It was an everyday morning in the housing colony and the sabziwalla was doing his rounds. A housewife selected a sizeable quantity of vegetables from him, and, without asking him what she owed him, handed over 20, which was clearly inadequate payment for her purchases. The sabziwalla accepted this token payment without protest.
The housewife's tenant — a young man from China — came out and also bought some vegetables, paying the right price for them. The housewife ordered the vendor to return the money and said to her tenant: "Just give him 10 or 20 rupees. I am the wife of a managing committee member and he dare not charge me the full price, or he'll be banned from coming into the colony. As my tenant, you have the same privilege." The tenant waited till landlady had gone into the house, then he paid the vegetable seller the full amount.
That small incident might help partly to explain a very big question: Why is it that China is so far ahead of India in almost all fields? The most commonly cited reason for China's lead over India is that China as a totalitarian state is made to march forward to the same drumbeat or face the consequences, whereas India enjoys a chalta-hai democracy, in which for every one step forward we take, we seem to go three steps sideways. Dictatorships tend to be, at least outwardly, single-minded and more disciplined; democracies, being diverse, are often divided as to their goals.
Fair enough. But there could be another, equally fundamental reason why India remains so far behind China. And that reason — illustrated by the anecdote about the wife of the managing committee member taking it as her right to shortchange the sabziwalla — is entrenched and everyday corruption.
All of us express outrage at the corruption of our politicians and bureaucrats. But one way or the other, all of us are implicated in either giving or taking graft, of one form or another. Bribery and corruption have become the lubricants of the wheels and deals of everyday living, from awarding a government contract, buying defence equipment to protect the country, selecting a sports team to represent the nation, or buying one's daily vegetables.
Of course, China also has its share of corruption, as shown by the recent much-publicised trial of Bo Xilai, an eminent political figure. But perhaps in China corruption hasn't become a routine reflex, performed almost automatically and without thinking, as it seems to have become in India.
It's like breathing. You don't have to think before you breathe; breathing happens naturally. In India bribery has become a fact of nature like breathing. This common air of corruption that we breathe infects us all, and affects our everyday relationships with others, from the babu we have to bribe to get our work done to the sabziwalla we shortchange through the misuse of authority.
All-pervasive corruption corrodes the unwritten contract, the mutual trust on which society is based. By cheating you today, i ensure that you'll cheat me tomorrow, or whenever you have the chance. In the end everyone loses, because today's cheater is tomorrow's cheated, and vice versa.
Advantage China, disadvantage India.
October 09,2013 at 01:19 PM IST
How depressingly true this incident sounds....I'm glad that you've given space to something that needs to be discussed in India i.e. why we lag far behind China, in so many vital areas and why we are falling behind every day....To me the answer lies in that China has developed its manpower and harnessed it to build up a formidable secular modern, society....while India has created islands of urban modernity in a sea of illiteracy, hopelessness and poverty. India has a big population but most of it cannot contribute in any meaningful way..... And the low level of the electorate means elected leaders just not competent to do their jobs.......China might be totalitarian, but its leaders are smart, highly qualified and dynamic. Each builds on the legacy of his predecessor.....Here in (democratic) India we have single family dynastic rule since our independence 60 years ago and we cannot even begin to compete with the Chinese leadership....It's the same story everywhere, they have better generals, administrators, teachers, scientists and managers....Ive know many Chinese and can vouch that they are at least 50 years ahead in their thinking. We get worked up about mandir-masjid, state division, language, communal riots, caste , god men and other equally nonsensical issues....... China just does not waste time on these stupidities, they are too busy getting ahead.
Deepak (China) says:
October 09,2013 at 04:52 PM IST
I am in China for the last seven years running a company. The single most important difference between China and India is "Discipline" which covers all aspects of life. In India democracy has been interpreted as free for all and no discipline. In China a certain minimum discipline is part of their personality. It has enabled them to bring 600 mln. people out of poverty in last 20 years. Any political system which can achieve this is better than a so called democracy which leads to exploitation of people and sees that they remain in deprivation perpetually.
