Deep-seated graft and related crime has been a subject matter for many Hindi movies. Many of these end with a bunch of intrepid fighters of the system exposing the incumbent club of the powerful—politicians, police and bureaucrats are the usual suspects—resulting in either incarceration, or a public killing while the public applauds. The events of the past 10 days look almost like a movie script playing out as the government cracks down on a network of government officials, middlemen and companies that traffics information. But as those suspected were led away, there was no crowd of applauding public. I wonder if the missing applause is because the cynical public thinks that these guys will get away or is it because it finds its own moral fibre stretched?
Imagine that there is a very crowded city, bursting at the seams. A state-of-the-art satellite city comes up and is ready for settlement, but remains largely empty. All the shiny new infrastructure is wasted because the citizens seem to want to stay in the polluted, congested space they currently occupy. The local authority wants people to crossover and keeps thinking of new ways to incentivize this. Tax breaks, cheaper medical facilities, better schools…. But no go. The citizens are blamed for being foolish. But the truth is that the only thing the local authority is unable to resolve is the extremely high crime rate in the new city area. Roads have no rules, gangs of criminals roam around, plunder and kill at will. The authorities turn a blind eye saying that this tribe of criminals has traditionally robbed and killed for livelihood and, therefore, they must be left alone since their livelihood is at stake. The local authority does not tell the real reason—that it gets a cut from the criminals. Perversely it uses some of this money to give further incentives to people to move! The new city remains empty, and every year during the annual budget, experts pontificate on how to incentivize the silly citizens to move. But the smart guys don’t. They prefer the safety of the known problems.
Look at the advertising splurge on television and you will know it is the season that insurance companies pull out all stops to get you to spend your Rs.1.5 lakh in yet more insurance policies. Before you succumb to the hard sell this year as well and add a 10th policy to the already useless bag of policies, consider this year’s decision as a financial one. What does that mean? It means that you weigh costs and benefits, and take a rational decision, and not one that you take either because of a soppy advertisement or because you want to get rid of the insurance agent who is calling every 10 minutes. Don’t underestimate the leech-like attributes of agents—a friend called once in a panic because the agent was refusing to leave her home without the cheque; not knowing how to make him go away, she was considering writing a cheque just so he would go.