by Mohammad Afaaq Sayeed
Don’t take pity on the corrupt. Trap them with whatever means you have available with you.
Once I landed in the jaws of a corrupt officer. I was young with ambitions, newly married and inexperienced in knowing the depth of the gutter some corrupt people were infesting at.
Officer had to release my pending bill of Rs 18.75 lacs. Out of Rs 18.75 lacs, my net profit was roughly somewhere between Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000. Everyone from top to bottom in the department knew about my bill as very few people at the lower level mustered the courage to demand bribes from me, which I politely refused. So in a way, I was a notorious unwanted person in the department. Those who were honest had no role to play. They were occupying insignificant posts in the department. Some were in the planning section and some in the design section. Almost all of them were very religious and would never skip a prayer.
My bill after travelling a tumultuous distance from clerks to SOs to TOs in about two months reached this officer for his final signature. He had just been released on bail after spending some two weeks in police lockup after being caught red-handed accepting bribes from a small-time supplier.
He was under suspension but my bills had to be signed only by him as the incumbent officer who had replaced him had vehemently refused to entertain bills of the period of his predecessor.
Not knowing the nitty-gritty of government offices, I reached out to the incumbent officer and asked, “How can someone who is under suspension release my bills?”
I received the reply, “Just keep the office clerk happy. He has kept some back date slots in the books empty for situations like these. He will help you”.
The office clerk knew about the Khoshki that I was and told me on my face to get lost. All of them knew that it was the last week of March and on March 31, the funds would get lapsed and my case would become too complicated to get resolved in the next fiscal.
Frustrated, I created a scene in the office and burst into tears. Few of the honest officers came out of their chambers and pacified me. They begged before the clerks for me and got my bills marked for the backdate. While doing this one of the clerks said, “Assi trow ponsav rostoi, ABC Saheb traviss ni kenhh” (We let him go without paying us, Officer will not. He will have to bribe him).
Next, I reached the residence of the suspended officer, the so-called ABC Sahib. He had a plush villa in an uptown posh locality of Srinagar. There was a big lawn in front of the house, few cars were parked in the parking slot of the house. I was asked by the servant to wait on the lawns as Sahab was busy with some contractors who had also come to get their bills signed (on the back date).
I waited for an hour and I was called in. ABC Sahab was viraajmaan on a high chair with Pashmina Dussa (Shawl) on his thighs. Lo and behold, I was sitting in his private office at his home. The office was decorated with state-of-the-art furniture, hand-woven rugs and expensive wall hangings.
So, ABC Sahib started off with, “Look I have been just released on bail. I had to spend a lot of money to get my case diluted. I had to buy witnesses to secure my release. My fault was that I only took what was ethically not wrong. I did not fleece that man at all. I am a God-fearing person. I only took 2% of the released amount and he, baddbhakt got me trapped. I will not sign your bill as I am not obliged to. You know that I am under suspension. But since you are a young and educated man, I will not let you down. You did perfect work and I have no reasons to not help you”.
I, “This is such a great gesture from you, Sir.”
He, “But it will cost you money. I will take Rs. 5 lacs for this. I need a lot of money to get out of the mess I am presently in”
I,” But Jenab, how can I give money to you? I am barely making Rs 50,000 as profit.”
He,” Then don’t waste my time here”.
I,” Sir, I am not a big businessman. I don’t have this money to pay you right now.”
He, “You have a brand new car. You can sell it to raise money. You are newly married. You can sell gold of your wife to raise money. You have the options. You should work on these options and be quick. You should not waste time convincing me. Go arrange the money and come back tomorrow “.
I, “Can I pay you through cheque right now. I will post date it. The moment my 18 Lacs get deposited in the bank, you can withdraw your amount”.
He did not agree as he only wanted everything in cash. Bribes are never taken in cheques. Only a fool will accept the bribe through a cheque. But a simpleton like me did not know this. However, my relentless insistence and good boyish approach made him budge although with an unpleasant expression on his face. He surely was fed up with me and wanted to get rid of the nuisance.
I wrote two cheques in the names of his “servants” and got my bills signed.
On April 2, Rs 18.75 Lacs got deposited in my bank. On April 4, ABC Sahib called me and said, “Your cheques are not being honoured. You have stopped these and also the signatures are not matching with your original signatures”.
I, “Which cheques? ”
He, “I am ABC Sahib”
I, ” Which ABC Sahib. Oh the one who got arrested for taking bribes. Don’t call me again lest I will report you for theft of my chequebook”.
I had secured myself from any legal wrangles which could arise out of my cheques not getting honoured by recording every conversation, I had at his house on my recently purchased Nokia phone which had a dedicated record button and the recording was happening in the background while the phone was in my pocket.
The recording is still stored somewhere in my cloud storage. It was never used as ABC Sahib did not drag the issue further.
Six years after I have a meeting with a renowned hotelier for the design and supply of HVAC equipment. The project cost was some Rs 40 Lacs. The hotelier, in order to understand the technicalities of the project, requested me to let him call his project manager who was an expert in the field. He called him on the phone and said, “Talla yoeer yi jaldi“.
And ABC Sahib entered the room. After his retirement, he had taken a job as a project manager with a hotelier.
ABC Sahib feigned ignorance as if he had never met me before. He understood everything.
Next, I called the hotelier and requested him to find some other company to do his project. He asked the reason for my refusal. I was blunt enough to tell him, “ABC”.
He was like, “I know about his corrupt past. I know he is corrupt even today but don’t worry. He is just a donkey who I burden with the toughest of jobs. He does everything for the money. I need him for now till I kick him out, one day”.
Soon the Hotel got completed and ABC Sahib got kicked out.
Lesson: Don’t take pity on the corrupt. Trap them with whatever means you have available with you. ACB is doing a commendable job. These corrupt people are like rodents who are nibbling on the vitals of our society. They have ruined the lives of many people. It is your moral duty to pay them in the same coin. Ruin their careers. Get them draped in blue towels and don’t feel sorry for their families. The way they are ruthless with you, be ruthless with them.
Respect your disdain for the corrupt as they are the people without souls. They don’t possess human hearts and are your scorn enemies. Remind this to yourselves, 100 times a day.
(The author is a businessman and social activist. Ideas expressed in the write-up are personal.)