Choosing a career for one’s children is always a challenging responsibility. Medical, engineering and business management are generally the most favoured vocations. A few years ago, a chance meeting with an elderly co-passenger in an airport lounge proved to be quite enlightening (pun intended). According to him, only the ignorant ask their progeny to pursue such professions. “There are only three worthwhile professions in India – Babugiri, Babagiri and Netagiri,” he declared loudly.
Noticing attentive listeners, he carried on, “Let me explain. In case your son can put in one-time effort to pass a few papers of the civil services examination, he is best suited for Babugiri. Let him become a bureaucrat and rule the roost. Power, prestige, privileges and wealth are assured for life. He will also get a rich man’s daughter in marriage. It will be a dream job with no responsibility and no accountability. Raj karega.”
“If your son is useless in studies, encourage him to become a Baba – a God-man, Swami, Guru or Sant. Dressed appropriately with flowing robes and garlands, he should master the art of addressing public gatherings with half-closed eyes. What he mutters is irrelevant. In case he dreads public speaking, he should proclaim himself to be a Mauni Baba (the one who has taken a vow of silence). Soon, he will own ashrams with hundreds of acres of land. It is by far the most lucrative profession and requires no investment”, he added.
Encouraged by the captive audience, he continued, “Finally, if your son is good-for-nothing; keeps company with hoodlums; and remains on the wrong side of the law, he is ideally suited for Netagiri. To start with, he should append himself to an upcoming political leader. Ideology and loyalty matter little. Remember, all top Netas started at the bottom, doing errands for their mentors. Even a tenth failed person can become a Minister, with police providing protection rather than filing cases. It is a highly rewarding career – a petty corporator earns enough to sustain next seven generations.”
His parting shots were prophetic, “Unfortunately, all the three professions are growing like malignant tumours and devouring the vitals of India’s body-politic.” His choice of the term malignant tumours appeared inappropriate at that time. However, today one realises that no other taxonomy could have delineated their destructive character and disposition so very aptly. Many feel that it is incorrect to club Babagiri with the other two professions. For, people follow Babas of their own free will. There is no compulsion or coercion. In many cases, Babas do provide much needed solace to the disconsolate and hope to the depressed. To that an extent, they do fulfil a social necessity.
On the other hand, Babus and Netas belong to a very distinct self-serving genre. As they have many attributes in common, they are natural allies and readily join hands to further their own interests in an unabashed manner.
Babus and Netas: Scroungers in Tandem
It was in 1985 that the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, at a public rally at Kalahandi, acknowledged the fact that only 17 paise reached the common man for every rupee spent by the government, hinting that the unholy Neta-Babu nexus devoured the bulk.
A few years ago, some bureaucrats were ordered by the then Defence Minister Fernandes to visit forward areas to get a feel of the ground conditions. At a social gathering soon after the above incident, a few service officers were eulogizing Fernandes for ‘sorting out the bureaucrats’. Overhearing their conversation, a senior retired bureaucrat told them that their euphoria was misplaced. “Politicians need funds and only Babus can help. Hence, both are always hand in glove and thrive in tandem. Soon Fernandes will be singing Babus’ tunes,” he added candidly.
Netas and Babus have many other traits in common as well. Here are some.
• Unabashed Selfishness
Sadly, India’s Netas and Babus do not suffer from any pangs of public morality and scruples. Demonstrating extreme narcissism, they flaunt their arrogance and selfishness with unconcerned abandon. Netas keep voting higher privileges, perks and allowances for themselves. They have granted pension to themselves for five years of shouting, screaming and sloganeering in the house. They defy rules openly and decline to vacate government houses. They want subsidised canteen food when millions of their constituents cannot get two square meals a day. Some shamelessness!
Babus suffer from similar affliction. They can stoop to any level to protect their self-interests without any qualms. Every pay commission is manned by their hand-picked protégé who readily connive to promote their interests. It is done in such a blatant manner that one wonders if Indian Babus ever realise the depravity to which their selfishness sinks. But then, it is too much to expect such soul-searching from a self-serving cadre.
