When a Balwa orchestrates a scam, you don’t know how much money was made. Even the Comptroller & Auditor General’s (CAG) accountants are confused about how to value the loss to the exchequer. The payoff is legally offered in the form of a Rs 200 crore loan to the Karunanidhi family. Is it a bribe? Tough to say. The Balwas are from the Gujarati mercantile caste, mostly Muslim, called Cheliyas. They are superb businessmen and the equal of Hindu merchant castes in running hotels and managing retail.
When a Vadra commits a scam, one isn’t even sure whether it was actually a scam, though the numbers are clear on the balancesheet. People are not advanced money without security to get into the construction business. What was the payoff for? Nobody really knows. Vadras, or Vadheras, are Khatris, the great Punjabi trading caste which dominates business in Delhi.
When an Adani (a Jain Baniya) is arrested in a scam, the motive is not to be found. The unbelievable allegation is that he evaded Rs 80 lakh worth of customs duty for a company worth Rs 26,000 crore. When an Ambani (a Modh Vaniya) does a scam, even the victim is not to be found. Was the state duped of billions of dollars in natural resources? Apparently not.
When a Jindal (Baniya) does a scam, he isn’t accused of impropriety, though his own party has allotted to him, without auction, thousands of crores in mineral deposits. When a Goel (Aggarwal Baniya) asks for Rs 100 crore as blackmail, he can coolly deflect it though the evidence is on tape. Even his employees, caught red-handed, keep their jobs.
There is absolutely nothing wrong in Ashis Nandy’s observation about caste and corruption. It is accurate and obvious, unless one is blind to what is around. Nandy said, “...the fact is that most of the corrupt come from the OBC, the Scheduled Castes and now increasingly Scheduled Tribes, and as long as it was the case, the Indian Republic would survive”. He gave this example. “The state of least corruption is West Bengal. In the last 100 years, nobody from the backward classes and the SC and ST groups have come anywhere near power in West Bengal. It is an absolutely clean state.”
What he meant is obvious enough, but subtlely is not our strong suit. We are all corrupt, and this is the true meaning of Nandy’s remarks, but some castes are seen as more corrupt. Why is this so? The fact is that SC/ST and OBC scams tend to stand out as scams to us because of the nature of the transaction.
Upper-caste scams are different from lower-caste scams. The former tend to be complex, less likely to provoke anger, and therefore, more easily forgotten. Scams involving the lower castes tend to be straightforward. No fancy paperwork and an uncomplicated payoff. Cash is to be delivered in India, not Switzerland.
There is a reason for this. Those who are familiar with the process of democracy in India will tell you that over 50 per cent of the money a politician spends on elections is given to the voter. Salman Rushdie accurately defined Indian democracy as “one man, one bribe”. My speculation is that SC/ST corruption is actually more democratic, though it is seen by the middle-class with more revulsion.
What angers middle-class Indians—they will be surprised to know this—is not corruption. It is actually bribery, which is the exchange of money for favour. The correct word for this is rishwatkhori, not bhrashtachar. What is corrupted (made ‘bhrasht’) by this act of bribery is the office. It is the office, and the edifice of the state, that is corrupted. But this isn’t something that we are particularly upset by. If we were, the corruption by the upper caste’s scams would anger us more than the bribery of the lower caste scams.
But it doesn’t. What offends us is the making of money. And what really upsets us is that “those people”, and not we, are the ones making it.
Aakar Patel is a writer and columnist
Aakar Patel’s piece (How Some Gather Silver..., Feb 11) is full of innuendos and half-truths. He gathers convenient facts to couch his rather predetermined conclusions.
Novonil Guha, Delhi
What about the scams of your media brethren, Mr Patel?
Ravi Patel, Baroda
Is this supposed to be a reasoned rebuttal to Nandy’s comments? If so, it fails miserably as it supports the man’s thesis—corruption among OBCs, SC/STs etc is in effect levelling the playing field and providing equal opportunity.
Arun Visvanathan, Chennai
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
This article is written around a predetermined conclusion instead of using information to form an opinion. In this case an opinion has been pushed and convenient information has been used.
Here let me illustrate this - //When a Vadra commits a scam, one isn’t even sure whether it was actually a scam, though the numbers are clear on the balancesheet. //
And then Aakar Patel(Who I think is one of very few ballsy columnists in India even if I may disagree with him on most things) says this as well - //The former tend to be complex, less likely to provoke anger, and therefore, more easily forgotten. // , he actually embarasses himself.
The anger against Vadra, is second to none. People in India are more angry on average with the Vadra situation than an A.Raja situation. Kalmadi I checked, is a so called 'upper' caste. People are angrier at the likes of Kalmadi than Raja. The evidence against Raja is a lot more than sadly, the evidence against even Vadra or Kalmadi. But the truth is that Raja was defended by everyone including our PM who felt like it was his moral duty to safeguard the rights of Raja since he was a member of a party that was an important ally and a 'Dalit'.
Aakar, what really angers the middle classes, is the condescension of the upper middle classes and the imposition of large fiscal responsibilities on them at a time when there is high inflation(probably number one middle class anger issue) and like always in india, large unemployment.
I like Aakar for not giving a fuc* and speaking his mind. I don't think he has spoken his mind in a couple of parts of this column.
Perhaps the only non-controversial statement one can make is that no caste is clean.
I think Aakar didn't read other report of Uttam Sengupta in same Outlook.
Is this article supposed to be a reasoned rebuttal of Ashis Nandy's comments. If so it fails miserably. If so it fails miserably because it in facts supports Nandy's thesis viz. that corruption in OBCs, SC/ST etc is in effect levelling the playing field and providing equal opportunity.
Is it a coincidence that all those whose misdeeds have been ignored are Congress cronies while those whose actions are under the scanner are political oppnents of the party in power at the centre. Unlike Vadra who has made a fortune overnight, Jagan's steady accumulation of wealth took place over a long period while his father was the CM of Andhra. it was only after he revolted against the Congress after his legitimate claim to inherit the gaddi was rejected that the independent, apolitical investigative agencies realised something was amiss.
Actually, this comment is a waste of time. Kiran Bagchi has it right in one word.
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