Comment Pieces

What would we do without it? by Bijoy Venugopal

Posted on November 08, 2010

Take corruption out of the morning papers and we will have nothing to read. Take it out of prime-time television news and our favourite anchors will have nothing to scream about. Take it out of sports we will have nothing to play for. Take it out of politics and we will have utter anarchy. Corruption – that quick and dirty practice of allowing money to change hands to get things done in a hurry – inhabits our lives so pervasively. And what’s all the fuss about white and black money? Anyone who has received a crisp 1000-rupee note for no lawful reason will tell you it is a pleasant, peachy pink. Well, sometimes it doesn’t involve money at all. Enterprising government servants will accept your contribution in kind, perhaps even kindness. Not that you can tell the difference. Fifteen years ago, after failing my first shot at a driving test, it dawned on me that my shortcoming lay not so much in my driving skills as my tactless approach to getting things done. Next in line was a young man in a Maruti Omni who couldn’t tell the wiper controls from the gear shift. But his genial uncle snapped open the boot and allowed the RTO inspector to steal a furtive glance at its mysterious cargo. The candidate was passed without a hiccup. No money changed hands but three baskets of juicy Mulgoa mangoes sufficed to certify a dolt as a driver for the next two decades. How can you account for that? That was in 1991, three years after the Prevention of Corruption Act became law. Perhaps the law’s biggest loophole, which allows our corruptible friends in positions of influence to dream up creative solutions to their cash-flow problems, is that it doesn’t define corruption adequately. Add to that other loopholes such as citizen ignorance (which the RTI hopes to address), the fallacious assumption that government servants are corrupt owing to low salaries, the fear of vendetta, and the resigned belief that you will lose out if you don’t pay up. Now arrange the loopholes, intersect the common areas, and you have an interesting Venn diagram – an Olympic symbol of corruption. Now, who can blame Kalmadi and Co. for being inspired? Gritting your teeth at the memory? Lighten up. Some among us argue that corruption is not a systemic disease but an inherent and inviolable aspect of our culture. Therefore, they say, it must be accorded pride of place as a national treasure and patented along with yoga, turmeric and whatnot. Well, nothing wrong with that. Marijuana and prostitution are legit in the Netherlands, so why not legalize corruption in our country by reserving a berth for it in the Union Cabinet? As politicians vie with each other to impress us, we might finally see some sincerity in politics. Imagine how many netas would kill to become the Hon’ble Minister for Corruption? And who would pass up the chance to serve their country by doing what they do best? All thanks to corruption! # Bijoy Venugopal is an independent content consultant, cartoonist and freelance writer based in Bangalore