Taj Ka Tender

Play shows how nexus between elected representatives, contractors, public interest agitants and litigants, commission agents, government officials have seeped into the system to create a quid pro quo and sharing of spoils system.

Written by July 10, 2019 15:11

The title itself is metaphorical as masses truly believe that inimitable Taj Mahal can never be made through the modern infamous tender process presently adopted for constructing public buildings. In fact, in public consciousness, these three words have come to constitute somewhat of an oxymoron.

It is a satirical play about how post-independence government bureaucracy and construction machinery has perfected a procedure to mint money and milk the system, causing heavy time and cost overruns virtually in all public works. It is also a stinging comment on the current L-1 or lowest tenderer system adopted for public works. Every Indian is convinced that Taj couldn’t have been constructed under this system.

Play shows how nexus between elected representatives, contractors, public interest agitants and litigants, commission agents, government officials have seeped into the system to create a quid pro quo and sharing of spoils system.

Interestingly, the play merges the medieval and modern public administration highlighting (a) invariable completion of public works on schedule specially where the medieval ruler was personally interested (b) contrasting that with the flaws of current system’s apparent lack of accountability coupled with abounding corruption. Of course, plotline oversimplifies as corruption in Mansabdari/Jagirdari system also existed and actually felled the Mughal empire.

Play interestingly weaves current issues like monetization, swach bharat abhiyan, Kejriwal, abki baar 300 paar etc. for humour. For real effect of modern office lingo, some expletives are included. To highlight nepotism, Dara Shukoh is named as head of Municipality,

Taj Ka Tender shows how Emperor Shahjehan would have simply died waiting for first glimpse of the Taj, if made in modern India. Play shows how, despite giving free hand, even he couldn’t have prosecuted his own bureaucracy due to primacy of procedures of PWD and protection of bureaucracy under the Constitution.

Director Chitranjan Tripathi’s play highlights Max Weber ‘s fear of bureaucracy becoming dysfunctional and self-perpetuating by putting primacy of procedures over goal actualization.

Set design is kept simple with typical office table, revolving chair etc. The medieval effect is conveyed through Shahjehan’s royal robe only. His security entourage is imparted modern impact through black suits and dark glasses. The props of cell phones (even by Shahjehan), briefcase for bribe (not that famous one crore suitcase), sarkari old black phone are interestingly infused to create modern and medieval mix.

The play is simply carried on acting prowess of Suresh Sharma. Shanawaz Khan does a good caricature of Shah Jehan. Deep Kumar as contractor and Sikandra Kumar as agitationist are fine. The lady elected representative from rural cow belt asking for her slice of pie in the prize spoils is also good.

Play is a revisit of an individual going through rigmarole of bureaucratic process to get a pension in the famous film ‘Death of a Bureaucrat’ (by Tomas Alea) with difference, that here Emperor Shahjahan dies waiting for over twenty years for the Taj project to even take off.