Recently, I read an article on the BBC entitled, “Has India’s Government Lost the Plot on Corruption?” and I could not help but reflect on just how many times I have paid a bribe to some branch of the government or a public servant in India over the past 35 years. From the postman in Vṛndāvana to the Foreign Registration Office (FRO) in Mumbai, Mathurā and Navadvīpa, everywhere in India is corrupt and everyone knows it. But only of late does it look like the public in India has had enough!
It would be hard to argue with the idea that Indians are possibly the most complacent and utterly ignorant (about what goes on under their very noses) of any people in the world. Turning out 1000s of software engineers every year they are, nonetheless, totally oblivious of the ills of the world… from what they put in their mouths, to the environment around them and especially to the politics on the world stage. In the words of one (seemingly hones) government official that I met, “Even the best intellectuals and honest people in India are but ‘buffoons’ when compared with international standards.”
I could not have agreed with him more.
When someone asks me how corruption works in India, I usually start by stating that first, try to find something or someone in India who is not corrupt! And it’s not that corruption means paying a bribe for a government or public servant to do something illegal. No! By all means — the standard bribe in India is simply to get the concerned official to do for you what is completely legal and falls within his jurisdiction of duty (job description), such as to deliver your mail or register a particular land document.
Some speculation has been made that Indian politicians have more money in Swiss Bank accounts (swindled from the public) than any other country in the world. And no one has stepped forward to suggest that that statement is absurd.
Now, a well-known yogi in India, Baba Ramdev, has stepped forward with his followers and made a huge uproar. Taking up the ‘Gandhi’ strategy, Ramdev began a protest fast against corruption in the capital city of Delhi. A bold first step, but unfortunately he was rudely interrupted in the middle of the night by a charge of police wielding batons and tear gas. Baba Ramdev was forcefully deported from the city, the bulk of his followers dispersed, and some of his followers admitted to hospital with injuries. One poor woman remains in critical condition.
Some people think that the Indian public is now awake and they will soon throw off their ignorance and lethargy. I would hope so, but the doubt remains that India, having tolerated corruption within her society for so long, will see the protests against corruption become corrupted. Only time will tell…