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All that glitters is not gold

It was the perfect day and I got up with a blissful feeling. Everything looked great. The Jan Lokpal Bill, the proposed independent anti-corruption law, was not only a reality but constitutionally valid.

india Updated: Mar 11, 2012 23:22 IST
Prahlad K Sethi

It was the perfect day and I got up with a blissful feeling. Everything looked great. The Jan Lokpal Bill, the proposed independent anti-corruption law, was not only a reality but constitutionally valid. Now there will be no corruption. No more greasing palms and paying extra for government services which I am entitled to as a citizen of India.

Over my morning cup of tea, I found myself calculating and crunching numbers on my expected monthly savings from the passage of the Bill.

Feeling extremely satisfied, I thought I will accord myself the luxury of a second cup of tea. I asked my wife to make me one. She shouted back from the kitchen that our cooking gas had run out unexpectedly. I now found myself confronting a reality. In the good old pre-Lokpal Bill days, I would simply call Raju. For a nominal overhead charge of Rs30, he would promptly arrange a gas cylinder, delivering it to my doorstep in about two hours. I now found myself reluctant to call him, lest he reports me to the authorities. Under the new Lokpal Act, I could be arrested for offering a bribe.

Beads of sweat started to form on my forehead. If I went through the proper channels it would, in all likelihood, take three days to get a gas cylinder. What should I do? With trepidation, I called Raju. His calming voice helped to soothe my frayed nerves as he promised to deliver the gas cylinder within two hours.

Sure enough, in a little over two hours he was at my doorstep with a cylinder. Extremely delighted, I was still hesitant to pay him his fee of Rs30 for this prompt and out-of-turn service. What if he reported me to the lokpal authorities? Raju, however, solved my dilemma by asking me in his ever-silky voice for Rs60. Relieved, I inquired why he was asking for the extra Rs30.

He replied that because of the new anti-corruption Bill, the ‘risk’ had increased. As I paid him Rs60, my curiosity got the better of me and I asked what would happen if anyone complained to the lokpal authorities. Was he not scared? Raju smiled and said, “Saab, you are indeed naïve. By evening, a portion of this money will have been deposited in the account of the concerned lokpal official. The arrangement is foolproof. Everyone gets money. No one is disappointed and so no one reports!”

Prahlad K Sethi is a Delhi-based neurologist. The views expressed by the author are personal.