View from the Bottom
Kaun bana hai crorepati?
After seeing the proliferation of crorepatis (multimillionaires) in Bangladesh, my friend Ijjat Ali Jaigirdar came to my office the other day with a new business plan. This is his penultimate business plan and he vowed success come what may. He was animatedly ecstatic while describing his plan, which he said was the simplest road map to becoming a crorepati in this country.
“What about your readymade garment industry? Aren't you making good money from that business?” I asked him.
“ Yeah…Yeah…I have the factory running …but there is no way my garment industry will make me a crorepati in six months, my friend. It's tough work to open shop at 7 AM and close at 12 midnight.” He said emphatically.
“Ok, Ok, let's hear your plan.” I feigned eagerness.
“Well, I am going to float a new political party with my close relations and friends. I will be the chairperson. I am going to name it Bangladesh Lootera Party. The slogan of the party will be 'We work towards alleviation of poverty”. I stopped him at this point.
“But I know that's a big lie. You are only going to work towards making yourself and your friends and family members rich. So why begin something with a lie?” I asked him.
“Look, friend, I realise that and you understand that. But do the people understand that? No, not at all. They are fools and they wait out there to be fooled by people like us, again and again, every five years. Clever people like you have designed a system you call 'democracy' to make it possible in a poor country like this. Spend some money and they will come running. You have no idea of the level of poverty in the rural areas. This is reality and this is the name of the game. Now, will you let me proceed?” Ijjat Ali was unstoppable.
“Ok, Ok, now tell me about the objective of your political party.”
“That's simple and I have already told you that. I want to be a crorepati in six months, one year at the latest. How is that possible you may ask? Well, go talk to the new lot of crorepatis in the country. Ask them how much they earned in salary or from their business every month before joining politics. Go and check their personal income tax files and see for yourself how much money they paid as tax annually. After that, find out how they became crorepatis in six months to one year. Do you think they have done it by doing any genuine business? Is there any genuine business in Bangladesh that can make-some one a crorepati in six months or one year or even two years? No. But the new crop of crorepatis have become so in a couple of years. How? The answer is simple. They have done it by extorting money from genuine businessmen of the country, which in plain Bangla is known as chandabaji or chhintai.
“Wait, wait, wait, do you mean you and your host of friends and relations will go around the country waylaying people for money?” I was horrified.
“Not like the real robbers and chhintaikaris, no my friend. In politics it is done in a subtle way so that no one can trace it back to you. You find out who has got a big supply or construction contracts and then you telephone the owner of the company asking for ten crore, five crore, two crore and so on. See, you may even become a crorepati in a couple of hours! Like some people did in last five years. It all depends how tough you can be.”
“Look, Ijjat Ali, do you think those who have become crorepatis this way will be able to hold on to their ill-gotten money for long? Aren't they getting caught right and left? Don't you read papers? What if you get caught and sent to jail?” I tried to plead reason.
Ijjat Ali laughed for one whole minute before answering. “I know, I know. But think of it from this angle. Even if I get caught I will get a couple of years prison sentence at best. Because there will be no evidence to keep me in prison for more than two to three years. I might even come out before serving the full term once my party joins the alliance that will form the next government. So, to enjoy twenty to forty crores and its cumulative interest for the rest of my life would I be scared to spend a couple of years in jail? Not at all! I am ready, my friend.”
Ijjat Ali sounded confident. Ijjat Ali seemed determined. Ijjat Ali looked weird. His eyes were wide open and he looked like a strange animal sitting on the chair before me. I got up and opened the door for him. He walked out with an uncanny smile in the corner of his mouth. He did not even say goodbye.
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