(On the railway tracks in Bihar), India--The supremo train in India, called the Rajdhani Express, chugged sluggishly across the chaotic state of Bihar. It was running late by seven hours, which wasn't half bad since other trains were delayed by 15 hours or a day because of the thickening fog.
Angry passengers phoned their relatives to curse and change plans. The bathrooms had become unusable long before the train completed its more than a 24-hour journey from Delhi all the way to the northeastern tea state of Assam. The toilets were not being cleaned.
So when asked about the recent explosion of corruption scandals in the nation, travelers were eager to blast the "system" and its failure to solve the problem. Last year, a telecom scandal robbed the treasury of $40 billion and it is estimated that at least $462 billion was illegally transferred overseas from India between 1948 and 2008. Even the organization of the Commonwealth Games fell prey to big-time swindling.
Arvind Kumar Gupta, a 26-year-old cell phone distributor from the desert state of Rajasthan in the west, said corruption runs from "top to bottom." "Top politicians and junior officers involved in corruption should all be jailed," Gupta said.
"The common man is punished immediately but nothing happens to the leaders we elect," he said. "For everything Laloo Prasad Yadav (the former chief minister of Bihar who is viewed by many to have run the state into the ground) did, he cannot be touched."
Mukesh Garg, a 24-year-old businessman from the state of Sikkim snuggled in the Himalayas, said that every single person in the country needed to change their attitude if corruption had to be stopped.
"Look even to get a ticket for this train, many of us have pulled strings or contacted someone we know," Garg said. "Everyone is cheating in small and big ways because the system allows for it....everyone should be treated equally to get a train ticket."
"Our political leaders have to be clean but so do we," he said.
Satyajit Katti, a 22-year-old engineering student from Assam, suggested that the Indian government should stop printing large money notes like 500 rupees and 1000 rupees.
"Corruption is facilitated by large notes," Katti said, echoing the sentiments of a popular Hindu swami, Baba Ramdev, who has a huge following. "People can't fill sacks with smaller bills and carry them around...it will be too obvious."
"There should also be an independent investigate committee setup that comprises of the most respected people in the country and passes judgment in six months and not 50 years," he added.
Jaswant Singh Chaudhary, 50, also from Assam, suggested that no single politician should be given monopoly access to a chunk of the funds. But more importantly it should be drilled into their heads to prioritize the nation's welfare over their purses.
"They somehow need to really feel and care about the public," he said, pointing out that many of them had criminal records. "But I don't know how they can be made to understand this."
Hari Lal, a 46-year-old railway engineer from the northern and most populous state of Uttar Pradesh with around 170 million people, said that electing the right leaders is a key solution.
Lal pointed out that Bihar's current leader Nitish Kumar had pulled the state from the dregs it was left in by Laloo's long reign from which he eventually resigned due to a multi-million dollar corruption scandal involving the purchase of fodder for fictitious animals.
"If we don't choose the right people, we are doomed," Lal said. "And that will only come with literacy...even now millions people in the villages don't know what corruption is and how it affects us all."
"Instead of using corruption allegations against each other for political mileage, all the parties need to come together to find a solution," chimed in Kush Kumar, a 24-year-old soldier from Delhi. "Otherwise we will stay backward for a very long time."