I came across this wonderful piece in The Hindu that traces the story behind the death of a civil contractor in the state of Karnataka, where I reside. That story is behind a paywall, but the gist is that there is a 40% commission that is demanded by the “authorities” to clear the bills that are raised against the infrastructure work that has already been carried out. From a friend who was a contractor, I know that there is always a percentage of the total contract value that needs to be handed out to various people up the chain of command in order to get the requisite approvals and complete the work. Often, contractors sub-contract different parts of the work out to others and that results in a cycle of debt and money owed down the chain of execution. This “percentage” that is demanded by various functionaries within the government eats into the budget allocated for the project and eventually, the contractor is forced to cut corners and compromise on the quality of the work carried out. The contractors in this state are now planning an agitation demanding a reduction in the cut that is demanded by those in-charge of the project.
As a society, we have reached a stage where it is expected that there will be a certain amount of convenience charges associated with any task that is to be carried out by a Government body. Haven’t we all heard this and also condone it ourselves: “Let them eat as much as they want as long as the work is done”? It is a sign of the times that we tacitly, if not overtly, approve of the corruption that has permeated deep into the society. Oh, the rules and laws are in place to prevent corruption. There are Anti-Corruption Bureaus and squads. Unfortunately, it is a losing battle because the laws are made by those that are afoul of them in the first place. Few that are caught in corruption cases are ever found guilty in the courts. In times of reflection, I often wonder about the lessons that the next generation are learning from the experiences that they are exposed to around them. When I was little, there was a greater good, a clean image that carried a lot of value and respect in the society. I fear that this is no longer the case for the kids. Nepotism runs rife everywhere and worse, is even expected. Do we still subscribe to those “old” values of honesty, ethics and morality?
The contractors in the story have an issue with the high percentage being demanded. They do not have an issue that there is a demand for a cut in the project costs to be pocketed by the administrators. I wonder what percentage of demand would be considered reasonable by them. The larger question is what is our degree of tolerance? Have we, as a society, given up on the values that were once considered the foundation of a harmonious and peaceful existence? Put another way, what is our degree of depravation? What would we settle for?