Theft, An Art. Robbery, An Industry.

Theft 1EVERYTHING I wrote in this blog: about the massive corruption in India, police inaction, mob lynching, violence on women, lawyer and government office dishonesty and all, I wrote from my personal experiences, and not on the basis of newspaper or TV reports or hearsay. It does not mean India is full of dishonest people only. How can I say such a thing? My father and my teachers are still alive. So are some friends and friends back there who could have become millionaires had they chose to be corrupt, given the powerful positions they are (or were) in. Yet, I must tell you what I have gone through in my life. That honesty and transparency are the real strengths of my writing. And I am proud of that.
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Don’t be surprised when you read this. Just know that it is all one hundred percent true.

In India, or the ancient Land of Bharat, grand, subtle theft has always been an art (centuries before they wrote Ocean’s Eleven or The Great Train Robbery).

In the famous Sanskrit play The Little Clay Cart (Mrichchhakatika), thief Sharvilaka enters merchant Charudatta’s house at night, and steals the jewels, for he wishes to buy his girl Madanika’s (a beautiful slave) freedom with the stolen jewels. One of the best plays ever written.

In the Bengali novel The Nightly In-Law (Nishikutumba), author Manoj Basu illustrates the art in an exquisite, elaborate way. He had received the prestigious, National Academy Award for the novel. Wish someone did a new movie on it.

The Clay Cart. Exquisite, sensual romance.
The Little Clay Cart. Exquisite, sensual, romance.

But that was then. What is happening in India now is not theft anymore. It is an historic level of “grand larceny” and “high-noon robbery”, in every sphere of life.

Let me give you some recent examples.

If you play “professional” cricket in India, you can make millions by underground gambling. That’s now all too well known.

But you can also make millions by bribing the international cricket board that would banish a certain, dangerous bowler just on the eve of a crucial game, and make the other team and its big-name captain win — a team bookies and corporations had put huge, huge bets on. Allegations. But no investigations.

If you are a government executive or minister, you can scrap an international trade deal on technical or legal grounds, and then after getting an incredible sum of money from the international trader, re-instate the deal quickly, overturning the ban.

Big media knows it, but avoids questions. In fact, some big-media journalists have themselves been implicated in underground deals. And we have every reason to believe that big media is bribed by national and international corporations; heck, some of them are now directly owned by big, global corporations such as Rupert Murdoch.

And then, there is all-pervasive bribery across the board: you need to bribe a government officer to get a completely legal contract validated, because without it, they have the power to sit on your files for the rest of your life.

My high-school English teacher did not get his pension for twenty years after his retirement, and only got it a few months before his death (he was lucky), perhaps because he refused to bribe anybody.

No caption needed.
No caption needed.

You need to pay back your lawyer to evict your unlawful tenant or tenant’s tenant, or they can make your life miserable, by getting kickbacks from your adversary, and working for your defeat in court.

You have one burglary at home (like the one we had during our 2007 visit), and you shall need to buy off the entire police station to even record an FIR, let alone have them do any investigation. We did not buy them off, and we did not get any justice.

Your village cousin is molested? The law enforcement and administration will molest her five times over again, physically or verbally, unless you have the money to move the case forward. Just read some of the recent incidents in West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and such Indian provinces.

And I’m not even talking about some of the more well-known cases of high-noon robbery that got exposed only because the robbers — politicians or executives — got up on the wrong side of the bed that unlucky day (or could not strike a deal on time). Nobody in the seat of power — any power — gets caught in India, or punished. Biggest robbers get court bails quickly, and eventually get a slap on the wrist, before they come back to steal again.

Mob police beating thiefSmall thieves do get caught and punished, and the Indian mob will likely beat them to death in broad daylight. I have seen a few such incidents with my own eyes, and wrote about them in my to-be-published memoir. Medium-level or high-level thieves and robbers, with any political or media connection — small or big? Forget it.

The fabled, subtle art on those Sanskrit or Bengali or Tamil acts of theft has disappeared, to be replaced in India by the largest, in-your-face industry the country has ever seen. The new prime minister has promised to cure and cleanse India of this systemic cancer, but we have heard such rhetoric from Indira Gandhi or Sonia Gandhi before.

Today, India’s supreme court has released one of the biggest, convicted robbers in history on bail. Done very quickly: no questions asked.

In this socioeconomic structure, which has not changed a bit through elections, no real cure is possible.

Just like the U.S. Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers.

Same stories, different scenarios.

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Big-name politicians. Convicted of mega corruption. Quickly released on bail.
Big-name politicians. Convicted of mega corruption. Quickly released on bail.

4 thoughts on “Theft, An Art. Robbery, An Industry.

  1. What you have put down is true- but each Indian have to say No to bribe We sold our house in Bangalore with no big problems and refused to fall for taking cash that need be accounted as tax we did lose a good sum but were happy not to play the system-,many were shocked we got a buyer who gave us a fair enough price! As Indians each of us have to work on it no PM or government can remove this well entrenched social malaise- conscience is a dead word in our world today and our children are already paying a heavy price! But we can awake our own conscience anytime and that is deserving of a Noble Prize for being a good citizen!!

    1. This is not to insult India as a country. This is not to undermine the honesty and integrity of the millions of ordinary men and women. There will be no Ignoble Prize for them, I know.

  2. Dada,
    Your comments about lawyers and the justice system is dated. Jayalalitha, if she was the person of whom you were writing was ‘enlarged on bail’. This means that till such time as the Court does not require her presence (on dates fixed by the Court) and subject to certain conditions, she will not be kept in a state penitentiary or under police custody. She is still an accused against whom legal process will continue. This is the judicial system which in a few short years has reversed several corrupt deals, caused to be sent to jail several officials and politicians accused of corruption, convicted at least three big ticket politicians of corrupt practices and laid down the law that no convicted politician can hold electoral office and getting a stay does not help there. That is why Lallu and Jayalalitha had to step down, even though they ultimately got bailed
    The lawyers whom you casually brush aside as people who take ‘kickbacks’ from their retaining client’s adversary or may work against their own client are by and a large a professional class through which and whom justice is reached. Most of them are unsung heroes but there are a few bad apples as there are in every profession. Do you not know of bloggers who write what they are paid to write and social activists and trade union organizers of ‘the rent a conscience’ types?
    I read your blogs and appreciate that I am at liberty not to do so and that you have a right to your opinion however cynical and flawed it may be. However for the sake of fairness, please come to India and stay continuously for six months and see the courts at different levels functioning. Unlike derivative knowledge which only allows you to see one part of the whole, a personal visit by someone of your sensitivity and intelligence, would show you the whole. Your present bird’s eye-view relies upon the light of a star which took a million years to arrive yet you claim to write of the star’s present status in real-time.

    Love
    Protik

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