Three events in the three days of my visit to home this weekend, away from my routine works at UNICEF, make me repeat that all is not well in the country. Let me start with 23 July.
Event 1: After landing at Kolkata, I took a ticket for an Express train, and got into Kanchankanya Express that usually has few empty seats that gets filled up from Bolpur. So, if one wishes to have a reservation till Bolpur one can ask for upgrading the ticket to a reserved one. I met the Ticket Examiner and asked for such upgradation, and he checked his chart and told me to sit at Coat S7, Seat 28. I took the seat. After we had completed more than two hours of the 3 hr journey, the Ticket Examiner, asked me for 100 rupees, ticked off my ticket, and started walking. I asked him what about the confirmation note he is to give. He said, "That would cost more. But why do you need it? You are nearly at your destination." He just didn't stop. He had gone past. I never saw him again. Lesson 1: Corruption that was much less just couple of years ago in my experience at least in Indian railways is once again looking up.
Event 2: 26 July, Sunday. I went to the local market to buy some green vegetables. I purchased for 250 rupees. The bad I had carried wasn't even half full ! Unbelievable. I returned feeling, this has never happened. Cost of vegetables have never been so bad. Lesson 2: All is not good, neither for consumers nor for small vendors.
Event 3: 26 July, Sunday. At 8.00 pm I caught the Jaynagar-Howrah passenger train that was running nearly 4 hours late to travel to Kolkata from Bolpur. There were two families who were discussing among themselves about their poverty. These families were from a place called Murarai, on the Bengal - Bihar border in central part of State of West Bengal. They were terribly anguished. The first man was sharing that he had to pay 20,000 rupees as commission to get 70,000 rupees for his legally allotted house under the Indira Awaz Yojana (housing scheme of the government for poor). The second one said, his daughter lost a job as Anganwadi worker (as assistant to cook food) under the ICDS scheme, because they were asked to pay 75,000 rupees in advance as cash to guarantee the job. Which they could not. And the job went to someone who could afford to pay up. I joined in to ask, "Why, wasn't the corruption has always been there?". They said, "When the communists were ruling at least the poor wouldn't be asked to cough up, or would be let off with a request for a small donation to the party. But now, it is very straight: either you pay up or make way for one who can afford.". Lesson 3: There is a need to fight corruption at every level by every ministry and person.