I was attracted by the title of the book. I read about it in a pre release article and after going through the short interview of the author, opted for pre-release order of the book written by The Hindu correspondent Josy Joseph. It took me some time to start reading the book but when I started it, could not hold myself from reading back to back. By the time I finished it, I felt exhausted at the systemic failures and loot, married as per convenience.
Author while exposing the corruption galore in India credits his various sources who are ordinary and also sometimes beneficiaries of the system but still had some nobleness in them. He writes about them, ” Everyone here lives with a little bit of guilt and a lot of contradictions. Most regret paying bribes, many are angry at themselves for accepting bribes, everyone is irritated with the way people use influence to scuttle the rightful claims of others and almost all of us find a way to influence someone to jump the queue.” The lines are poignant and apply to us all perhaps.
The author starts the book with a prologue on the wrenching story of village development of Hridyachak in Bihar. It is scary start of the journey ahead for any sensitive human being and particularly who has seen it from close quarters like me. It may remind you of mountain-man Dasarath Manjhi. He then shifts to chapter wise narration, starting with the power of ubiquitous Middlemen in India and their movement in the corridors of powers. He writes a chapter on the most powerful typists of India exemplified through the lives of R K Dhawan and Vincent George. The latter was winner of the fastest typist in a contest in his native city in Kerala, ending as the personal staff of a P M and the subsequent powerful first family scions ruling the roost. R K Dhawan who started as an assistant to Smt Indira Gandhi in 1962 (She was chosen as the chairperson of ‘New York World Fair Committee’ in 1962) and later prospered into the most confidential and most powerful politicians for decades. Had you ever seen a typist with this angle?
He then traverses the arena of arms market and the middlemen involved in it. They are scores of authentic examples. While most of us know about Bofors, there are many interesting but shocking stories about the rich and powerful and how have they operated in the cover of their official positions through their English speaking foreign educated corrupt sons and daughters.
His most detailed exposure is about the corporate battles that have been fought silently in the Indian aviation sector. By the end of the book, you may start hating the chief of so-called biggest airline and his humble ways. He finds him to be a silent killer indeed literally. Interestingly much of this is documented in the dossiers of our own intelligence agencies, but still nothing is happening against him and many more for the reasons known and unknown. The way every arm of government and state has been used and misused to monopolise the sector is mind-boggling. You will understand perhaps for the first time, what a white-collar criminal is. I don’t know if some good storyteller/director may think of shooting a movie on the subject soon! Although he may not be courageous and lucky enough to survive the ordeal.
He writes about the plunder and loot of natural resources taking place in mineral rich Central India, all in the name of development. Development for whom? The local inhabitants in these most mineral rich areas have got two things only. One, the jobs of security guards and other lowest paid sundry jobs to fight against their own and the second, unparalleled amount of environmental destruction leaving them covered in tattered clothes and black soot.
He mentions about Ambani’s Antilla and the abject poverty around and also reveals that there was an orphanage earlier there. It’s hard to miss the realities and believe me, it will bite you.
Author’s words keep on hitting you as you traverse through the book and feel anguished and sometimes even depressed at the way the whole system has been taken for a ride explained through authentic real examples by the investigative journalism of the man credited inter-alia with exposing Navy War Room Conspiracy, CWG scam and many more. He opines that the dismantling of License-Permit Raj is only a misnomer and unless something most extraordinary happens we may be doomed sooner than we think and we may have to be satisfied by just sending summons to the plunderers sitting pretty in London.
Disclaimer: Don’t read the book if you are too sensitive and you can not digest the hardcore realities of Indian Democracy.