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27 Nov, 2010, 07.01AM IST, V RAGHUNATHAN,
The plunder of India

India has always been plundered - first by medieval warlords; then by the British; and now by ourselves , which, like a self-goal , is by far the most hurtful. What else can you call it but plunder when our former four-star generals are accused of appropriating apartment spaces intended for war widows? Or when judges are accused of stealing from the provident funds of class IV employees? Or when academic regulators are arrested for graft?

Or when decorated industrialists steal thousands of crores from investors ? Or when Cabinet ministers and civil servants in cahoots are accused of stealing tens or even hundreds of thousands of crores from the exchequer in the name of sports or telecom? Or when the ruling and Opposition parties vie with one another to stay in power on the strength that the other is no better? Or when the worst 'punishment' for accused caught with their hands up to their elbows in the cookie jar will be to lose their jobs, if that, but not the ill-gotten wealth? And, of course, no big crook ever has been known to have served time behind the slammer.

That India continues to be plundered is testimony to its enormous wealth. More than its near double-digit growth, it is the sheer size of the loot India has been able to withstand year after year, decade after decade, and centuries after centuries, that bears witness to its huge economic potential!

Are corruption and greed sudden afflictions that have overtaken us Indians? Surely, countries with a population of a billion-plus do not become more corrupt and greedy overnight? Surely, this must be a much longer-term phenomenon ? Why should sports and telecom ministries be any different from defence, commerce, oil, industry, transport, mining, aviation or scores of any of the other ministries, one may be tempted to wonder. And one wouldn't be far off the mark.

It must simply be that thanks to information technology and media today , a lot more comes out into the public domain and a lot more quickly today, than it ever did in the past. So even if one can open no page of a newspaper without copious reports of corruption occupying much of the page, what we are witnessing must be the tip of the iceberg. And the reports of Swiss bank accounts running into hundreds of billions of dollars can hardly be an exaggeration!

In short, the worm has been in the woodwork for a long time. So long that we have come to accept the poor quality of wood as given. Today, even a judge - leave alone a parliamentarian or minister or general or bureaucrat - does not at all know the significance of Caesar's wife.

Our collective will to address the grave ill endangering us as a society is weak. And what is worse, speaking of corruption suffers from 'issue fatigue' and most of us merely yawn at stories of corruption, as if asking 'so what's new?', and none of the stories shock us any more. This is because we see a bit of the collective us in every corrupt politician , every corrupt babu or corrupt judge or corrupt military commander or corrupt policeman or corrupt ticket collector. That is why being corrupt is par for course, because those caught are no different from you and me.

What is important is that one should somehow get rich, never mind how. Corruption is crime only if you didn't succeed at it sufficiently and got caught while still a constable, rather than a director-general of police. Besides, shame attaches to you not for the action (forget Gitopadesh) of graft or any illegal action for that matter, not even for being caught at it or videotaped at it, but only when it is legally proven.

As long as you are quick enough to say the video was morphed, or that the videotaping was carried out surreptitiously (as if you could do it with permission!) or was 'politically motivated, and thus spin the legal system round and round long enough, no shame is attached to you. That's the essence of a top cop accused of molesting a teenager and driving the child to suicide, who confidently offers a wide smile to the world. That is also the essence of the judges who hold on to benches despite impeachment attempts or of tainted bureaucrats holding on to their seats of power.

Ours is not a guilt-driven society. Ours is a shame-driven society. And our shame does not arise so much from the wrongful action as from being caught at it - with solid and incontrovertible proof. That is why we do not lose sleep when indulging in corruption. We lose sleep only when caught at it. The more hardened among us will need a legal and rigorous proof, failing which we will always sleep easy.

Most of us often ask, how can the cancer of corruption be cured? What systemic interventions can be done to rein in the malady? Political reforms? Funding reforms for political parties? Administrative reforms? Harsh punishments , Chinese style? The diagnoses are many. It is the prescription that eludes us. So, we frequently blame lack of political will for curbing corruption.

Unfortunately, we still do not realise that before a political will to tackle corruption , we need to find the will within ourselves - as in you and me. We simply have to practice the change we want to see (one hopes the great Mahatma is not turning at Rajghat at the context in which his words are being invoked). We simply have to learn to push back against corruption. After all, if we are the clerks and officials in the CWG or telecom ministry or RTO office or land registration office or passport office or police services or armed forces or PWD or municipality or corporates, can we keep chalking up all the blame for corruption to the politicians alone? But, alas, we are all competitively corrupt.

