Sunday, April 10, 2011

What Corruption Means

So many of us are simply breathless with the amazement of the last few days. The clarion call against corruption sounded by Anna Hazare followed by the stirring and full-hearted response from one end of the country to the other . . . it's been inspiring and uplifting. It feels like a New Age, a turning point, a glimpse of what a life of integrity and honor could be like.

But is it really all so black and white? I've made a little list of the ways in which my own life has been enhanced by corruption, and I invite you to try the same exercise:

  1. I have never taken a driver's test. In 1998, I gave a "guy" 800 rupees and a few days later he gave me my license. It expired in 2008, but hey! What the heck! Who is ever going to question ME? And if someone does, I know someone else who will sort things out.
  2. I am wait-listed on the Shatabdi to Delhi and I really need to get there (like, because I have to attend a meeting I forgot about until the day before and the train was all booked). I have this friend whose husband works in the Railways Ministry and she will get the ticket confirmed for me. Who am I? Who is she? WHO CARES?
  3. My family has three gas connections: one in my name, one in my husband's and one in someone else's (I can't even remember whose)  - all gotten kissi ke through se. Not allowed, but, again, WHO CARES?
This is the stuff of our lives. This is how we work. School admissions, medical care, land transfers: "I'll talk to someone," we say.

Who that someone is, who we are - it all gets lost in the urgency of getting the thing done. Some of us take pride in obliging other important people because we know that what goes around comes around. Others of us make a name for ourselves thorough helping the little guy, the one no one else will go to bat for. 

When we rail against corruption we conveniently forget how enmeshed in it we are ourselves, to the point where following the rules simply does not occur to us because there have, for so long, been no rules to follow. From traffic laws (Wearing a seatbelt? A helmet? Signaling for a turn? Waiting patiently at a level crossing? Ha. Don't make me laugh.) to building codes (Why is the water pressure so low in every colony in the country? Because people have built illegal underground tanks which must be filled - the law of gravity WILL be obeyed -  before the taps above ground will flow) we are all trained to think first of our own interest and then of the law.

Corrupt officials in the government (our neighbors, our relatives, our friends, ourselves) get that way because we encourage them to do so. Every interaction has two players. No one is corrupt alone.

This is our life. This is who we are. We are like this only.

Anna Hazare, bless him, has made a start. But we have a long, long way to go.


Barleyjuice said...

Brilliant, Jo. So true, and so thought-provoking.

Inderjeet said...

So I ask you would you start your fight against corruption??
your suggestions are welcome...
would you surrender the extra gas connection / would u next time plan well in advance and not use the railway contact and ....???

you are right ..we all are enmeshed as u say...but where do we start..probably in our own little ways to use the RIGHT way in our day to day lives??