Must Read: Winning without Corruption by Feroza Seervai
- Must Read: Winning without Corruption by Feroza Seervai
Posted by: "karmayog - tanya" info@...
Thu Jan 6, 2011 12:01 am (PST)
Book Review - Freedom First
WINNING WITHOUT CORRUPTION by Feroza H. Seervai
Published by Public Concern for Governance Trust, B/2, Mahalaxmi Chambers,
22 Bhulabhai Desai Road, Mumbai 400026 .Year of Publication 2006. Pages 84.
Reviewed by Mr. N. Vittal, formerly Chief Vigilance Commissioner, Government
There is a charming legend about how the Zoroastrians who arrived in Sanjan
in south Gujarat from Persia, nearly a thousand years ago got permission to
settle down in our country. The local ruler sent a bowl of milk filled to
the brim to indicate that there was no space in his country. The leader of
the Zoroastrians added sugar and sent the bowl back indicating that like the
sugar sweetening the milk the refugees would merge with the local society
and add value to it. The Parsees have been true to this spirit over the
centuries. I wonder whether there is any other community in the world where
so much contribution in so many spheres of human activity have come from so
This 84 page booklet by Feroza H. Seervai, who was married to the late H. M.
Seervai, former Advocate General of Maharashtra, is a delightful example of
the Zoroastrians' spirit of holding high values and displaying the never say
die spirit. Corruption in public life is a sad reality of India today, but
so long as there are people like Feroza H Seervai, there is hope. This
booklet is very elegantly written, full of anecdotes but with a common
serious thread. The entire message of the booklet has been spelt out in the
Epilogue. In short, this book is a distilled essence of the wisdom of Feroza
who for 60 years has been a voluntary social worker and who have been
winning without leading to corruption. Her advice for action is clear. To
list a few:
1. Be prepared to give time and effort.
2. Do intensive homework, i.e. study the matter thoroughly
3. Persist, persist and persist. Don't give up and don't give in when
obstacles appear ( almost a flow back to Churchill's advice to the
students of his alma mater, never give up, never give up, never never
4. Seek transparency, for the citizen has the right to know; exercise your
right to information.
5. Recognize different types of corruption, and don't offer to do a
favour if or when your work is done, for the official has done no
more than he or she is there to do - but at the same time be sure
you are not asking for more than what ought to be done.
6. Argue with facts and figures - in this your homework is crucial.
7. See the top person concerned with the business in hand; do not be fobbed
off by underlings, who are naturally not authorized to make necessary
8. Whenever you suspect that unauthorized work is being carried out
somewhere, apply to the relevant authorities, to know whether the
requisite sanction was sought, is pending or was granted."
Feroza's never say die spirit and commitment to be on the side of good
against evil comes through, even though she underlines the fact that she is
an atheist. One charming aspect of this book is the anecdotes sprinkled
across with interesting insights. Take her encounter with the redoubtable
Morarji Desai. Ata party, attended by the then Chief Minister, Morarji
Desai, she introduced her husband Homi Seervai, who had till then not met
him. "I said to Mr. Desai, "Would you like me to introduce to you our new
Advocate General?" Mr. Desai turned to (or should I say turned on?) Homi and
said, "Earlier this year, your wife gave me a threat!" Homi with his
customary calmness, replied, "Well, Sir, I quite agreed with the view she
On a much earlier occasion, 'when the Mantralaya building was yet to be the
seat of the state government, and Morarji Desai then Finance Minister,sat in
the old Secretariat (now the City Civil Court Building), Feroza had occasion
to meet him a few times'- "I can't remember for what purpose. I kept arguing
with him. Then he asked me, 'Did you teach your husband to argue, or did he
teach you?' I answered, 'We both had Professor D' Andrade as teacher, and I
also had Dr. Lawande as my professor"
Above all, this is a very timely and effective actionpacked book. It has a
message of optimism and explodes many of the pessimistic myths hleld by many
people in the country today. For example after her successful defence of
Princess Victoria Mary Gymkhana's land, she sums up: "This is how at every
step, we dispelled the superstitions that there could not be a successful
outcome in Government matters without inducements; that the long arm of the
Government and Municipal Machinery can squeeze its citizens - in particular,
elderly ladies - and that Government and the Municipal Corporation can have
it their way at every turn".
Right through this little booklet, the charming doughty personality of
Feroza Seervai shines through and leaves the reader in a spirit of cheerful
optimism and greater determination in fighting corruption.