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Must Read: Winning without Corruption by Feroza Seervai

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  • Thiagarajan
    Must Read: Winning without Corruption by Feroza Seervai Posted by: karmayog - tanya info@karmayog.org Thu Jan 6, 2011 12:01 am (PST) Book Review - Freedom
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 6, 2011
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      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


      Published by Public Concern for Governance Trust, B/2, Mahalaxmi Chambers,
      22 Bhulabhai Desai Road, Mumbai 400026 .Year of Publication 2006. Pages 84.
      Price: Rs.180

      Reviewed by Mr. N. Vittal, formerly Chief Vigilance Commissioner, Government
      of India

      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
      give up!)
      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.

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