Monday, February 16, 2009

19. Celebrate Corruption

Gandhigiri hasn't lasted long to expose corruption; sting journalism hasn't gone beyond sensationalising social degeneration; and the Tehelka expose has been relegated to history books as a milstone in exposing corruption in high places. While Rs zero note (see picture) to fight corruption has been launched in some districts of Tamilnadu, corruption as a topic in school education has been positioned as a fresh move to prepare young minds against corruption. This and much more as India slips to 85 position in Transparency International Global Hunger Index, well behind China (72) and Thailand (80), as currency gets flung on the Parliament floor and cash appears on a Judge's door without any eyebrows being raised.

So deep rooted it is that it's often tough to figure out its origin. It manifests in all walks of life, be it public or private. A study had indicated sometime ago that an estimated Rs 22,000 crore per year was paid in `small' corruption. The actual figure may be several times higher. Need it be said that corruption is more of a norm than exception. No wonder, therefore, many corrupt transactions have been rephrased as `convenience tax'. The distinction between `honest' and `dishonest' has seemingly been blurred, honest being one who takes money and delivers and dishonest who takes money but doesn't deliver. Truely, ours is a democratically corrupt country across caste, class, gender, religion, discipline and so on.

Lamenting corruption may seem futile. celebrating corruption should be a sensible choice. Simply put, it is creative vocation that manifests itself in all religions. It is not only creative but contagious too. No one could have imagined the Members of Parliament taking bribe for asking questions in the floor of the house? Corruption is an evolving discipline, each revelation leads to new generation of creative ideas. Such is its depth, dimension and magnitude that one can never get to the depth of it. Should then the idea of corruption be deplored when we haven't yet fathomed its creative power of unleashing new ideas of making money every moment?

Sample this! A chief engineer in one of the northern states was considered honest by his peers. Unlike members of his fraternity, his track record has been seemingly clean. There were neither any allegation nor charges against him. He led by example till the day his unique modus operandi became public. For covering the cost of a maid servant in his house, he had sought cash contribution from one of the engineering divisions. Shelling out Rs. 2,000 in cash each month wasn't a big deal for the division. Interestingly, this message was conveyed privately to each of the 80-plus divisions and sub-divisions in the state. Over Rs 150,000 used to be delivered at his home every month.

Had it not been for the chance encounter of two delivery persons representing separate divisions no one would have ever known it? While one was returning after delivering the envelope containing the money, the other was entering the house to deliver his division's share. It then became clear that a carefully crafted design was at work to siphon public money. Calling the chief engineer corrupt may amount to demeaning his creative talent. Without doubt, there are any number of such creative ventures underway at any point in time without anyone getting a wind of them. Only national and state-level awards to honour corruption can bring such creativity to light, a wild goose chase against corruption will remain cosmetic.

Conversely, announcing awards will encourage creativity and competition - bringing transparency in the system. For sure, television channels will announce talent hunts - scouting Indian Idols for most corrupt ideas. Corruption Training Institute will penetrate cities, small towns and villages. RTI will become redundant, replaced by RTC - Right to Corruption. There will be no scams, no enquiry commissions and courts will have time to spare. No extra efforts will be required to do so - the obvious talent of the people will be given recognition.