So the Indian govt. has succumbed to the blackmail of Mr. Mallya and the British govt.’s exaggerated and misguided sense of human rights. The King of Good Times has now ensured that the good times shall continue in Arthur Road jail: he has been assured a separate cell, with TV and attached toilet (western style, if you please), an east facing window and a private courtyard for his perambulations. There is no mention yet of facilities such as order-in dinners, ACs or weekly trysts with bunnies but these will doubtless follow. Why on earth did our govt. give in to the British view that the upper crust are entitled to a higher standard of human rights than the ordinary citizen? Why did it not insist that a prisoner is not entitled to ask for anything more than basic and hygienic living conditions, decent food, access to health care, safety and security? Was it because the different standards for V.I.P inmates already exist in India and Mallya was simply asking for the obvious, or was it because of an eye on the 2019 elections – get Mallya back at any cost and use it to hoover in the votes? A bit of both, I suspect.
The Jail Manual, folks, is for you and me; the VIPs are governed by another edition of the book which is not in the public domain. Sahara Shri is reported to have had a pretty free run in Tihar and was even provided conference facilities with his minions: so naturally he was in no hurry to pay up (he still hasn’t, I believe). I’m told (unconfirmed) that Mr. D Raja of 2G fame had a special block (or cottage) where he was served bed tea on the lawns every morning, provided newspapers, and had dosa and idli delivered from his home. We’ve all read Sashikala’s Madam Pompadour like life style in a Karnataka jail: the plucky lady DIG who alleged that a few undemonetised crores changed hands to facilitate this was promptly shunted out. “Bahubalis” in Bihar, like Anand Mohan Singh and Shahbuddin have their own suites in prison with libraries, personal cook and gym. Mr. Lalu Yadav is allowed to spend most of his incarceration in various hospitals; currently in the Ranchi Medical College hospital post a fistula condition, he has now sought a private ward/room because the general ward room has mosquitoes and is within hearing distance of various barking dogs. He will get his request, I’m confident – a fistula (real or imagined) will get you constipation but it can get a VIP prisoner an air conditioned ward. And all this is at the taxpayers’ expense, naturally. They rob us when they are out of prison, and when they are in it!
This is the reality of India, islands of affluence in prison for the affluent, amidst the most inhuman conditions for others.The British govt. obviously knows this, and it’s not going to change in our lifetimes. So here’s my suggestion: lets accept it, legitimise it, do away with the cloak and dagger opacity, stop bankrupting the state to serve these millionaire criminals, and allow the underhand crores to flow to the govt. coffers rather than to various jailors and ADGs (Prisons). Forget the concept of “punishment”- that’s for (you guessed it first time) you and me. For the VIPs its all about scoring political goals or self-goals, mutual back scratching, a window dressing of “justice” to impress the voter: for them jail is only a temporary holding pen till the Rs. 20 lakh-a-day lawyers can spring them from the can. After all, we do have a glorious record of legitimising corruption: the “facilitation fee” for contracts, the “liaison officers” (usually retired senior govt. and defence officers), the “middlemen”, the “agents”, the exorbitant divali “gifts”, Mr. Jaitley’s electoral bonds and so on.
In the days to come, now that the code of omerta among politicians has broken down, we will (hopefully) see many Mallya clones go to jail – bankers, politicians, bureaucrats, fat cat industrialists, maybe even a well connected sexual offender or two. Many of them will have suddenly discovered the attractions of the UK, USA, Finland, Antigua etc. and decamp with the odd billion or so, and will need to be dragged back, screaming about their human right to loot and defraud. Why spend crores of our hard earned tax revenues on (failing to) getting them extradited, or on engaging expensive lawyers to argue in the Supreme court that hydrocele is not water in the brain but in the nuts and is not life threatening, and therefore does not entitle that crooked Chief Minister to be shifted from Gonda central jail to a Medanta luxury ward. There is a simpler solution, one from which the govt. can actually MAKE money: TIHAR REGENCY., an exclusive hotel in Tihar jail, on the lines of the seven star hostelry in Saudi Arabia where the crown prince Salman recently incarcerated his billionaires till they agreed to cough up part of the country’s embezzled GDP.
This is an idea whose time has come, and it is simplicity itself: Construct a five star hotel in Tihar jail itself (the name Tihar Regency has a nice ring to it), with all facilities: suites, conference rooms, wi-fi, restaurants, health clubs for our VIP detainees and make them pay through their nose (or fistulas) for it. There can even be special packages for them: “Corporate package” for private sector honchos, a “Nuptial package” for those who take their conjugal duties seriously, a “Law Maker’s package” for the increasing umber of legislators with criminal cases against them, a “Serial Offender’s” package for those who just can’t help themselves. There could even be loyalty points for those who keep coming back to the jail, and discounts for family groups.The whole concept would be an advertising company’s dream– CONVICTED? NO PROBLEM – UNWIND AT TIHAR REGENCY, or ACCHE DIN BEGINS AT TIHAR REGENCY or TIHAR REGENCY – THE DESTINATION FOR MOVERS, SHAKERS AND FAKERS. The hotel would be an instant success, for it would have a captive (excuse the pun) market. Not only would the JTDC (Jail Tourism Development Corporation) make crores but the other benefits too would be enormous: no more bribes to jailors, no more false medical certificates, no more court dockets clogged with parole applications, instant extradition of all 121 absconding fat cats now that their “human rights” to a luxurious life style would be assured. In fact, some of the inmate-guests may not want to come out, which has to be a good thing for the nation. Why, we may even have hordes of fugitives from other nations making advance reservations at the hotel, a reverse brain-drain as it were, preferring it to the hell holes of the countries looted by them. If offered to Mr. Mallya with a bottle of Kingfisher beer he may even agree to fund the hotel; if he refuses the govt. could always approach Nirav Modi or Choksi, if it can find them, that is.
The idea would be a win-win for everyone, except of course the common citizen. But then who gives a damn about him in any case.