I am a poor clerk in the DDA (Development Demolition Agency).
I don’t know why some people have been raising all kinds of allegations against me. They say I am corrupt, my income is more than my salary, and so on and so forth. An uncle posted me to DDA when I qualified for the post after passing a test. Some people allege that my father extended special favours to the uncle. If father gave the uncle’s daughter a wedding gift (a small diamond necklace costing about ten lakh rupees), what is wrong in that? Is it not customary to give presents on occasions such as birthdays and marriages? I have been only a sincere and hardworking servant of the Agency since more than quarter of a century and about to retire in a few years.
My job is to approve papers for several activities under the Agency, such as construction or extension of buildings, keeping a watch on unauthorized buildings and unauthorized construction in markets and on roads, and any other related activity. Such a huge responsibility! I don’t take my work as work, but as a game. That is the best way to enjoy work. And I enjoy my work. I enjoy meeting and interacting with people. I listen to their problems regarding houses, shops and roads and do whatever I can to help them. I was so much interested to serve the poor, helpless, common people that I even resisted a promotion which would have confined me to an inside room amidst files. I would have lost the opportunity of serving the common people which is the ultimate goal of my life. Is it wrong if I paid five lakh rupees to an officer to stall my promotion? Afterwards also I used to send him some gifts occasionally, for example, a Maruti car for his son when he passed out from the IIT. I did all this to stay in this seat to serve the poor common people. And yet people say I am corrupt! Senseless fellows!
Sometimes people come to me directly with incomplete records. They want me to approve the papers so that their flat, or the extension done to their home, gets regularized. How can I do that? I cannot, because it is against rules. I advise them to go to Sincere Property Dealers (SPD) who are experts in such matters. Am I not doing a service to them by directing them to the right people? And for setting the papers right and to manufacture incomplete records SPD take small service charges from the owner. And if SPD gives me a share of the service charges they get, what is wrong in it? They want to show their love and gratitude to me, that’s all. If I didn’t accept that, they might feel offended. As a public servant I cannot offend anybody. In fact if any person approaches me directly, I send him to SPD so that he can avail of their excellent service.
Sometimes even SPD is unable to procure all the papers. And they want me to sign certifying that everything is all right! The correct way would be to procure duplicates and then process the papers, or to pay a penalty. But who has got the time for all that? Everybody wants things to move in a hurry. Time is important, is it not? I hesitate to sign. Then they force me to accept some gratification in the form of money. I tell them I have enough money and I don’t want any extra gratification. And even then if they want to do some favour, I tell them they could give it to my peon, who is very poor, has a large family, and is in need of money.
Since these are poor and helpless people, I approve their papers. And all of them pay money to me, no, to my peon. It became a habit for them to force me to accept money as they want to show their love and gratitude to me. Poor fellows. If they become happy by my accepting money from them, how can I prevent that? I hesitantly oblige. By evening the peon gets scared of seeing the huge amount of money and he asks me to keep them safe. I sympathize with him and take the money for safe-keeping on his behalf. I give him a small amount, approximately equal to one per cent, for his needs. He is very happy. The house owner is happy because I have accepted his gratification, SPD is happy because they were able to serve the clients and me, and the peon is happy because he too gets some extra money. The only unhappy soul is mine, who had to sign incomplete and sometimes wrong papers, to help the poor fellows! But my sorrow is much smaller when compared to the happiness of all these people.
The other day a client, who was building a hotel, came to me. He wanted his plan to be approved. How could I do it? There were several flaws in it. Also, some important approvals were missing. I told him on his face that it was not possible for me to approve the plan unless he completes all formalities. When the office time was over and I was about to leave for home, he came again. He pleaded with folded hands that I approve his plan. He said it would take several days or weeks for him to get all the papers completed and would have to spend a lot of money. Instead he thought it was better that I keep the money. And he had brought it, too.
