EVERYTHING 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.
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.
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.
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.
Small 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.