Legitimizing Wealth


Who says corruption, both in the official as well as in the unofficial worlds, has ended in Manipur. All this despite the most brutal campaigns against it by numerous crusading organizations of which there has never been a shortfall, especially in the past few decades of militancy. Numerous bullets in the legs and sometimes in the heads, have not deterred the phenomenon one bit. The most saleable commodity, government jobs, it is everybody’s knowledge, still carry premium price tags. Likewise, it is an open secret that black money still exchanges hands in the award of government contracts, or else these are had at the point of the gun. Fair play, as defined by a competition of merit, is today an alien concept. A new power order has emerged and this new order has two distinct poles. One the hand are those in the seats of power and their executive instruments. That is, the politicians in power and the bureaucratic machinery. On the other are those who have the power to instil the bone chilling fear of death by summary execution.

A study of the pattern of wealth accumulation (or distribution if you like) will be a pretty accurate testimony of this new order. As a thumb rule, it will be discovered that anybody who has made the quick buck is close to either of the two poles. Chances are most of the opulently rich are sycophants of the executive order, or else brokers for the other pole where brute force defines power. Of course, this is if they are not the corrupt bosses of the officialdom themselves. Very few of the wealthy would have made their fortunes from honest enterprises pursued with patience and perseverance through generations, as most enterprises with firm foundations are generally made of. The rules may have been rewritten a little, but the game remains the same. The organized robbery of public exchequer is still the goal of the wealth making game, and this is unfortunate for many things. The most pronounced of these being the murder of the entrepreneurial spirit itself. Why sweat when you can get what you have to sweat for just by making a Faustian deal and corner a government contract. You can now buy wealth with bribes and kickbacks or else get it by the use of force. In a lawless world all these are permissible. In a soulless world where corruption has been so deeply institutionalized, there is nothing unnatural anymore about it too. What’s so very wrong with a little bribe here and there (or call it percentage cut for official favours to cleverly make it sound a little less objectionable). They have all become a necessary evil of an essentially evil world.

The other pitfall is, while wealth definitely would still command envy, it does not inspire the respect it deserves anymore. Making the tragedy more profound is that even those few who have made their wealth honestly get tainted with the same broad brush. So much so that when the social mechanism, groaning under the weight of prolonged and immense abuses finally recoils and hits back violently, despite the brutality involved, there is a catharsis of sort. Hence, when the dark forces of extortion visit the wealthy, there is a good measure of a perverse sense of social retribution that comes along with it. This perhaps explains the lack of any widespread outrage from all sections of the society against this phenomenon. Only the class of people made vulnerable, protest in terrified whispers, all to no avail, much to their frustration and agony. The rest simply watch, if not with glee, than at least with a stoic indifference, as if to say, everybody gets to reap what he sows. If a few honest souls get trampled in the process, who cares? Isn’t this what is collateral damage about. All this is also strangely reminiscent of a familiar argument against the AFSPA. If 50 years of the draconian Act has only increased the intensity of insurgency, decades of violent campaigns against corruption has also only driven it deeper underground and is far from being wiped out. The cyclic pattern of these phenomena is terrifying. Perhaps the revolution everybody exalts has first to be complimented by a revolution of the soul.


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