Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Justice Hegde and the Corrupt Postman

These days, with all the TV News channels competing with each other in promoting the ‘second freedom struggle’ (aka ‘Arnab Spring’ for the role of Media) being led by Mr Anna Hazare, I am forced to do reverse channel surfing.  With little news and an over doze of propaganda, it is impossible to stick to one Channel for more than 3 minutes!

Last night while surfing those Channels, I happened to see Justice NS Hegde, the respected Ex Supreme Court Judge and Ex Lokayukta Karnataka, speaking on the issue of corruption.  Being known as one of the saner voices of Team Anna and a man who had been in the forefront of fight against corruption, I was keen to listen to his words on the issue of Jan Lokpal.

To my surprise, he conveyed something like this (not the exact words but the true message): Jan Lokpal will eradicate all the corruption in this country. Today, if one receives a Money order the postman will insist on bribing him 10% of that amount and if one refuses to give that, he will return the Money order as ‘addressee not found’.  When the Jan Lokpal comes into effect we will be able to stop such practices’.

Really?!  Do you really believe that an institution like Jan Lokpal will eradicate such transactional corruption?  Justice Hegde, You seem to be carrying a very high degree of optimism about the results of Jan Lokpal, while holding very pessimistic views about the current system of governance! Some magical formula, this Jan Lokpal is?

Let us consider this.  Last month, when I was home in Kerala, the Postman (actually a lady... but do we call them Postwoman or Postperson? in any case, she referred to herself as Postman!) came home to deliver a letter from an Insurance company.  When my mother mentioned that it was second consecutive day that she is visiting our home, the Postman said to me, “It is the custom that if a Postman visits a home for two consecutive days, ‘something’ must be given”.   

I clearly understood what she meant.  However, considering her age and status, I just replied to her, “My God, you are a Central Government employee.  How can I even think of gifting you something as it can be considered as an attempt to bribe you?” We both smiled. She didn’t pursue or threaten to take my mail away. 

I probably did what I did because I am not one of those who wear the “I AM ANNA’ cap.  My apologies if anybody is appalled at my behaviour condoning of an attempt to indulge in corruption by that Lady.   

But I am curious what would you have done, Justice Hegde?  Let me make a guess on the available choices: (i) pay her some money and silently curse her (ii) pay and consider it as a tip to an underpaid employee, who had walked all the way to your home, in that rain, to deliver your mail (iii) pay the ‘bribe’ and then file a complaint with the Police or with the Vigilance Officer of the Postal Department, or (iv) undertake fast for the Jan Lokpal to be passed, so that the complaint against  her can be filed.

Oh, that brings up another question.  If one is to file a complaint against that Postman before Lokpal, can’t that person file the same complaint before Police or any other existing vigilance agency?  Is it because of lack of agencies that we do not report such matters? Or, is it because we do not consider it important enough to spend our time and energy on? 

I have always found it easy to avoid or smile away a situation of bribe, than to pay it or take legal actions against it.  I don’t know how many of the ‘I AM ANNA”s would use the option of filing a complaint with any authorities, including Jan Lokpal. 

As for the larger bribes, it is never demanded directly.  It is always a part of negotiation; a give and take between two parties, most probably involving a go-between, to appropriate undue benefits for both sides.  Again how many of those individuals, will prefer to go and complain to Jan Lokpal about a ‘crime’ that s/he is involved in/benefitted from?

That means only those instances, where a third party makes a complaint against corrupt deals are left for the Jan Lokpal to intervene.  Those are cases of high political potential, otherwise called as spectacular corruption, like 2G and CWG scams.   Our present systems are currently dealing with those spectacular corruptions. The need of the hour is to strengthen the existing systems and not create more and more systems.  

It is even fine for Justice Hegde to raise those demands for Jan Lokpal as one more layer of agencies to oversee the corruption cases at all levels.  But, for him to make misleading promises to the people of this country that Jan Lokpal will eradicate all the ills of this country is, in my opinion, not very noble and affects his credibility. That Postman will continue to seek 'something' and the life will go on as before. 


  1. " Our present systems are currently dealing with those spectacular corruptions. "

    Most Indians would disagree with you on that.

    Therein lies the lynch-pin of the whole debate, perhaps?

  2. So, so true. Completely agree. :)
    This is turning into something no one can manage...most supporters of Anna have not even read the draft bill.
    Please read my latest blog post, too...mine's a tech blog. Please promote it on Indivine, if you like it: http://bit.ly/pnls4G

  3. Well said. It is impossible to stop corruption in India. We have to accept the fact that we are a corrupt culture and have been since pre-Alexander times. So I don't expect anything to change. Jan Lokpal or not, common people will continue to suffer and struggle to get even their basic needs fulfilled.

  4. I completely agree with Ambadi. There are systems, what is lacking is effective implementation. Strengthening of existing laws, filling the loopholes especially to reduce the ridiculously long time to pronounce the verdict. We have seen in the case of Balakrishna Pillai, ex-minister of Kerala, that politician can be jailed for corruption. But it took more than two decades to have a final ruling from the supreme court!

    In the case of 2G and CWG scams also top politicians are in jail for months now. But the problem is keeping them in Jail for so long before the investigation is complete which may sometimes render to injustice!

  5. We don’t tire of Arnab bashing, now, do we!:) Food for the weary (he is)!

    Did the postlady expect money as bribe or did she expect a ‘tip’? Yep there is a difference. Between a 'thankyou' and a 'you'd better..'

    On the filing of the complaint with Police- some of the following likely to happen(?) (a) u will wait and wait and wait, but the cop who is to take ur complaint may not surface ever (b) the cop may actually give u his own sob story abt the workload and the nature of diverse complaints that come to him, that you will take pity on him and forget abt ur complaint, (c) the cop may simply not be willing to file your complaint as is the case most often (d) you will get hi BP while filing your complaint- if at all...its an uphill task with the cops.

    Wld u have ever imagined how many ppl wld be filing for RTI?:) The numbers are going northwards every single day!:)

    Finally just becos the task ahead is gigantic, shld we not attempt recovery?;)

  6. Very well and true said..As long as people are ready to bribe for their own selfish advantages and interests or out of sympathy..this problem of corruption will never get eradicated from our country..The existing laws have to be implemented stringently and effectively..

    High profile persons never take bribe directly..there are a lot many middle men involved in finalizing the deal..So how effective is our anti corruption laws in dealing with them ? the Big wigs escape and the middle men sometimes are caught red handed..only to be left scot free later on due to lack of evidence..Even if a high profile person involved in accepting bribe is caught..eventually in a few years time..he / she is out of jail due to undue delay in delivery of the verdict or lack of evidence again..May be a transfer to a far off place(Oh that too he/she manages to come back by paying a bribe to higher authorities) or a suspension for a year or two at the most for 5 years is all that happens (from the departmental side)..and this person is back to business with more CAUTION

    So as you said.. Laws are existing already .. the need of the hour is to strengthen them..remove the loopholes.. and implement them more stringently..

    As a few colleagues in my office very lightly remark..even if he/she is caught accepting bribe..he/she will be free in no time by giving a bribe..It is very simple to deal..just a need to part away with a few bundles of stashed up cash he/she managed to make so easily..Whats the big deal in it ? Its a simple balancing act..and just move on..and get on with life..

    Yet...Let us wait and watch..