Perhaps, the biggest scam in Independent India’s history pertains to the sanction of Non-Functional Upgradation (NFU). One always thought that the pay was related to the job being performed. But Babus have overturned the age-old connotation. They have contrived a subterfuge through which they get pay for a higher appointment without getting selected for the same or performing corresponding functions. Some cheek!
NFU defies all logic and is unmistakably contrajuris. Knowing the collusion between Babus and Netas, acceptance of such a dishonest proposal by the government was only to be expected. However, what is really surprising is that no one has gone to the Supreme Court against this unabashed loot nor has the Court considered it necessary to take up the issue suo moto.
• Refusal to Quit Gracefully
Fading away gracefully is not a trait that most Netas and Babus can be accused of suffering from. They, by their very nature, are ‘lingerers’ and hate the sight of an exit door. They get so addicted to power, importance and privileges that they refuse to quit gracefully. Whereas most employees are considered past their productive age by the time they turn 60-65 years. Netas and Babus want to continue to occupy some office or the other till they kick the bucket, a la ‘chair to cemetery’ syndrome. In the process, they make a spectacle of themselves with senile behaviour and tottering gait. After becoming electorally irrelevant, most Netas seek residence in a Raj Bhavan. Death in harness assures state funeral.
Similarly, Babus dread loss of power, recognition and perks that they had got so used to during their long innings. Every retiring bureaucrat undertakes a highly systematic exercise regarding his future prospects. Extension of service is generally the preferred option. Other avenues include governorship, missions abroad, job in UPSC/CEC/CAG/CIC and other such establishments. In case none of the above measures work, many functionaries initiate proposals for the constitution of expert committees and regulatory commissions to create suitable slots for themselves. They cannot live without office, staff, telephone, car and other perks.
• Chameleon-like Traits
Their capability to change colours can put even a chameleon to shame. It is a common sight to see Netas going around seeking votes with folded hands and making tall promises before elections. For photo-shoots, they visit poor villagers’ huts and squat on the floor for meals (although meals and bottled water are specially brought for them). Once elected, their personality undergoes a total transformation: servants of the public become rulers of the country. Pre-election promises are brazenly dismissed as election jhumlas.
Babus are ‘survivors’ by nature and swim with the tide. Netas come and go while the Babus go on forever. While interacting with their political masters, they become the most servile, docile and obedient human being. They bravely face worst degrading treatment without a whimper of protest. However, when dealing with the public, their persona undergoes a total make-over. They consider themselves to be the dispenser of favors; and hence behave in a haughty, pretentious, condescending, pompous and supercilious manner.
It is commonly said that cinema reflects the society at large. Of late, villainy has become the exclusive domain of Netas and Babus. They are shown as the most unscrupulous and scheming individuals. The moment a character in ‘khadi’ and white cap appears on the screen, the audience recognises him as the chief villain. Misusing his ministerial position, he patronises all unlawful activities in collusion with corrupt Babus.
Undoubtedly, both Netas and Babus enjoy a very poor public standing. People consider them to be the fountainhead of inefficiency, corruption and illegal activities in the country. Every survey carried out by different agencies shows Netas and Babus to be at the bottom of peoples’ choice for probity, loyalty and selflessness. Many amongst the present crop of Netas started as petty ruffians and today command wealth worth hundreds of crores of rupees. In no other profession can so much be amassed in so short a time.
Netagiri and Babugiri have rightly come to be identified with everything depraved and decadent. People are aware of the abysmal character of India’s Netas and Babus but cannot free themselves of their stranglehold. However, what is more worrisome is the fact that both Netas and Babus have become too thick-skinned to bother about public perception. As self-aggrandisement continues to rule unabated, they are becoming more audacious, brazen and fearless in their deviousness. And, that is India’s tragedy.