Corruption, Crime and the Law

Long time back, air guns were available for those who could afford it. There was this uncle, who was a good shot. He didn’t have much access to the bullets (small pellets really). It was sibling rivalry, who wants to let his brother get all attention and fame? But when he did, an assortment of boys used to accompany him. Mostly his nephews, and a few other village kids, dreaming of tasty, wild game for dinner.
In those days, there were creeks. Water after the rains, used to seep from underground, and flow into these creeks, which eventually reached the ponds. During the dry season, there was no water, it was all sand. Nice place to spend the time. Also trees and shrubs used to cover the banks, so the place offered shade, and the mostly small trees were good places for birds to hide or rest.

But for an expert marksman, this was also a place to test his skills. Pigeons, cuckoos, or an occasional egret, or some water bird can be seen amidst the branches. Birds were a lot more plentiful then.
So the boys all follow the great marksman, and pretty soon you see a bird, a pigeon, in the branches about a few feet away. Our uncle, aims, steadies his hand, and fires. The pigeon, disturbed by the noise, from so near, takes flight.
Having dispatched another bullet, god knows where, our Uncle, exclaims “There, another one goes with a hole in it’s arse”. The boys, trudge along, knowing that with such success, a rich dinner awaits them.

So they have arrested Tamil Nadu’s supremo Jayalalitha on corruption charges. She seemed like someone powerful enough to limit the forces of over-centralization. Her stand against GST, where everything goes to the centre, and the states have to beg from the center for their share, was something very few Chief Ministers did. She was also against direct cash deposit for subsidies. This limits the State’s role. Like her scheme of providing livestock, that gives a degree of independence to the poor. Better than perpetual subsidy of white rice. Or the newest pathology, Aadhaar linked cash.

But who can stop the forces of centralization and globalization. Panchayat Raj is an illusion. All money comes from Center, under various schemes. Now there is Swach Bharat (Clean India), where 20 lakhs will be alloted for each village, for sanitation. There are villages, that just before you enter, will have a brightly painted concrete board, announcing that this village has attained 100% sanitation. This was before, so it would have been done, under PURA (Provision of Urban Infrastructure in Rural Areas), or some other scheme. You enter the village, and you see the ditch, black, blocked, stinky, full of mucky sewage. Occasionally the muck is retrieved, and placed with care, right near the front door. 100% sanitation? By laying more concrete, and eliminating nature’s services?

Then there is this great revival of Sabarmati river in Gujarat ( Laying concrete banks for a 1000 odd crores, and selling the real estate to businesses , does not clean the river. Ganga cleanup also seems to follow the same lines, throw money, put concrete barrages, or other concrete structures, plus treatment plants, and may be do some propaganda that the river is clean. See all the shiny concrete waterfront!
Why are no real ecologists involved, those who understand, how nature works to keep the water clean. If we use nature, then, there won’t be a boost to GDP, no boost to peoples egos, no shiny waterfront properties to sell, …

This cleanerer model is also seen Swach Bharat. When Modi cleans up leaves, why not go one step ahead, and clean the plants and brushes. We know from kindergarten that only trees clean the air, and that too the leaves they drop must be collected and burned. Shrubs, creepers, weeds, and grasses can’t clean the air and water, or hold on to soil. That’s our new belief, while we cheer our leaders!

There is a certain simple-mindedness when you say, something like more-crop-per-drop. If that were true, wouldn’t you not go wild with rage, when rivers dump water into the sea. Of course, there are no rivers in this country. Up in the mountains, for a few kilometers, they may look like rivers. But after that, dammed, and re-dammed, diverted, or dumped with sewage, they are a pale shadow, mostly a fiction of puranic imagination. Does nature really work like the “perfect” human systems, with “zero” wastage? I believe that those fellows who rage at the water getting wasted, going into the sea, or those that rage at canals without concrete lining that allow water to seep, or those that rage at flood irrigation, that is not precise enough to target the roots of just the food crops – I assume that they don’t shit, they eat food that is all nutrients and no waste.

Such a system, or rather, a system that heads toward perfection,  apparently exists, say in a developed country, like USA. It was probably in early seventies that the Soviet premier on a visit to the US, mentioned that US has hundreds of varieties of apples, all equally tasteless. You’ll find the apples deep red, shiny green, golden yellow, all waxed and polished, sparkling under the lights, in grocery stores. You can praise the color, and the crispness, as much as you want, but in the end, it is all tasteless, and nutritionless, barely sweet, with a faint hint of soap (that was used to wash it).

An illusion of choice. And the people so cute (eye-candy they call them), that in order to make the kids more perfect, some even have their young children wear helmets to shape their heads. The boxed “cereals” are so good, that FDA or USDA uses them as reference points for dietary sources of various minerals and vitamins.

These things have been nailed into an exact science, the stuff of Kurzweillian fantasy, the only cycle in your life, is the daily cycle, during which you need 2000 calories, and a certain RDA of various other “synthetic” nutrients. In the end, you have childhood cancers, unheard off, a couple of generations back. Half the men, and one-third the women will get cancer during their lifetimes, while a certain company (or hospital) is “making cancer history”.

Not to mention a cocktail of pills are prescribed for old folks, that they barely remember who they are, as  the system uses them  for profit.
The fact is even a simple zinc tablet, disrupts gut flora, and if zinc is absorbed in excess, might reduce absorption of some other mineral (say copper), so things go out of balance. We can never find the right balance by such reductionistic experiments. No wonder, no study of multi-vitamin (mostly synthetic) tablets has come with a definite conclusion, that they are good over the long term. Useless short-term studies that may indicate high plasma levels of something from taking a vitamin tablet are not proof that the tablet is good.

Our simple-minded beliefs extend to corruption. There is CoalGate, where coal was allotted by the Centre, apparently causing several lakh crores loss to the government. Coal allocations were done by the Centre, over the last 30 years. But what Supreme Court wants to know is if coal comes under States’ rights. This issue of course, is not discussed widely.  Who wants to discuss what the Centre, the States, the courts, the Auditor Generals, and assorted agencies were doing the last 30 years. It is not that I pawned off the family jewelry for a low price, but that I pawned my neighbor’s gold! The Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act 1973, transferred only the existing coal mines to the Central Government ( We’ll all look wise if we change the text of the act, to include coal reserves that may be discovered later, but even in that case, we might have to stretch our logic, to give up States’ rights over coal.

Life gets better, because of rules, and regulations, and “rights” enforced by government, because of the majesty of law (as Supreme Court says occasionally). The boys walk in the hot sun, behind their Uncle, and once in a while they hear a pop, a surprised bird,  and    “there, another one goes with a hole in its arse”.


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