaper to do the actual work but that’s just doesn’t work in india. If you are not amazed by this example then wait till you read the next one. This one is about something that’s happening at the Mumbai local stations and millions of Mumbaikars are walking past it everyday. The re-tiling of the platform that has become kind of regular site for local travelers has a very hidden side. So this comes directly from the horse’s mouth, a railway contractor. They get a tender to retile, 2nd platform of Ghatkopar station, for instance. They uproot the tiles from the platform 5 and place them onto 2nd one. Now platform 5 is in need of maintenance. So they get a contract to retile the platform 5 and you get the drift. The key is to keep all the pockets filled. In reality the railway officials instruct contractors to follow these practices. An average passerby looks at the work and thinks how well the stations are managed that they constantly repairing something or the other.
I have been joking and expressing my surprise at the recently concluded US government shutdown with one of my professors. I asked him if he heard about the congress unanimously passing a bill that provides back pay to furloughed federal workers. What this means is the US government, in reality the taxpayers, is going to pay some 800,000 federal employees and ask them to not show up. He shook his head and said such broken system and said that we should have a system similar to India. Of course, he was joking. Who would recommend the pathetic political system we have in India. The important issues get ignored. The so-called secular parties actually favor religions and castes to get elected. The local politics matters more to people when voting in national elections. Indeed, we have some people in India, like that guy from Swades. Munishwar says, loosely translated it means, “Whatever you say about the western development and fortune but they will never have what India does, (He takes a pause and says with all the pride he can muster) our ‘Sanskar’ and ‘Parampara.” It is sad to see the older guy clinging to a convenient reason for lack of the progress of a nation he thinks to be the greatest and the current youth who has neither and not even that convenient reasoning. I read somewhere that this recent fast paced westernization without basic development (at-least not enough), has left India with worse of both the worlds.I wonder if that’s indeed the case.
I am no india basher or even a harsh critic but it’s just sad to see the current affairs of india at both political as well social levels. I mean I am not even there. Its like me and my buddies criticizing the indian cricketers for being unfit while becoming couch potatoes ourselves.
P.S. I wouldn’t delve into ideas for solving the corruption issue. It is a subject that warrants a separate post.