Rasheeda Bhagat

Where values go for a six

RASHEEDA BHAGAT | Updated on May 27, 2013 Published on May 27, 2013

A blow to cricket. — V. Ganesan

Confronted with overwhelming levels of corruption, who can blame Indians for losing faith in religion, sorry, cricket?

A small survey about Indians done by the Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism has found that Indians are losing faith in religion. Against 87 per cent saying in 2005 that they are religious, in 2013, the percentage has fallen to 81. But even with this drop we are rather high on the religiosity index, with only three per cent calling themselves “atheist” against 47 per cent in China, 30 per cent in France and 29 per cent in Japan.

But this column in not about religion or religiosity. It is about the appalling levels of corruption into which we as Indians seem to be sinking. If we were to do a chart of what aspect of life in India is untouched by corruption, it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Confronted with such colossal and overwhelming levels of corruption, who can blame Indians for losing their faith in religion?

IPL mess

First, there is the sickening saga of the present IPL season. ‘Spot-fixing’ and match-fixing are not unknown in global sports. But no country in the world can compete with the sickening regularity with which corruption charges surface and resurface in the cesspool called Indian cricket.

It had to be cricket because with our maddening craze for this game, mega bucks are involved here… from bidding for players to television rights. And from the very beginning, all didn’t seem to be well with the IPL.

Gradually, a lot of muck came to the fore and the IPL’s primary architect Lalit Modi, ensnared in all kinds of allegations of corruption, had to flee the country to escape whatever little punishment the corrupt get in our country.

All hell has broken loose in the present season too, with Sreesanth and two other Rajasthan Royals players being implicated in serious ‘spot-fixing’ charges.

More muck has now come out with Gurunath Meiyappan, Chennai Super Kings’ (CSK) team owner-cum-CEO-cum-principal-cum enthusiast, admitting to not only betting heavily on the matches but later sharing vital team information with a bookie in order to make up his “heavy losses”. BCCI chief N. Srinivasan has dug his heels in and refused to quit, the refrain of his song being “I have done no wrong”.

So badly shaken was the cricket-crazy Indian public’s confidence in the integrity of our cricketers that, well before the IPL final between the CSK and Mumbai Indians (MI) began on Sunday, opinions were freely being expressed on how the MI team would emerge victorious as the Ambanis had deeper pockets than Srinivasan! Every CSK wicket that fell, a couple to some really rash shots, looked like a fix.

The coming days are going to unfold a lot more seamy stuff on the Indian cricket fans being taken down the garden path. Not too many of them will be amused at the sleep, and lung power — for both cheering or cursing — they have lost for watching matches that might have been fixed.

All pervasive

But the corruption that has devastated the IPL is only one facet of this hydra-headed monster in India. Has any aspect of our lives escaped its wide-reaching and debilitating tentacles? Education and health care are no longer services in India; they are multi-billion rupee businesses. Those setting up educational institutions have to bribe various arms of the government for the necessary permits and those seeking admission have to pay either huge capitation fees or below-the-table bribes.

The same is the case when it comes to setting up and running hospitals, and the corruption cost is in-built into the cost of services we get, pushing quality health care far beyond the reach of the common man. Forget government contracts and jobs, registration of real estate or vehicles, where corruption reigns supreme, even to get a birth, death or community certificate, palms have to be greased.

How 81 per cent of Indians still retain their faith in religion is a mystery. Don’t our gods or goddesses ever punish the guilty, apart from, of course, in our movies?

Have you ever wondered at the timing of the IPL newsbreak? Bang on the heels of the two scams in the ruling dispensation — Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal’s Ministry putting a price tag of Rs 10 crore on a Railway Board post and Law Minister Aswani Kumar tampering with CBI findings. Once Sreesanth & Co came on board, almost the entire media, particularly our 24x7 news channels lost all interest in the UPA’s mega scams and turned the spotlight on the IPL. After all, political stories can get only this many million eyeballs. Youngsters would shrug and swap channels running political stories. But cricket? Ah, that’s another cup of tea. It has so many heroes and gods. And, just like our film industry, the success of some of our cricketing heroes can launch a billion dreams.

Shameful, disgusting

So on Twitter, Facebook and rest of the virtual world, in the last one week, there has been mayhem. Imaginative Facebook pages of Guru, Srini Mama and the rest of the cricketing gang have surfaced.

But while the tweeples had their fun, a glaring and most distasteful aspect of us as a people has raised its ugly head yet again. On Monday, trending on Twitter was the obesity-related medical problem of an Ambani scion.

The crass jokes about his weight were shameful. Even though there were enough people berating such cruelty, many more nasty jokes were made about his weight leaving one feeling sorry for the youngster.

Surely something is wrong with us as a people. While despairing at corruption in our government, trade, industry, education, health care and the life, we also need to introspect on our changing value systems, growing insensitivity and the mindless importance we give to physical appearances. Honestly, we need to get a life… if this is the power of the social media, reverting back to snail mail days might not be a bad idea.

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Published on May 27, 2013
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