October 09,2013 at 03:08 PM IST
India is ruled by choron ki barat, Congress on the horse and Maya, Mulayam, Pawar, Marans, Lalu, Kalmadi, Karunanidhi as baratis. Who cares for the subziwal.
印度是被 choron ki barat掌控的，还有国会里的Maya, Mulayam, Pawar, Marans, Lalu, Kalmadi, Karunanidhi 。谁在乎那个菜贩啊？
October 09,2013 at 07:49 AM IST7 Followers
Mumbai has known to be the third class city in the world. My recent visit to Mumbai makes me believe why it is third class. The roads is a complete mess where more than half of the roads are occupied by pedestrians and footpath is occupied by vegetable sellers. The ugly looking yellow black taxis are a cr-ap model of cars with ugly looking drivers with no proper dress. People live, cook and wash under flyovers. Mumbai trains are the dirties example of train in the world. People are manner-less, rude with no civic sense.
Ravindra Dixit(Mumbai) says:
October 09,2013 at 01:29 PM IST29 Followers
Sad but true, all our troubles boil down to this one reality, we have gone too far down the wrong road and course correction would take tremendous effort and courage, but today or tomorrow it has to be done.
Nation Builder (India) says:
October 09,2013 at 01:23 PM IST
In India poor governance is leading to corruption as people feel there is no check and its free for all. Semblance of governance will bring down corruption but then who cares. The government is busy minting its millions, it couldn't be bothered about the subziwalas.
Vijay Tiwari(Darjeeling) says:
October 09,2013 at 03:14 PM IST53 Followers
It is true that current system has produced a sizable corrupt mass and attitude of general society towards these corrupts is not as critical as it should be. Now, we hope that our younger generation will fight by nail and tooth with this evil.
Sunny Bhatia(jaipur) says:
October 09,2013 at 01:58 PM IST1 Follower
Very Truly said., we should first look at ourselves before looking out for others..
younis dar(jammu) says:
October 09,2013 at 10:17 PM IST7 Followers
True, but the qualities of the people seem inherited, and therefore difficult to change. The Chinese were good at hard-work, westerners for their talent and technology, Arabs for their resources. The change of qualities seems to be going against the law of nature as it transpires looking back at the vast history. These qualities can only slightly change, and certainly the power to change oneself is in ones own hands.
dev kumar(gurgaon) says:
October 09,2013 at 08:04 AM IST203 Followers
Chinese Patriotism is the best in the world and their focus is admirable unlike India where every thing from politicians,bureaucracy and Media re very cheap and self serving. Unless we wake up, China will dominate this region all the way.
LD Bhatia (Dekhu) says:
October 09,2013 at 06:08 PM IST
China has the advantage and would always have it because Chinese are more committed to their jobs than the Indians, more proud of their country and always eager to do what they can to make China get more respect among the various countries of the world. Besides Chinese society is not divided into castes and creeds as ours. People of China are Chinese both in their country and abroad while we just show our divisions on various grounds. Corruption as the writer has said is a problem in China also but it does not stand in the way of Chinese doing their duty devotedly which unfortunately we do not do.
October 10,2013 at 05:53 AM IST1 Follower
Every Indian adult, from any walk of life, has a personal experience of corruption. As an NRI, I went through it a few times. Some twenty years ago, I brought a few bunyaans and a packet of shaving blades for my elder brother. At Delhi airport, the official wanted me to pay duty or a bribe.Instead, I gave him a packet of four-letter Punjabi 'gali'. He let me off. At another time, in a taxi rented at Delhi, on way to Punjab, we were stopped by the Haryana Police near Panipat. The driver said his documents/car would be checked on the pretext of legal prohibition then in force. There would be a long wait as the magistrate/DSP were also on duty. I stepped out and shouted at the top of my voice saying a government officer would never bribe an other govt. officer, without telling them that I was an officer in Canada. The ASI passed on the message to the boss and we were let go. The point I am making is young educated Indians have to take a stand, else China, Pakistan and other neighbours would outpace India in progress. The governments, central and provincial, are now neck deep in the morass, and have no interest at all to mend the problem.