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Who is right?

April 6, 2013

This morning, newspapers are reporting an illegal (new) building that collapsed in Mumbai. Too many buildings do not measure up to the specified codes for Structural/ Fire safety. Many defy the rules of how much space is to be constructed, margins allowed, and facilities to be provided within. The number is alarmingly high, going by the obvious examples.

If they are saying that 50% of a city is illegal, or something like 90% constructions don’t have requisite permissions; or that much of NCR (larger urban reach of Delhi) is unauthorised, there is something else going on. That brings me to the larger issue of ‘who’ is unlawful – the governed or the government?

A tiny criminal, of any nature, proven guilty or otherwise, is no match for a massive structure that is government. Committing a crime against fellow humans is one thing, but committing a crime against all of them (represented by the state) is another thing altogether. You could fool some of the government for some of the time, but not for a life time of a business (or even a full term of the officer in her/ his office). How could a small entity overpower or outsmart the huge apparatus of government; its ways perfected over years, the collective experience and intelligence thus accumulated and refined?

Just imagine, how long does a person have to live? How much can I gather that a perfected structure cannot? How much more can I amass than that legitimate, taxing, all pervasive and all powerful being? And how many laws could one ordinary fellow keep a tab on? Whether ambitious, corrupt, irreverent or desperate, I always know deep down that the crime against the system is temporary. If the society, as a rule, does not condone and do the same, I am in the ‘wrong’ and stand to pay for my actions.

Even a determined, evil, super-smart individual or business cannot get away with their digressions without the omniscient government looking sideways. Considering the sizes of the two dogs in the fight, my sympathy lies with the subject rather than the ruler. To me, there is little point demonising businesses, corporate houses, individuals or smaller entities, where the biggest change is possible and waiting to be made in government. Really.

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