Friday, 7 March 2014

Kim's Review : The Bad Boys of Bokaro Jail

"The Bad Boys of Bokaro Jail" is the scariest book I have read in an extremely long time. No, it isn't a Horror Story. Its the Reality of the terror, that is the judicial + media pressure + police system in play in our country today.

When those 2 young girls were imprisoned for one stray status update on their private facebook pages, the whole country took offense, but was it really the whole country? Would the girls have received public support if they lived in a small town in North India instead of Mumbai?

A lot of people talk about 2 India's - and in all our postings and travels across India, we have seen the disparity - whether financial, educational, status of women, access to basic amenities, etc.

What happens when someone from the affluent English speaking, well educated India, gets trapped within the legal system in small town Bokaro in the Hindi Heartland of Jharkand in India? This is exactly what happened to Chetan Mahajan.

It was such a tiny case, that it barely found a mention in the National news or even the English news. The only reason, I even came to know about this incident is "Blue Salt" an imprint established by investigative journalist and author, S Hussain Zaidi, dedicated to crime and noir, co-published by Penguin which has just published his book "The Bad Boys of Bokaro Jail".

Chetan has an MBA from Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University (after one in India) and having spent a couple of years in the US, he is currently the Head of HCL Learning – the learning division of HCL Infosystems Ltd.

However, before joining HCL, he had joined Everonn Coaching Institutes and that is when the events in this book transpired.

According to Chetan, he was barely 3 months into the company (he joined them because Dubai based Gems Group had bought Everonn and seemed to want to turn it around and the skill sets that they needed in senior management, matched his experience and interests) when a few teachers in the Bokaro branch of the coaching institute had suddenly jumped ship to their competition and while substitutes were arranged, the parents of their students wanted their money back immediately.

Chetan headed to Bokaro to reassure the parents that they would all get their money back, but as the seniormost employee on location, the parents caught him, handed him over to the police and wrote out a police complaint against him.

All of this happened on 23 Dec 2012, a Sunday, when banks weren't working and subsequently the courts were on 8-day holiday, so after 24 hours in a police station, he is transferred to a jail for under trials, where he languishes for a month before being released.

The book talks about his experience with corruption at multiple levels, fear of the unknown, rage against his employers, and frustration at the system and its workings. While he does his best to stay positive by exercising, running, reading and remembering his children, the anger and frustration are too much to bear at times.

He ends up spending a month in jail inspite of the best efforts of his family and the institute refunding 100% of the money to almost all the parents. During this time he gets to know some of the other people in jail and does mention a few of their stories here too.

While, the premise and setting is similar, the book is nowhere close to Jeffery Archers Prison Diaries. Yet it is haunting for its brutal exposure of a hapless individual trapped in the Indian legal system by circumstances.

This story is one of those that will continue to haunt me for quite a few years to come. While I myself got out of the Corporate Rat Race a couple of years ago, my husband is still a part of it and being in the telecom industry there are a lot of cases (serious & nuisance) that are filed against the company daily. The telecom industry is often held responsible for issuing sim cards to shooters and terrorists (because the system can trace sim cards but not guns and bombs) - the charge? not conducting adequate background checks and not recognising govt issued id cards as forgeries. So yes, it scares me that he can be jailed on trumped up charges and falsely assigned blame for an incident he may not even be aware of.

All one can do is keep doing the right thing (this alone is no guarantee to not having a case filed against you) trust in God and keep ones fingers crossed that we never have to deal with a situation like this personally.

The larger problem in the country however remains : If someone of Chetans background, family standing (army contacts etc), educational & financial background can be treated like this, what hope is there for the uneducated and the poor who are trapped in this system?

Rating : I can't rate this book fairly at this point of time.

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