“Stop”, said the traffic police raising his right hand. The command was followed by a sudden brake applied to the rickshaw, disturbing me while I was trying hard to understand the complicated writing of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. “Park it in the left side”, continued the officer. “Show me your license.” While the rickshaw driver nervously opened a box to look for his license, I understood that I was going to be even more late for office as the man sitting in the front driver’s seat has ignored the traffic signals and was going to be penalized.
Meanwhile, there was a conversation going on between another rickshaw driver and the officer. “Saheb, tumhi Patil Sahebla olakta ka? To majha mitr ahe. (Sir, you know Mr. Patil. He is a friend.)” – “Tar kay? To majha saheb ahe kay? (So what? Is he my boss?)” “Nahi. Mi tar asach..( No, sir. I was just..)”, said the guy in the khakhi displaying an ear-to-ear smile on his frustrated face. As the officer was making a challan, the driver offered him a folded fifty rupee currency note. To my surprise, I was not surprised to see the auto driver offering a bribe to the traffic officer, but what surprised me was that the officer refused to accept the bribe and asked for hundred rupees while showing him the challan with an assertive tone. Disappointed, the autorickshaw driver gave him a hundred rupee note and took its receipt. This way, the ethic of the man in white uniform overshadowed the unethical practice of the man in khakhi.
Kudos to this officer. There was nobody in the vicinity. Nobody could have caught him if he had received the bribe and added 50 rupees more to his salary. But there is something called “self-esteem”, proved the officer. I don’t know whether he gets any rewards from his department for his honesty and whether any punishment the corrupt officers get or not. But before the later, I definitely would love to know the earlier which is, I think, more important at a time when ALMOST EVERYONE is vulnerable to corruption.
This is a very good thing to know today when saints are forced to fast in order to fight against corruption and the opposition party is no more gheraoing the government over the issue of corruption. How could they? The majority will be behind the bars in that case. Many of their own people will also end up in the dock.
To fight the battle of honesty with yourself and with others, the present time is truly very challenging when rate for everything is fixed, as they say everyone has their price. One tea and two biscuits for marking your attendance for the bunked college classes; 50 rupees for ignoring the traffic rules; 400 rupees for getting your investigation done for a passport application. So on and so more. These are all open secrets.
At this juncture, when we are waiting for the Lokpal Bill to be passed in the parliament, we should not ignore those who have remained honest even in these critical conditions. It is highly important to reward them, appreciate them, and highlight them to be idealised even before claiming punishment for the guilty.