Column | Let me swear them in

I am excellent at saying ‘I’. Happily, it is also the most important word for the swearing-inner

Updated - June 14, 2024 12:19 pm IST

Published - June 14, 2024 10:34 am IST

President Droupadi Murmu flanked by Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and foreign dignitaries

President Droupadi Murmu flanked by Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and foreign dignitaries | Photo Credit: PTI

Watching the grand ceremony on June 9, I couldn’t help thinking I’d make a great swearing-inner. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be President. All I’m saying is they could hire someone like me for the actual, physical part of the job, like the Railways hires caterers to feed passengers.

I’m not seeking a permanent job. A contractual position with no PF, no holidays, and no fixed working hours is also fine. I would do this for free, except that it might give the impression anyone could do it. Anyone can’t. I’m sure Mahatma Gandhi would be hopeless at administering oaths — he was too obsessed with truth.

I, on the other hand, have what it takes. First of all, I am excellent at saying ‘I’. My wife says the most common word out of my mouth is ‘I’. Happily, it is also the most important word for the swearing-inner. Since I have a lifetime of practice, there would be zero chance of stuttering, stumbling or mispronunciation.

Not a one-person job

As for compensation, I’m willing to settle for ₹50,000 per ‘I’ per minister. With two ‘I’s per minister — one for the oath of office and one for the oath of secrecy — I would have earned a modest ₹72 lakh on June 9. Friends who know about my unique talent tell me I should charge different rates for different categories of public officials. The highest rate should be for the President, which could be ₹2 crore, since it is a matter of national prestige. India might be a poor country, but you don’t want a cheap oath-administrator at a ceremony attended by ORS-sipping oligarchs.

The next highest slab would be for the Prime Minister, set at ₹1.5 crore. In case a prime minister-designate has a massive ego and takes umbrage at being sworn in at a lower rate than someone else, I don’t mind accepting an extra ₹51 lakh. But that has to be in cash, as there obviously can’t be a money trail if we are bending the protocol. Some Marxist types may find this remuneration too high for an evening’s work. But do consider that swearing-in is the most important act of a public official. No cabinet minister can do a single thing — no one will even pay them a bribe — unless they do this first.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves after taking oath, at Rashtrapati Bhavan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves after taking oath, at Rashtrapati Bhavan | Photo Credit: PTI

Thinking ahead, I also conducted an oath-taker survey across states and Union Territories. Turns out, swearing in is not a one-person job. There are way too many posts and I can’t be everywhere at once. Even if I could, what about my carbon footprint? So, I would need a Secretariat, like the NHRC. We could call it the National Commission for Swearing-In (NCSI), headed by the Swearing-In-Chief (me). The NSCI would have mini-secretariats in every state, and a staff of 2,000 to serve filter coffee, rava dosa, and ras malai to visitors.

Some people feel the NSCI head should be chosen by a three-member committee consisting of the prime minister, leader of the Opposition and a prominent crony capitalist. I disagree. I feel the judicial model would work better to preserve my automoney. So I was thinking I could be appointed India’s Swearing-In-Chief by a collegium, consisting of my uncle, my aunt, and my gastroenterologist.

Who do you bear allegiance to?

By the way, I find the entire process, as it stands currently, outdated, and one size fits all. Not every minister-designate believes in God, or in the Constitution, for that matter. How does it help to make an unbeliever and/or closet Constitution-hater “swear in the name of God” that he will bear true allegiance to the Constitution of India and that he “will do right to all manner of people in accordance with the Constitution and the law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will”.

Once I’m appointed, the first thing I’d do is customise the pro forma text for each individual based on his character and political history. If I find that he loves his mother and adores kickbacks, I’d edit his oath such that he swears “on my mother” instead of “in the name of God”, and that if he ever found himself or his colleagues doing corrupt things, he would send all the evidence to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

History has shown us — through countless scams — that public servants don’t always “do right” or follow the Constitution. Guess why? It’s because they weren’t sworn in right. All I’m saying is, let me fix this.

The author of this satire is Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu.

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