The Indiagate scam

The incident dates back to pre-independence period. My father must have been in his early 20s, when as a fresh graduate, he was selected in the Defence Accounts Department of the government of India. For joining the job he required a medical certificate. After his medical examination he had to get the final stamp of approval from the chief medical officer who happened to be a British. As my father’s name was called out, he entered the room of the medical officer. While the C.M.O. kept shuffling the papers with one hand, he kept gesturing with his left hand from beneath the table as if he was asking for something. Repeatedly the officer asked my father, “What shall I write?” My father could not comprehend anything. Ultimately the medical officer signed the paper  and my father came out with the medical certificate in his hand. The other candidates, who had to part with what ever money they had in their pocket, were curious to know how much my father had to shell out. My father did not pay a penny. He was too naïve to understand that the officer was asking for a bribe.

Corruption, which has nothing to do with need but greed, has always been there but, perhaps never so open and brazen .Today bribery is demanded shamelessly as a matter of right. You can not get a passport till you pay the cop who comes for police verification. No property registration is possible without greasing palms. So rampant is the bribery today that it has assumed fancy names in different contexts. When a petty govt. servant demands illegal gratification he is asking for bakshish but demanded by higher ups for doing a job it is called ‘commission’. Bribery is given the name of ‘cut-back’ in the departments where corruption is institutionalized; here, for the entire officialdom from the top to bottom there is a cut. In big arms deals ‘kick-back’ is more sophisticated a name for bribery.

Corruption, today, is no longer sporadic but is endemic. Its scale and magnitude has tremendously gone up. No wonder, scams involving crores of rupees keep tumbling out every day. The latest to join the long lists of the scams related to govt. are the Coalgate and the Railgate. What is common in these two scams? It is the suffix ‘-gate’, which has come to be attached with the scams. The  media coinage draws its analogy from the ‘Watergate’ scandal of America in early 70s which resulted in the resignation of the USA President Nixon. India seems to have been hit by the ‘scam syndrome’. The way bigger and bolder scams are coming into light; the day is not far when we hear about a mega ‘Indiagate’ scam.

Published in Hindustan Times on 23 June 2013 as MIDDLE on editorial page

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