Scama Sutra

With the general elections not very far away, I think the time has come for us, the concerned citizens of this country, to rise up responsibly and ask this government some questions, especially this one: ‘Why is there such an alarming dip in the quality of scandals in recent months?’

We may lack proper roads. The education system may be in a shambles. A large section of the population may not have access to good sanitation facilities (A small section of the population may also crib that they don’t have access to wi-fi service within the sanitation facilities). But our government and the politicians have never failed in the matter of providing the country with robust and sturdy scams.

Adarsh Housing, Commonwealth Games, 2G…these were not just iconic corruption festivals. They performed the vital social service of keeping the nation totally hooked on for months without end. For instance, when the 2G scam was at its peak, both the government and the public were so focused on it that they seemed to have totally forgotten that Ajmal Kasab was waiting to be hanged.

Just, as a contrast, look at what we have had in the last one month or so: The Vadra-DLF deal. Let us look at the case closely and lawfully: Vadra starts a company without much investment. But a few years later the company reports several crores of rupees as profit and gets provided with plenty of loans and land. How come? Which hybrid variety of money plant was he growing on the DLF Farm? Those asking these questions have obviously not read Section 420 of the Income Tax Act that unambiguously states that ‘a company’s accounts books are legally deemed clean and beyond scrutiny as long as the promoter can establish, with verifiable proof, that his primary profession is being the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi’.

And then there is the one involving Nitin Gadkari. Even those who have time to even read the weather reports (Newspapers, in general, publish two things in the hope that no one would read them. Weather report and the Editorial. Mostly, it’s difficult to tell them apart) may not have read the Gadkari story. You can’t blame them. The point being Gadkari, the person, is the scandal, far bigger than anything he can possibly ever commit.

And what was the scam about a bank helping hawala transactions and Swiss accounts? They commit bigger scams involving you and me on a daily basis. Just stay with me on this: I have two savings bank accounts, one of which I operate on a regular basis, and the other in which I had a few thousands of rupees. After several months, I went to the second bank and checked my account and found the balance largely diminished, despite me not having withdrawn even a single paise.

Initially I thought it to be a simple clerical error, the kind of mistake that seems to happen in large corporations only when they are dealing with other people’s money. For the record, no banking clerical error ever ends in money being added to your account. Probably this is some kind of gravity, capable of working in only one direction. Anyway, I also thought that the bank, when its attention was drawn to the mistake, would good-naturedly apologise and rectify it.

But the bank clerk said: ‘The money deducted from your account is the service charge, sir’.  What service? I wasn’t sure. Probably they gave the money that was lying idle in my account a pedicure or a neck massage or some other more personalised service that can be described only through euphemisms in a family paper.

After a long, agitated talk with the clerk it dawned on me that they have tweaked the banking rules in recent times. This is how:

In olden days you handed over some money to the bank, which in turn put it to some use and then returned it to you along with additional interest for having utilised it.

Now you hand over some money to the bank, which in turn puts it to some use and levies you a penal interest for having given the bank some money that it had to use.

I have done business with four different banks in my life, and my experiences with them have driven me to a stage where no banking scandal is ever going to shock me, that is including even if it is revealed that the true identity of Jack The Ripper is, say, The Royal Bank of Scotland.

In fact, these days I am waiting to be told that there was just one bank all along, and it had stealthily turned up in four different identities, just to con me. In which case, I will make a hilariously ridiculous film on one bank taking four different avatars. The title, of course, is: Michael Madana Scamarajan.