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Modi Ji, Your Note Ban Attacks the Wrong End of Black Money Issue

Corruption is embedded in our power structure and something needs to be done about that, writes an ex-bureaucrat. 

Published
India
3 min read
An ex-bureaucrat details the inherent problem with the note ban. (Photo: PTI)

In 1990, I had just been posted to Ministry of Defence (MoD). I was a greenhorn Joint Secretary, the youngest in MOD – and had been assigned the nerve-wracking job of handling all commercial transactions relating to the Army.

I had the biggest spending budget in the Government as an individual officer.

I suddenly found myself sought after by many powerful individuals straddling the world of business and politics.No one knew how they had acquired their power and wealth. I shunned them.

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I did not join the Gymkhana Club, to avoid meeting such people socially. I had neither the time (NN Vohra used to slave drive us 9 to 9 or longer, 24x7) nor the money to party or dine out. On one of the rare evenings, however, when I could go out to attend an intimate get-together at a relative's house, I was introduced to one of these business tycoons who had been to St Stephen’s College.

Small talk centred around how I was finding the Delhi posting experience. I narrated my woes – the terrible working hours, not having been allotted a house (I was still living in transit accommodation in Punjab Bhavan) and the pathetic salaries that we get.

I remember telling the person how even buying a new pair of shoes or more expensive fruits like grapes, had become difficult after moving to Delhi. “Why don't you invest in shares?” he said. “You will get a very decent income.” One has to have money to invest, I told him and laughed it off.

Three months later, I met the same gentleman at the same relative's house, who had organised a big do being attended by all the rich and powerful.

He took me aside and said he wanted to come over to meet me personally to hand me over some share certificates he had purchased in my name whose share value (this is Harshad Mehta boom time) had skyrocketed. I froze in horror. “I never asked you to, and how could you take this liberty?”

“You said you did not have the resources, so I did it for you and since the value has shot up ten times or more, you don’t have to be bothered about the small investment I made. Take it as a gesture of friendship.”

I was speechless and shaking with rage and horror. I went back to my host – the relative who had introduced the gentleman to me – and expressed my horror. He laughed. “Why are you so disturbed?”, he said, “That gentleman handles all my investments and he is not crass enough to try and bribe you or influence you, he is doing it as a friend.”

I told him clearly and firmly that unless he advised his friend to stay away from me completely and unless he did whatever he does to dispose off shares (I have never owned any in my life) allegedly purchased for me, I would sever all connections with the relative.

My host realised the gravity and the seriousness of my protest. The tycoon never bothered me again, and although he did try to find his way to the Arms trade later, I don't think he was successful, or maybe he was, I could not care less.

The point of this true story is (a) corruption is embedded in the power structure of the Indian State and unless something is done to whittle down that power, corruption opportunities will continue to flourish and (b) only the most naive and unsophisticated reap the fruits of corruption in cash.

Prime Minister, whether by design or in your innocence, you are attacking the wrong end of the problem.

(The author is a former IAS officer. This article first appeared as a Facebook post on the author’s timeline. The views expressed above are of the author’s alone and The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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