By Uday M Kiran:
Several theories have been proposed as to why India did not achieve the status of a developed country. Nations which had been granted independence around the same time as we were and also countries torn down by wars around the same days have better and impressive growth stories when compared to us. The value of the rupee is falling. People are growing apprehensive over the economic inflation which includes the rising prices of day to day goods and other necessities.
India was predominantly a country which depended on agriculture since times immemorial. People were happy growing crops, tending the cattle and reminiscing about the ancient glory of our land. The advent of the British in India changed the dynamics of the equation. There was a sudden surge in opportunities and the tactful and elite one’s held on to them with fervor. The average Indian still considered agriculture and it’s allied activities as the most satisfying occupation.
Since Independence, a gradual shift came about in the attitude of the common man regarding higher education and the associated opportunities. As time passed, more and more rural population began to migrate to cities in hope of better living standards. They began scouting for jobs that would suit their craftsmanship and satisfy the family’s needs. The abolishment of the Licence Raj and the liberalisation of the Indian economy has heralded the growth of several Industries and in the process has created tens of thousands of jobs. Some of the people have managed to increase their efficiency and have gained a footing in the clichÃ©d “ Indian race to success”. Their kids have been privy to a decent education and a job which is enough to keep them afloat. This set of population has been christened as the ‘Middle Class’.
The reason as to why I touched upon this topic is that there is a fad which is on the rise since a decade. Statements are being made that politicians are corrupt because people are corrupt. The middle class man is perceived as one who is too effeminate in solving problems that have plagued this country. We are told that each one of us has learned to accept corruption .Time and again, if not a news anchor, an author, if not both of them, a diplomat or a self-perceived intellectual, someone or the other has blamed the common man’s indifference as the root cause of sorrow in this country. The verdict is out. The common man is the culprit.
I beg to differ with this prevalent notion. Corruption is a norm in this country and not an exception. People who try to blame the average Indian for every problem have to introspect about their eligibility to speak about the mind-set of a common man. A traffic case slapped for driving without documents might take months to come up for hearing. The constable who asks for a bribe to let go off your vehicle might have to keep his superiors happy. The pecking order is unclear. Going for a driving licence without the help of an agent is equivalent to running a marathon race. You are given a list of papers to be submitted and surprisingly, the list changes with every trip undertaken to the Xerox shop. The process culminates when you finally offer a crisp five hundred rupee note and the dust settles immediately. ‘Why should I defer from the accepted norm?’ is the burning question.
The ‘why should I’ attitude is not without reasons. A man bringing back a gold biscuit after years of hard work in a foreign country is asked to pay import duty. This gold biscuit is included in the wealth tax that he has to pay, year after year while our Netas are allowed to store millions of dollars in tax havens. If you want to secure the future of your family and opt for a life insurance you are asked to pay service tax for it. More insurance takers make way for lower premiums and valuable benefits. Bringing an industry, which offers no service in the traditional way, under the ambit of service tax is making a mockery of the efforts of the people. Service tax is added to the VAT in the restaurant. Greasing of bureaucrats for sops to private companies is given a fanciful term ‘Corporate lobbying’. Nobody gives an explanation as to where the tax payer’s money is going. Rules are bent to favour the elite. False cases are leveled against people who threaten to question the system. The nation’s top organisations which are being run on public funds are being used for personal gains and political mileage. RTI applicants are murdered. The common man remains a mute spectator to the great drama that has been unfolding since several decades.
If a bribe is the way to get out of a murky, unfair and a fractured system, it is something that people are willing to do. When even judges are accepting bribes to grant bail to cash swindling ministers, the corruption encouraged and accepted by the system is a ray of light that offers solitude to the common man.
Man craves for safety, security and a decent standard of living. Corruption is the price that the average Indian is paying to survive in this great democracy.