Well, I thought for a moment. If the money is deposited in some offices, it will be eaten up by some nasty, greedy, corrupt officials. Instead, yes, maybe I could keep it. It will also be a great help to the hotelier. And he gave me a tiny amount of a crore of rupees. Poor fellow, why should I prevent him from earning his livelihood by building a five star hotel? He used to come to me later on also for signatures on some or the other papers. Every time he gave me a few lakh rupees. I didn’t want to disappoint him and I hesitantly kept those. He also gave a small present to my son on his fifteenth birthday, a car costing more than 10 lakh rupees. Actually I didn’t want to accept it, but he pleaded, he insisted, and I obliged. Poor fellow! Good fellow!
People who want to extend their shops to the public land come and cry before me. They say that if they don’t extend the shop by a few feet, they will lose all business and would become a pauper. I help them by approving their plan. To express their gratitude they give me small packets containing money. What do I do? I hesitantly accept. Poor fellows! Good fellows! This also happens with those who have built extra rooms or balconies in their houses without proper permissions. These people won’t even let me visit their homes. Instead they come to my home and give me gifts in the form of Indian currency notes. There are a few who insist that I accept dollars or pounds! Look at that! Strange are the ways of some poor fellows. Good fellows!
Before long a problem began to trouble me. Where do I keep the money? Burglaries are very common these days. I had constructed a wall a few feet away from the original wall in our bed room to keep a few safety vaults in between them. The money is gifted to me, or my peon, by my friends, and it should be kept very safely. After all, it is their money, not mine.
I built a small cellar of 40 feet × 40 feet below our bed room. No, no, I didn’t break the bed room. The cellar was built along with the bed room when I was building a new house. Oh, yes, I forgot to tell you. A friend of mine had gifted to my wife a small plot of about an acre in the outskirts of the city. That is where I was building the small house. This friend was building a mall and I had approved the plan. He had further insisted that I should accept several thousand shares of his company. I flatly refused. I told him I could not accept such kind of illegal gratification. He then presented those to my daughter-in-law! Poor fellow! Good fellow!
I was planning to build the house when a contractor, who worked for our Agency, met me. It was his wish that he should be given the opportunity to serve me. Poor him, what could I do? Such a simple man! I said ‘yes’. He insisted that he would not accept any compensation, whatsoever, including the cost of material, for the work. Well, I accepted that too. He only wanted a small favour from me. He had submitted the tender for a flyover which he wanted me to approve. Such a small demand! And he agreed to build my house only for a signature! Poor fellow! Good fellow!
The contractor made a simple plan for a small house with eight bed rooms, a gym, a swimming pool, a small theatre, a basement parking for a dozen cars, and a few other things. I realized it would be congested to build such a house in the small plot. I asked the contractor to see if some more land can be purchased adjacent to the present one. He had good connections and he procured me another small plot of six acres. I had to empty one safety vault in which I used to keep the gifts donated by friends. The plot cost a few crores of rupees. Somebody came to know of the transaction and they made a big hue and cry about it. The vigilance, the media and other such nuisance. I had to part with more than a crore rupees to silence them. It took a few years for me to recoup this amount.
I didn’t understand what the problem was. If I purchased some land or built a house with money gifted to me by my friends, what was wrong in that? One of them was telling that I was evading tax. But why should I pay tax for the money gifted to me by my friends? It was not government’s money, nor did I earn it from the government. And, if I paid gift tax, it would be an insult to those who have gifted me the money. Also, this is not my money. This money belongs to the people who gifted it to me. I am only keeping it safely for them. That is why I didn’t pay tax. I very sincerely pay tax for the salary I get. What else do they need? The truth-seekers! To hell with them!
A couple of years back I purchased two houses for my son and daughter. Can you imagine, the owners wanted only 25 per cent of the cost to be shown in the registration papers! The rest they wanted in cash! Look at how some crooked people evade paying tax! So, only an amount of about five crore rupees each was shown in the registration papers! Several suitcases with money were transferred from my cellar to his cellar. For safe keeping! Didn’t I take most of this money for safekeeping from my peon?
It is strange that people don’t understand such simple matters. They just don’t consider my problem at all. Do they have any idea how long it will take for me to fill the places vacated by those forty crores? I am retiring in only four years. Will I be able to do it before I retire? I doubt it very much.