Thursday, 6 November 2014

Tolerating Injustice

It was 1971. I was a student of 5th Standard. I happened to go to  the Tehsil Office along with my grandfather  for sorting out some land related problem. My grandpa asked me ,"Do you have a two rupee note?"
"Yes" I said.
"Then give it to me. I will give you after going back", said  grandpa.
He took the note from me and handed over to a man in Khaki sitting near the Office entrance. We then reached inside a room where a fat man was sitting jotting down something on a piece of paper. Grandpa told him something in an accent as if he was begging something from God.  The man shouted at him and was talking in a loud voice as if he were the Emperor of the place. Although I could not make head and tail of the conversation between them I could sense that the man was insulting Grandpa. I was feeling irritated and felt like slapping the man but kept quiet more out of fear than anything else.
Grandpa was quite nervous and dejected when we started our return journey from the Tehsil office. He was deeply engrossed in some thought and hardly talked with me.When a usual jolly person keeps mum it is hard to tolerate. I could muster courage to ask "What happened? Why was that officer shouting at you? and what made you so sad??
Grandpa did not reply. When I repeated my question he could not hold back his tears. It was the first time I saw him weeping. I was really perturbed. My little mind could not gather strength to react to the situation. After sometime Grandpa became normal and told me: " You study hard and grow up. Be a bigger officer than this Tehsildar. Then we will teach him a lesson"
I could not make head or tail of this statement. Grandpa did not tell me anything else. After reaching our village I talked to a school mate who was elder to me by at least 4 years. He was more conversant with the village way of life and the behaviour of government officials with the illiterate village folks. He collected all informations about the incident and told me after a couple of days that the Tehsildar had asked my Grandpa a sum of Rs.100/-( a massive amount in those days in 1971) within a month to issue a new document (pataa)in place of the old worn out document as proof of ownership of our 2 acres of arable land. "But does those documents cost that much?" I asked innocently. "No it costs only 25 paisas per govt standards. The rest is the amount the  Tehsildar pockets?"
"But why? Does he not get paid by the govt?" My innocent query made my friend laugh aloud. He said, "You are a small child now. Grow up  a little more. You will understand"
The fact is I could not understand then (and I do not understand even now) why should any govt official demand money from innocent villagers to render a service which he is supposed to perform and for which he is handsomely paid by the govt?
That was my first experience of corruption in public life. More than forty years have passed since that day. I do not recollect where from my Grandpa got the money and how he could manage to pacify the hunger of that corrupt Tehsildar. But I remember from that very day I became too much conscious of corruption in public life and refused to give any TIPS to anybody. Even today I feel a sense of revolution in my soul while giving some tips to the hotel boy or the security guard while checking out of any Hotel. My friends and colleagues brand me as "miser" but some how I feel it is corruption at the grass roots level. Many a times I have preferred to travel in a over crowded general train compartment rather than paying a twenty rupee bribe to the TTE to get a berth. People feel I am a bit too much conscious about spending money. But I know that bribing is wastage of money and I am dead against wasting any resource.

We talk a lot about corruption in public life? But how many of us can refuse to pay bribe in a public place like a train compartment? The TTE should not demand money to allot vacant berths. It is his duty and he is being paid for performing his duty? But who is paying him? People like you and me. We  debate on corruption but cannot take the pains to travel in a general compartment. We scold the TTE at his back but do not curse ourselves for encouraging him to take money from us.

This is hypocrisy and all of us are hypocrites. How many of us can muster courage to accept this naked truth?? Come on friends. Stop bribing at the grass root level if you want to see a nation devoid of corruption. One Anna Hazare or Narendra Modi cannot do it. Each and every one of us has to contribute.

Do not forget: when you point a finger towards others there are three fingers pointed towards you. Please be the change you want to see in the society around you.

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