The pandit and the fixer

If we can “fix” even the planets and gods with “presents”, no wonder we consider it only natural to offer presents to those in lower levels of authority to bend their ear. And just as we pay the priest, it is the “fixer” that we pay to get a favour from the politician or bureaucrat

 Dear Dadu

I am upset and indeed disgusted with the parasitical class of people who “fix” things as middlemen.

These “fixers” seem to be intelligent and even educated. But they do nothing useful or productive. They grow fat like leeches by taking money from anyone and everyone, rich or poor, just because they control or have access to politicians or bureaucrats.

Though the middleman’s fee is lower if what needs to be done is legal or even the duty of people in authority, there is no problem with organizing something entirely illegal and even immoral in our country if one is prepared to pay the right fee to the right “fixer”.

Why do we tolerate these middlemen? Should they not all be exterminated like leeches?




Dear Shiv

I love your youthful anger against this class of people. If only a small number of us Indians were equally outraged, these “fixers” would indeed disappear.

But let us think through the situation coolly so that we can understand the problem and address it at its root.

PrSasiwithhisfatherIf our legal system were able to identify and even hang all of today’s “fixers”, another group of “fixers” would immediately spring up tomorrow because the root problem would not be fixed. Why would this happen? What is the root problem?

Another group of fixers would spring up because this system of fixers is organized by the politicians and bureaucrats themselves. The excuse is that, in our country, because our resources are “limited” and demands on the resources great, politicians and bureaucrats need to have their secretaries (or relatives, or someone else who is reliable) filter out time-wasters and other hopeless cases. In an immoral culture like ours, it does not take a long time for the “filter” to become the “fixer”, if a suitable amount of money appears.

What do I mean by saying that our culture is immoral in this regard? Well, think of something simple like marriage. Our clever priests and pandits have persuaded us that the planets govern each life and that there should be compatibility in the planets governing two people who are to be married. If the planets do not match, then a suitable fee to a priest or pandit can usually be arranged by which he does some religious hocus-pocus, causing the planets to become aligned – at least according to the priest. And it is not only our “planets” that can be mollified in this manner. Even our gods can be bribed to give us the boon of health, or a job, or whatever. Of course, we cannot do the hocus-pocus to the gods and planets ourselves. It has to be done by the priest – he is the person “qualified” to do the hocus-pocus for us, and we pay him to do so.

Any favour for a fee

If we can “fix” even the planets and gods with suitable “presents”, no wonder we consider it only natural, and even right and fitting, to offer presents to those in lower levels of authority (politicians and bureaucrats) in order to bend their ear. And just as we pay the priest, not the god or planet, so it is the “fixer” that we pay to get a favour from the politician or bureaucrat. It would usually be beneath the dignity of the politician or bureaucrat to discuss the fee for small, ordinary or routine favours, so that sort of thing is handled by the fixer. The story of Sudama reminds us that the giving of fees to gatekeepers, intermediaries and fixers goes back to times immemorial in our culture.

However, the money does not all go into the pocket of the fixer; it gets shared upwards by the politician or bureaucrat (as well as downwards by others in the system, in order to ensure their loyalty and keep them quiet). The exception to all this is that the politician or bureaucrat has to get involved herself or himself in the discussion of the fee if anyone wants a big, unusual or illegal favour. In this case, the “fee” cannot go entirely into the pocket of the politician or bureaucrat; it has to be shared with the fixer as well as with others down the chain in the system.

In other words, the “fixer” only appears to be the problem. He or she is not the problem. The problem starts with the politician or bureaucrat, and it involves everyone in that office or department (if there are any honest people, they are usually sidelined or transferred to another place, or kicked out of their jobs on some excuse or other). In the old days, one got into the system on the basis of merit, and was then corrupted by the system. Now the system is so corrupt that, in many places, you don’t even get into the system on merit. You get in by paying a fee.

You can see that the problem is not merely that of getting rid of today’s “fixers”. The challenge is to reform the entire system, root and branch. Our traditional culture simply does not have the resources to do this – as can be seen by what is happening in the RSS, in the VHP and in the BJP.

However, the system can be reformed. In my next letter I will discuss why that is, and how we can do so.

But for the moment, let me close with my love.



Published in the March 2016 issue of the Forward Press magazine

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