Thursday, 20 January 2011

Corruption and India and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi

How many employees does the Municipal Corporation of Delhi have on its rolls?

One would think in this age and date the figure would be readily available. But no. It is the biggest mystery. And it is taking the form of an action thriller. The Delhi High Court, the Delhi police and the MCD itself are trying to unravel the mystery. And I, as a resident of Delhi, am waiting with baited breath to know the number. But it seems the wait is going to be long.

Various figures  have emerged at various points in time of the MCD's elusive employees --the sweepers, the gardeners that are supposed to keep India's Capital city clean and green but are missing from its rolls:  22000, 29680, 43415 even 212 and now some strange new figure. We rarely see the elusive workforce. And the biometric system discovered what we always knew, that there were a substaintial number of ghosts on the rolls. So a machine did what we residents could not achieve for years. It got the authorities in charge to ponder. Yes, yes, there was some deep rot here. These ghosts were sucking the organisation dry of funds. Salaries were being given to the ghosts. Newspaper reports told us that the amount ran into many crores ( a crore = ten million) every month.

But  with bigger and full bodied scams hitting the country - the CWG scam, the mine scam, the  fodder scam, the Taj corridor scam, the 2G spectrum scamthe chief justice scam, the Adarsh scam, and then Bhopal's land  scam, the NOIDA land scam, and now the IAS-Joshi couple scam, and an even bigger the Indian black money-Swiss bank scam, the MCD scam was ghostly in comparison.

I maintain the biggest asset India has is its press. Which brings to the fore the doings of our leaders, our bureaucrats,  for us minions, who work instead of loot and cheat for a living, to see.  If it was not for India's press we would never get to know of the horrors the leaders we elect, the bureaucrats who we hope will give us  functioning systems, the judges who occupy the hallowed confines of court rooms, do upon us. It is then not difficult to relate why millions have no access to health care, why our children are given a shoddy or  no education, why farmers are driven to suicide and getting a roof on one's head remains a lifetime achievement for millions of Indians.

When there is so much corruption around, even the MCD vampires pale in comparison. I was however heartened to see that the police on orders of the court has been tracking some of these employees, to see if they are human or indeed ghosts. So what better way than to go to their houses and verify their human existence. The exercise did reveal that there were indeed some ghosts.

But then, a surprise, the MCD came up with another figure. I was amazed to see a new word crop up in its lexicon. 'Substitute' is the word used for the ghosts now. And the figure of these 'substitute employees' is almost double that of the ghosts. Vexed?  A 'substitute employee' sounds better than a 'ghost employee'. It is more respectable for sure! At one time, there was talk of thousands of 'temporary employees'.

Meanwhile, I wait for one to show up on my street. I am not choosy, ghost or substitute, either one would do. The leaves, the plastic chips packets, the bits of paper and the dog shit are piling high. One day during the Commonwealth Games, I thought I had a vision. I blinked. Yes, indeed there he was, holding a long broom and sweeping the street. I wanted to go up and touch him to see if he was real. He must have been for my street was clean for a few days. Even the kerb stones got a watery coat of white paint. Never mind, if it was as elusively faint as the ghost. You could see it was white, if you tried hard to ignore the grey of the kerbstone that stubbornly showed its face. Now, the ghostly paint has disappeared and so has the man with the broom. 

All that remains now are streams of dry leaves, mounds of paper, the dog shit and the peanut shells....
When will the ghosts get real? Your guess is as good as mine. Meanwhile, I will track the news reports of the scams and the scamsters. I do not need any Western make believe thrillers. Made in India stories provide a real good read. And what is more, they are for real!

An earlier post -

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