Everybody is corrupt and making money ; so why shouldn't I? Or, how can I change the system single-handed ? So, let me join the 'system' as well. The middle classes join government jobs saying that while the salary will be low, upar ki amdani achi hai (the 'top up' income is good). We need to realise that our system is not something outside us. As a part of that system, the onus of improving the system rides on each and every one of us. We can't be corrupt ourselves and expect the rest of the system to somehow cleanse itself. Change, like charity must begin at home.

Comments (10)

Abhijeet (Noida)
28 Nov, 2010 09:27 PM

Wonderful piece. Echoes my opinions.

Venkataramanaiah (Hyderabad)
28 Nov, 2010 09:21 PM

Thanks Raghunathan. On the issue of corruption, Mr.Abheek Barman(TOI) also opined that the opposition is spending more time on the issue. what is the role of opposition in a democracy? When government is spending lot of time on very old issues like blast cases and CBI leaking information to the press selectively and media giving dis-proportionate coverage, what else opposition will do? The question of mis-governance and corruption are as old as our independence day. Corruption has entered every where from the subtle aspect to the gross aspect of our society. The prime ministers,chief ministers,chief justices and other constitutional authorities are mute spectators and victims of circumstances. The rulers/politicians over the years have created institutions around their families. The primary family interest is national/state interest.Postings and governance are done accordingly. Now talking of eradicating corruption all of a sudden is a joke.People have become used to it."Yedha Raja Thadha Praja". People are given moral licence to be corrupt. So if corruption has to be eradicated or minimized and if proper governance has to come in place, a second independence movement has to come. In this direction MATERIALIST SPIRITUALIST MISSION TRUST has done substantial theoretical work and can become a guidance.
please visit www.materialistspiritualist.org.

Regards
C.Venkataramanaiah BE(Gold Medallist),MBA(IIM-B,74-76)
MATERIALIST SPIRITUALIST MISSION TRUST Hyderabad,India
Email: cvr.msmt@gmail.com

youth (pune)
28 Nov, 2010 06:04 PM

Plundering is the motivating factor for all these politicians rather than serving public....

Anil (Pune)
28 Nov, 2010 05:11 PM

Unless the corrupt are jailed without bail, unless the police and defense forces act sans political remote control; corruption will remain a 'so whats new' item in India We need a harsh Saudi/Chinese style approach to corruption/wrong doing-India is too far gone with its 'fantastic' judicial system-its only on paper We need a 'benevolent' dictatorship for 10 years to cleanse the system!

appusami (India)
28 Nov, 2010 03:30 PM

Most of the major scams have occurred, under Con Artist MM Singh.Surely,this cannot be a coincidence.

Mahesh (Chennai)
28 Nov, 2010 10:50 AM

Yes, the millions of poor and middle class Indians suffer, in silence and not knowing where to go or how to stop the plunder and loot of these barbaric aqvaricoious politicians, businessmen and govt officials, biased corrupt and publicity hungry media - and let us NOT forget that Manmohan Singh is no saint - he is simply resting on his laurels and hos now become an abbetor of crime and criminals, extremely clearly. His acquisence of Raja and the public pat proves the man is a mischievious bandicoot that is content with letting the country rot as long as he can stay PM. The Congress party and DMK have become the most venemous concoction of poison, cancer and manical parasites that grow and thrive on the ptitiable Indian public. They are looting the country unabeshedly and without anyone being able to estrain them. They sponsor and support criminals openly - proving that Kaliyug is reaching its worst form.

sanjai (Minneapolis)
28 Nov, 2010 08:36 AM

Thank You for such great article.

Bala (Bengaluru)
27 Nov, 2010 10:50 PM

WOW!!! We've had land scams.... air-waves scam... Waiting for a water scam (or did we have one already ??)

Ananth (Manipal)
27 Nov, 2010 08:44 PM

It is indeed sad that we are being looted by our own. This remind me of the story of gold and iron being heated and worked by hammering on adjacent anvils. It seems that the gold was silent but the iron was creaking and groaning. The gold told the iron to shut up as he was facing nothing that gold was also not facing. At that time the iron said " Both of us are bing worked on by iron hammers. Believe me, it pains much more when YOUR OWN hit you than when others do ". Similarly, we could expect the looting by the invaders and colonisers; after all they came in search of loot. But our own people ? Sad isn't it ?

krisham511 (Pune)
27 Nov, 2010 07:56 PM

exactly my sentiments.unless we change nothing is going to change.and that can come about only if all like minded people come together and form a pressure group.But I am scared that somebody will join so that they can earn money for not exerting that pressure.may be some reader will have a better solution.thank god i am already into retirement and hopefully only a few years will remain

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