Friday, February 11, 2011

Swindler's list

It's crazy to observe our extreme sense of adjustment to everything that happens around us in India. Being a Bambaiyya, I have grown up in an atmosphere of adjustment to everything - from adjusting to accommodate a fourth passenger on a train seat that can fit just 3 people, to adjusting to traffic snarls caused by snail-paced infrastructure development. One spends a good deal of time and effort fighting for the basics - electricity, water, transport, a house-maid, and almost everything else! And at the end of the exercise, you end up becoming a pro at adjustment. But extrapolating this sense of adjustment to a greater political and economic arena and expecting the average Indian to adjust to swindling behavior by a handful of crooks who choose to not just swindle the nation of a few crores and in some cases a few lac crores, but also to make the average taxpayer look absolutely foolish is perhaps stretching the 'thoda adjust please' concept a bit too far.

That's why, a new scam story hitting the papers each day is not just disgusting to me as an average Indian, but it's also extremely frustrating to know that while I and maybe half a billion other working people in my country are much too busy working, a handful of characterless and morally dead individuals choose to subvert the very meaning of the word law and turn every single public office into a viable money manufacturing machine! And each day, the stories get murkier. Long long ago, a supposed clean PM got embroiled in a scandal involving kickbacks on a defense deal. Then came a couple of huge stock market scams involving forgeries, and massive insider dealing. In the recent past, we've had scams in real estate, with benaami properties, nameless bank accounts, unverifiable customers swindling huge sums of money, nepotistic dealings by people in power - you name it, we have it and if we don't just wait for a bit!

And now, we have the massive 2G scam, wherein as a dirty, murky plot comes to the fore, one gets more and more disillusioned about the whole civil system as a whole! So we have the 2G spectrum airwaves to be used by telecom companies (demand side) sold the same by our government (supply). The Govt sells it dirt cheap to some unrecognizable players for peanuts. You think the Government has been cheated in the bargain, but as it turns out, it is just the taxpayer and the economy of the country that have been cheated. The spectrum sold by the govt for peanuts, finds buyers for over 10 times that price, amongst huge global players, begging the question why they were sold dirt cheap in the first place. And in this story, the main characters allegedly range from a ruffian Indian political party and all its cronies to one of the doyens of Indian industry, to countless babus in places of power.

And while the media has enough stories to fill reams and reams of paper, hog airwaves 24x7, one hopes that something would be done about the perpetrators of such dubious acts. Although, I do wonder, while staring in disgust at the blatant indecency of the whole mess, why must we believe that those, smart enough to conceptualize and pull off such a swindle, might just not be smart enough to buy their way out as well! After all, even a 0.01% of 1 lac 76000 crores can cover anyone's legal fees plus bribes for 7 generations!!!

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