If you have a problem, fix it. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing. - Ernest Hemingway

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Ordinary Indian, extraordinary Indian

Deepu has been driving our car for the last two months. A young man of around 30 years, he is reasonably punctual, hardworking, and never says no if he is needed to go to the railway station or airport at odd hours. At the end of the day, he gives me an account of how much has been spent on parking and toll tax, and unfailingly returns the surplus of what was given to him in the morning. In short, he carries himself with dignity.

Yesterday, Deepu had to report for work at 12 noon. He was late by ten minutes and was given a sermon by yours truly. On reaching our destination, I offered him the customary lunch allowance. It was not part of my original deal with Deepu, but it is only fair that I reimburse the expenses if he has to eat out while on duty.

Yesterday, Deepu politely declined the money saying he had had his lunch before coming to our house. ‘That’s the reason I was late’, he added with a shy smile.

Deepu doesn't read newspapers. If he did, he would possibly take the money, keep it quietly, and invest it on his son’s education.

Hasn’t Ms Kiran Bedi, one of the conscience keepers of the nation, done the same thing? She lectures people on value and ethics (I guess in every city that’s connected by air) and her hosts pay for her travel and stay.

The Indian Express has recently reported that she has been travelling Air India paying one fourth of the normal fare as she was a gallantry award winner as an IPS officer, but has been claiming full fare, at times, executive class fare. In some cases, after travelling economy class on private airlines, she claimed business class fare. In one instance, she travelled from Delhi to Hyderabad to deliver a speech and then went on to Chennai to speak at a meeting held by another group. Ms Bedi claimed full fares from Delhi to Hyderabad and Delhi to Chennai from her two hosts! So in effect, she claimed reimbursement for ghost journeys.

Her defence? (A) She did whatever she did with the full knowledge of her hosts and (B) She hasn’t put the amounts into her pocket, but into the pocket of “her” NGO, which uses the money to educate children.

Both arguments are disingenuous, to put it mildly. Firstly, the claim that her hosts know everything is subject to verification. Secondly, and most importantly, the 75% discount that the government of India forces Air India to sacrifice is meant to help a gallant individual. It cannot be used to make a profit for anyone, even if it be an NGO with noble missions. Also, politicians caught taking money can say that they took it for their party! Could that be an excuse?

Thirdly, the tax payers’ money keeps the loss-making Air India alive, and very few of them, beside Ms Bedi, would like their money to go into an unverifiable NGO through fudged accounting.

So who is a better role model and conscience keeper? Deepu Paik or Kiran Bedi?

PS. On 21 October, a former IAS officer and Team Anna member, Arun Bhatia appeared on CNN IBN. He told Rajdeep Sardesai and the rest of the world that many government officers travel economy class and claim business class fare. Nothing happens to them, it is quite normal. I couldn’t believe my ears. Can you, Gentle Reader?

Sunday, 23 October 2011


  1. With a resounding thud, Kiran Bedi came crashing down from the impossibly high pedestal I had placed her on. Anyone else fudging their account to pocket that 'extra' would no doubt have shocked me. But Kiran Bedi?! For me, like for millons of my countrymen, she just couldn't do any wrong! Till very recently, she had been my ideal. An unimaginable combination of Jhansi ki Rani and Mother Theresa. Alas! She turned out to be no different from you and me. Perhaps the fault may lie at my door. The pedestal I'd made for her was too high and the concrete was adulterated......

  2. You have hit the nail on the head. It was a shock to find out what Ms. Kiran Bedi had done. And she has the guts to defend herself. If what she is doing is not corruption, then what is? And Mr. Anna Hazare just watches all these. He should have thrown her out immediately - but he did not. He stands by her.

    And then there is Mr. Arvind Kejriwal. Since he has been saying that the IT notice is wrong, why not fight it? Why has he decided to pay it off now? Isn't that as good as accepting your guilt?

    Team Anna, it seems, is not that honest after all. The skeletons have started tumbling from the cupboard. I thought that maybe something good was happening and there were some honest people. But some in Team Anna, who are as hungry to give sound bites as are some of our politicians, do not seem to be straight now. Some more things on these lines (and I am sure that the political parties and the media will leave no stone unturned to find these misdeeds) and the credibility of Team Anna will be in tatters.

    And again the people with power will have the last laugh and the aam aadmi will keep on suffering!!

  3. Thanks both of you for your response. Yes, the corrupt Congress government will have the last laugh if accusers are proved to be as phoney as the accused. They certainly seem to be so.

  4. Santanuda, it is indeed very disturbing to see that members of Team Anna which is fighting against corruption is itself guilty of wrong-doings.

    But to be honest, I personally never expected all or any one of them to be the epitome of truth and honesty. You can not be if you are born and brought in a society like ours. Can any one of us really say that they have never given or supported corruption through out their lives? I am sure there would be very few who will dare say that.

    I have said it earlier and I repeat it once again. I do not care how good each members of Team Anna are because the individuals are not important at all. It is the bill that is important. If the bill is passed and implemented the way it should be then the very members who are part of Team Anna and are indulging in corruption will and should face action.

    Pointing fingers and finding fault in individuals will never help us move ahead. We have to see the larger picture and the ultimate goal. We have to create a system that has zero tolerance to corruption. Of course, it can not be created just by bringing a bill but it surely is one small step in that direction. It is always better to make a start some where even if it is in the wrong direction. If the urge to reach the goal is strong and true enough then move will find its own correct path.

  5. Dear Anirban,

    Thanks for your comments. I may differ with you on this, but that doesn't really matter. As you have rightly said, if we get a strong Lokpal bill, it should be very good for all of us.

    But my post was not about Ms Kiran Bedi alone, it was also about Deepu Paik. I wanted to say that all is not lost, there are millions of ordinary Indians who live honest lives even now. And that, I think, is a strong reason to hope.

  6. I completely agree with your point Santanuda. I know your post was not about Kiran Bedi but also about Deepu Paik.

    Yes, it is people like Paik who give us hope and that is exactly what I also tried to convey by not exactly naming him. What I tried to say was that even if we have many among us who are not entirely clean but if the goal is correct then people like Paik would lead us to that destination. I believe like every thing a movement also grows in its form and maturity as it moves along. May be those with questionable integrity, who are leading the anti-corruption bill crusade currently will have to make way for more honest and competent people. I hope that happens sooner rather than later.

  7. If for every A Raja, Kanimozhi, Kalmadi and other such luminaries we have just ONE Deepu Paik, all is not lost, Santanu-da! We can still walk around with our heads held high.

  8. Thanks, Anirban. These little discussions with you and other friends mean a lot to me.

    Thanks, M. It is always good to find a kindred soul. We thousands of bloggers write on issues that disturb us. We don't know if that makes any difference, but let's go on writing.


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