The Institution of Corruption

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The Institution of Corruption

Four types of corruption: “nazrana”, where money is paid before work; “shukrana”, where money is paid after work; “haqrana”, where money is demanded as a right; and “jabrana”, where money is sought forcefully.

We are legatees of feudal hypocrisy, and slavering sycophancy. It is a personality-driven culture, where family bonds and relationships are important, ideologies and program are not.

Al-Beruni described the Indian character as “sentimentality with brutality, family ties with well-concealed adultery, and old world caring with brutal ferocity, renunciation with avarice, and chastity with sex obsession”.

In the days of rajas and nawabs people presented them with gifts as ‘Nazrana’. It was a mark of respect and loyalty. It included beautiful and young women. The conquerors after victory looked for ‘Khazana’ (treasury) and ‘Zenana’ (harems). This culture induced in Indians a ‘doormat syndrome.’ Indian ethos promotes denial, passivity, and living defensively.

Indians always prostrate themselves before the authority. I remember a businessman who went to see a politician in his new Mercedes. The politician liked it, and the businessman presented it to him as ‘Nazrana’.

The people of the subcontinent have a weakness for adulation and titles. The Englishman understood this weakness, and created a class of Rai Bahadurs, Khan Bahadurs and Sardar Bahadurs. They were loyalists and served the interest of their masters.

On a visit to Lahore with the hockey team for the World Cup, I met many senior civil and police officers who were addressed as ‘Khan Zadas’, and “Sahib Zadas’. Some of the scions of the princely states of India are called ‘Maharajas’ and Maharanis’. They enjoy the decayed remains of past glory. Napoleon called these people “hereditary asses, imbeciles, and the curse of the nation”. Privilege breeds boredom and boredom breeds empty people. Behind the hero stands an invalid.

The tradition of ‘Nazrana’, gradually became ‘Shukrana’. For every privilege enjoyed, some return favour was given as ‘Shukrana’. A businessman handed over to a VVIP a registered deed of five acres of prime agriculture land around Delhi. This was “Shukrana” for the lucrative contract allotted to him. Opportunity and temptation go along with the territory. Being on the inside not only brings opportunity, but temptation also. Developing one’s usefulness is the surest way of attracting notice and success. The clever, the strong, the ruthless will always have the upper hand on the lawless frontiers of life.

In Bombay, I met a bureaucrat’s wife in a party. It was attended by many film celebrities. She was sparkling with diamonds. Somebody complimented her on the choice of diamonds. She told him that it has been presented to her on Raksha Bandhan by a leading filmstar, as she was his ‘Dharam Behan’.

A businessman (sweets business) went to meet a senior politician for some work with a box of sweets. The politician liked the taste of sweets and asked him to send him 50 boxes of ‘ladoos’. The next day the poltician’s friend reached his office. He was ready with ‘ladoos’. The man told him that 50 boxes of ladoos meant 50 lakh rupees. He had no alternative, but to shell out the demanded amount. For desired effect, a police Gypsy was made to stand near his establishment.

The villains vary, the results don’t. The essential ingredients of sin have always been the same. Words have no fixed meaning; treachery comes easy, and truth is so slippery that it cannot be seized.

From the constable on the beat to the senior most politician and the bureaucrat no one can escape the curse of ‘Jabrana’ in one form or the other. I remember a senior politician advising me when I was a district SP: “Do Lakh Rupia To Yahan S.P. Ki Dharam Ki Kamai Hai’ (Two lakh rupees per month is the S.P’s holy income).

To survive in this system one needs guile, grit and craftiness. To be honest and straightforward is like wearing a chastity belt in a brothel.

by V.K. Kapoor

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