Anything that appears bizarre could happen in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous and politically crucial state. Thus it was no surprise to find the state's most-important minister Shivpal Singh Yadav blatantly giving a licence to officials to indulge in corruption.
While addressing a meeting of local officials on Thursday in Etah district, about 300 km from Lucknow, he went to the extent of saying, "Be it the district police, be it officials of all departments, be it tehsil (sub-division) level or block level officials, now listen carefully. The other day, I told the Public Works Department officials that if you work hard then you can steal a little. But do not turn into dacoit. "
And almost instantly turning towards PWD officials, he asked, "Didn't I say that to you?"
As if that was not enough, the minister went on to add, "If you work hard, and put your heart and soul into it; if you give them sweet water then you are allowed to steal some . But remember, this is not be told to the media that your minister is asking us to steal."
Yadav, who is the younger brother of Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav and uncle of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, was regarded as the most powerful man in the State Cabinet. He was in charge of multiple key portfolios -- public works, irrigation, agriculture marketing and co-operatives.
Interestingly, the minister was caught unawares by a TV camera person who continued to quietly keep his camera on even after the photo opportunity for which the meeting was thrown open to the media had concluded.