There seems to be a serious misunderstanding on what “corruption” means in India. It seems that we think only politicians and bureaucrats are and can be corrupt, and corruption as such starts and ends with bribes, misuse of power and ‘looting’ large sums of public money.
Look at these: Corruption as defined by Google and by Wikipedia. Corruption is of different levels, Political Corruption is just one of these. The basis of corruption is within each and every one of us. We, each and every one of us, is corrupt. Even political corruption of the highest levels can be drawn as parallel to small corruption in every day life. Let me present an example here, taking the most priceless fundamental reality in the World, which is unfortunately given the least importance to by Indians – Time.
(Disclaimer: I am not supporting any politician or anyone who has done any looting. Thievery through corruption should be punished and there is no two ways around that. So should be every instance of misuse of power)
25 passengers had arrived and perched their behinds on their designated seats at 0900 sharp, the hour the bus was slated to depart.
The guy manning the bus came up and asks: “Everybody on board? Anyone yet to come?”
Neha: “Yes, Pooja aani hai.. Thoda wait kijiye na?”
Guy: (frowns) “But we have orders to leave exactly at 9.”
Neha: (curves her lips and goes all doe-eyed) “Please na.. 5 minute..?”
Guy: (mellows up in a flash) “Okay, let me know when she comes.” And gets off the bus.
15 minutes later, an auto screeches to a stop next to the bus. A lady, wearing a tad too much makeup than what is required for a business seminar, gets off it, boards the bus with an unapologetic look and takes her seat. Neha and Pooja start chatting excitedly about a sale at Eastside and nobody informs the bus guy. He walks in after 5 minutes and asks again if everyone has come. Someone responds in the positive, and the bus starts, at 09:20.
The incident and names mentioned here are fictional as such, but each one of us most have encountered something of this kind in India.
So what is the point, you might ask. “This is how it works here. We always adjust for others!” Yes, that is true. But from another angle, what about the 25 odd people who showed up on time? They just paid with 20 minutes of their time for the folly of one person not coming on time will be inclined not to show up on time because, “Hey, being prompt does not pay. I too can be lethargic and get away with it. Hah!” If the bus had left on time, the one person would have missed it but it would have driven home the fact that you have to value time, that of yourselves and others, and that would go a long way in building up a yes, efficient society where all walks of life are not corrupted.
Now, if you think “This is not corruption! The poor girl must have been delayed for some reason, it is only humane to wait for her!” At this juncture, I present
Now I believe people would start outraging screaming corruption, misuse of power etc. Well, if you had vouched for Neha/Pooja, I would say just nod your head and agree to what the politician did here as well, be ‘humane’. But what is wasted here is time, again. A plane load full of people wasted a couple of hours, only because a politician was late.
Neha delayed the bus using her doe eyes, and thinking that she was a small poor girl, we adjusted for her. The politician delayed the flight using his power, he was a rich, powerful guy and we shouldn’t ‘adjust’ because of that? These two incidents present the same case, only on different levels or planes (pun intended). Corruption is not limited to politicians taking bribes, but is this as well. And all the numerous ‘shortcuts’ we take in everyday life’.
Self denial and justification has always been an Indian forte. “I am a pure, white dove, and what I do is right, because it is for so and so, or “it may not be legal but it is safe”, (click) but all others and what they do are bad. Corruption.” It is not just that we are corrupt on all levels, we make it worse by being the world’s biggest hypocrites with our ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude, by trying to deny it outright or justify it giving some excuse or other. Shouting slogans and fasting against corruption while denying how corrupt we are ourselves and then chest-thumping how we ‘curbed’ corruption does not make any sense, just like all those anti-corruption civil society candle march ‘patriots’ who press ‘Like’ buttons in one tab and download pirated movies through torrent files on the other.
To build a prosperous country, the first thing that should change is us, the corruption that each one of us carry with us, which is the real threat, and not a traffic cop taking a bribe. Hey, he did it because you broke a rule in the first place. Helpless to stop corruption? Don’t break traffic rules for one!
Since I started this off about the importance of time, I might add a quick addendum:
The indiscipline rampant among us breeds lethargy and complacency which almost decides our everyday lives in India have become a defining part of our culture (Indian Standard Time), as is corruption which creeps in as a by product of these. If you might notice, the nations which enjoy the highest standards of living in the World have two things in common. One is their total and absolute devotion and respect to TIME, more so for that of others than of self. Second is excellence in infrastructure, which compliments the first. A train which should arrive at 8:58 in Japan WILL arrive at 8:58 there, but in India, even if it arrives at 9:10, it is considered to be ‘on time’. Lethargy worked well when India was a total agrarian economy, but a world superpower can hardly afford to be late.
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