Boycotting the corrupt

I was reading in newspapers the comment made by Justice Santosh Hegde on his last day in his office as Lokayukta. As an admirer of him, I looked for more details and I came across  his interactions with the media. After reading all his answers/reactions finally came the question ‘Do you have any message for society?’ ‘As a society we have the responsibility to address the problem of corruption. Lokayukta and police alone can’t tackle this problem. The only effective way to fight this is by boycotting the corrupt’ was his answer.

The same evening, at the regular table of the bar which I regularly visit, was my new acquaintance, who had retired two months ago, as an officer of a very ‘lucrative’ government department. While in service, when he was deputed out of town he used to stay in lodges, paying as high as Rs 800 per day, for months together, when his bata, I am sure, was definitely not even half of it. As a bank employee whenever I was deputed to outside places either for training or for work, which never exceeded four days, even though my bata was Rs 400 per day, I used to search for lodges which charged around Rs 200 per day, so that I could take back some money home. My God, how much money he would have been taking back home!, was my simple assessment of how lucrative his job was.

 During our previous whiskey sessions, our discussions focused on corruption ranging from 3G scam to how much he had to bribe to get a transfer to a more lucrative place. He had often said that corruption had become part and parcel of our system, it was in the blood of ‘Mother India,’ it had occupied a place of inevitability in our liives, so on. This evening, he opened up discussions with his retirement benefits. On retirement from bank, our benefits would be paid within ten days by crediting them to our account on-line. The system in government departments is still on old lines. The procedure starts from sending the service details to treasury department to calculation of gratuity and pension and finally treasury officer affixing his signature on cheque favouring you. This gentleman was fuming because hadn’t got his benefits till today. On enquiring the reasons for delay, to my surprise and delight, I was told that they were demanding Rs 1000 for quickening the process. Maybe to jump the line!

All along his service, he was at the beneficiary of corruption. Now he was at the paying end. Growing curious, I further enquired, whether he has paid that. With raised chest and head and with all the patriotism in his heart, he said, ‘I told them that I will not give even a single paisa, it is my  hard-earned money.’ I felt he had now realised how hard it is to part with hard earned money!  Maybe he had adopted Justice Hegde’s message to ‘boycott the corrupt’ much before Hedge’s prescription.

I was a bit disturbed and suddenly I was not as comfortable as I used to be in his company. I kept asking myself: should I boycott him? I am still not sure, for, six out of ten times he used to settle our bills. That was, of course, before his retirement!

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