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The corrupt and the religious

March 24, 2005

Till recently, I was just a salaried bloke without much need to interact with various government agencies. I have learnt a lot in the one and a half years I have been running my own business as an entrepreneur. Firstly, those who tell you that the Licence Raj is behind us have never run a company that needs a thousand and one licences to actually get it off the ground. And of course each department wants its share of "performance incentive" fees to get things done. So I have been exposed to the ugly and sleazy part of running a business in India - a part I thoroughly despise.

A curious thing you observe while visiting various government offices is the number of images of gods and goddesses that abound there. Yes, many of these government officials are very religious people. Every morning, Ganesh will be worshipped, fresh garlands will adorn the idol, and the nice people will pray earnestly. No business will be conducted in the Rahu Kaalam, the inauspicious part of the day (Saturn's evil influence, see) that usually (conveniently?) falls just after lunch time. I'm serious! We didn't get one of our licences in the afternoon, the official insisting that we wait till Rahu Kaalam had passed. We got it around 5 PM.

I am an avowed atheist as most of my readers know, so these things don't concern me in the least. What I find baffling, however, is the fact that these same religious people have absolutely no qualm or shame in demanding and accepting dough for their "services". How does this fit in with their religious views? If you believe in an all-powerful, all-seeing deity that dispenses justice based on your actions in this world (a view that is part of most religions), then surely wouldn't you also believe that this deity sees your corrupt, despicable actions and will make you pay for your sins in the afterlife or the next life? Somehow, this doesn't seem to bother any of our nice government employees in the least, who merrily conduct large transactions every day at most offices. And yet the greedy, money-grubbing government lackey will make regular visits to Tirupati, Dharmasthala, and numerous other "holy" places to seek the blessings of the almighty. They must have missed their religion's lessons about leading a virtuous life.

What a wonderful country we have...


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