How corruption killed Mahi

There was a little girl named Mahi. It was just any other day in her life until she went outside to play and fell in an illegally dug borewell, fell 70-feet deep to her death. People think it is the borewell and the fall that killed Mahi. Actually it was a monster with a thousand heads who murdered her. That monster has its tentacles spread all over the place and is eating away the roots of the Indian society. That monster is called ‘Corruption’ and it is Corruption that killed Mahi.

This is not the first time something like this has happened. I remember at least 2 other similar incidents that became national headlines at different times. Two other kids who fell in borewells and remained stuck there for days. Army was called for rescue, tunnels were dug to reach the children and news channels ran live telecasts of the rescue operations. One of those kids was rescued, I do not remember what was the fate of the other.

Whenever something like this happens, people are shaken by the tragedy. They talk about it for a while – in newspapers, on TV talk shows, and then they forget. We the people are very forgetful you see, but then it’s not really our fault. New issues come up, we forget about the old ones and start talking about the new. We like talking a lot, mostly talking, no doing. Take for instance Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption crusade. People went crazy for a while, going gaga over Anna, holding debates on social media platforms, even changing their profile pictures to support Anna. And then what happened?

All of these people who “supported” Anna, I want to now go back and ask them. What change did they make in their own lives to make sure they do not feed the Corruption monster? Do they refuse to bribe the traffic policeman to avoid getting a challan (ticket) when stopped for breaking a rule on the road? Are they bold enough to not pay any money to the police walla who comes for their verification so that they can get a new passport, and bear the consequences? Did we suddenly stop building encroachments on our properties thinking we will be fine if we throw someone some money to keep their mouth shut?

I doubt if any of these happened. These small acts of corruption may sound harmless – who cares if you can get something done quickly by shelling some money – look at the example we are setting for the future generations. We are basically telling them that 1) it is okay to break the law as long as 2) you can bribe someone to let you get away with it. Just yesterday, I was watching the movie “Ferrari ki Sawari” (a ride on the Ferrari). It’s the story of an honest man who is compelled by circumstances to do something wrong to get the money he badly needs. There was one particular scene in which the guy and his son are riding on his scooter and he accidentally jumps the red traffic light. There was no traffic police in sight to stop them, so this person went to the nearest control room and offered to pay the fine. When the cop on duty asked him why had he come to pay the fine when no one was even watching him, he said – “There was someone watching me. My son.”.

Granted movies are a little over the top, but even in real life, we mock people who are honest and actually punish them instead of appreciating and rewarding them. I know that because I have seen that happening, up close and personal.

I now live in a place where kids, their safety and well being of people in general is given utmost importance. I have been here 4 years, but still feel a lump in my throat sometimes when I see all the traffic stop on the road when a school bus stops, to let the kids get down and cross the road safely. I can’t help but think of places in the world where kids die of malnourishment because some corrupt officials sold the food that was meant for the children, where Mahi had to die on the day she turned five because someone else did not want to follow the rules. I wonder why something as simple as following the rules is so difficult for us. And I hope that one day, we will be free from monsters like corruption who kill our children and kill the society. One day, that day will come.

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4 thoughts on “How corruption killed Mahi

  1. I am totally with you on this. I agree, we talk about it and at the end forget and live our life the way it is. Few days back, the cylinder wala that comes at my home blatantly asked for extra money for picking up the cylinder and I told him “Anna hazare ka asar utar gaya kya?” and his eyes become so big with embarrassment. You rightly pointed out about the challans, passport thing… It is still very prevalent and we contribute to it.

    I am glad that you live in such a place because for us in India, it is a dream. I don’t know if that day would come.

    • Nice job giving the cylinder walla a piece of your mind :). It would be much harder to do this with a police walla though. Unfortunately they have power over us common people and can harm us if they want to, and get away with it too. At least that’s what the perception is, and so we give in easily instead of standing up against them.

      Then there is other side of the spectrum. At the risk of turning this comment into a mini-blog post, I will share what I experienced once.

      About 5 years ago, my passport was about to expire and police verification was needed to get an extension. After waiting for many days, when no one came to our home for verification, we went to the police station in our area (in Chandigarh). That was the first time I had seen the inside of a police station and the experience was shocking to say the least.

      The head police guy (don’t know what his rank was) was rude beyond words, talking to us like we were some hideous criminals. He told Chetan that he would send a policeman with us to our home for verification only if we would give him “2 Gandhis” (referring to a 500 rupee note)! Something about the way he was behaving and demanding made me want to show him his place and remind him that he was there to “serve” the people, not rob them. Of course I did not say anything. Of course, the next time when Chetan had to go there, he left me home :)

      Anyway, the guy who finally came for verification was much nicer. Chetan and him got into a conversation and he told us how in this day and age, the travelling allowance that he gets for doing his job is for a bicycle. What he needs to keep his family fed and ride that scooter to work is way more than what he is paid. If he didn’t accept bribes, how would his family survive?

      Now I’m not aware of the salaries they get, but I’m pretty sure there was some truth to what he told us. So in the end, the problem is many-fold. It is so deeply ingrained in our culture that you are right, it seems like a far-fetched idea that we would ever be free. But we can always do a little at a time and hope it will all add up one day.

      Gosh, don’t these comments have a size limit!

  2. I was very much disheartened, as anybody else, on the morning that brought news of failed attempts to save those innocent breaths… Corruption may take its toll on quite many things related to our personal and professional lives but losing a life at the hands of this monster was too pricey… unbearable actually. You rightly said that we keep forgetting things as the new ones come along to be taken care of, especially for the reason that ‘the things happened to somebody else’ … this is part of human nature, we are affected in proportion to our attachment to people/things.

    And this word ‘corruption’ really brings along to me thoughts full of pessimism, lost hopes and what not… there are countless examples in our lives as the ones you quoted that show this monster overpowering us many times. During my recent visit to India, the moment I landed and entered the newly constructed terminal 3 at IGIA, Delhi, I was so pleased and proud to see the raised standards in services (like we see here in US) and specially appointed helping staff… it was an absolute delight to get unexpected help till I reached the point for baggage claim with my kiddo. And then the guy tells me to give rupees thousand to the other guy who could take my stuff outside till I find my Parents-in-law… Hearing this, all my happiness and hidden pride while seeing myself heading closer to my country on the flight map vanished into thin air… I must confess that at times, on seeing such things, I almost lose my temper as I did at that moment and almost shouted in front of everybody…’bas India aate hi India ke darshan ho gaye, abhi to Anna Anna karke aap log rallies kar rahe ho (there was a rally on the same that day in Delhi) aur asar to phir bhi kuchh ho nahin raha,’… I just tried to calm myself down and go ahead with my stuff… my anger was not for the money but I was really frustrated to give up the fancy hope within me for some change in my country and face this bitter reality on the very moment I entered there. Both the guys were embarrassed and told me that they would help me outside… I just told them that I wouldn’t give them a penny… The problem lies within the system, you are very much right about the salaries and other related problems and for most of the times, we are really left with no way but to succumb to this monster (like the case with passports enquiries and all that)… still keeping adding stones on our part to the filthy lake in hope that it would fill up one day is the only thing we can do…

    And on the hopes of changing the system and abolishing this monster, I’ll contribute for sure as much as I can but am slight glum and pessimistic at the moment…:(

    Sorry for another mini-blog comment…:)

    • Very well said Moni. It was good you stood up for the right thing and did not give in to the demands of the corrupt customs people.

      And it’s good to hear other viewpoints and experiences, so comments the size of mini blog posts are always welcome. We gots to say what we gots to say :)

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