I met him only once, and that too a long time ago. I don’t remember his name anymore and even the details of his tale are now fuzzy in my head. But I distinctly remember how fascinated I was with what he shared. We have all heard stories about how corrupt the government bodies that run our nation are, but it was the first time I heard an insider’s account of what he’d seen. He was down a couple of beers and I have little reason to believe that his story might’ve been fabricated or exaggerated!

He was an Inspector of FCI, the Food Corporation of India, in some town of Punjab. I think it was FCI, but it may well have been a differently named, albeit a similar function, company- that doesn’t really matter. This is what he had to say. He was part of a huge hierarchy where every under-the-table money that went through the organization was equally and fairly divided at every level. Whatever be the size of the bribe-pie, the portion you’d get was predetermined (which meant you won’t have to go out in the field to haggle with someone) and would come to your desk at the start of each month: it was simple as that! The amount that he got every month was somewhere between 40k to one lac but what was more interesting was that, according to him, he was part of a vicious circle wherein he had to accept the bribe money, whether he liked it or not, else get conveniently kicked out of the system!

Apart from all this, let me tell you a little about yet another interesting part of his personal life. He had come to Delhi to enroll into one of the many IAS coaching centres here, He had no plans to quit his job back home and so would keep receiving his legitimate monthly paycheck. His absence in office would be managed by a couple of colleagues who would now share his bribe money among themselves and in return would buzz him in case of any trouble!

As one might expect, corruption and neglect was highly rampant in the warehousing of the grains too. It wasn’t unusual for the officials to let monsoon water seep into the godowns, because the soaked water would drastically increase the weight of the grain sacks in the near future, or to let them rot in the presence of thousands of mice in some other season. The common man, be it the consumers or the farmers, would, of course, pay the price in both the cases. He also used some math to bring home his point, but I hardly remember any of it now.

Can we even imagine how many thousands of companies, as big as or maybe even bigger than FCI, exist in our country, in both the private and the public sector?