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Book Review: Namak Ka Daroga by Munshi Premchand

Namak Ka Daroga (Salt Inspector) is a short story by the legendary Indian writer Munshi Premchand. The core theme of the story is the price of honesty. The story is set during the British era, in those days salt was heavily taxed and people literally started smuggling it to make hefty profits.

Vanshidhar is a young man from a modest middle-class family. His father is of the opinion that extra income other than the meager salary is a blessing from god. And this extra income can shoo away all their financial worries they are facing with. On the advice of his father, Vanshidhar takes up the job of a salt inspector in the government’s salt department. Though his father told him to accept bribe, he preferred to remain an honest man, an honest officer.

One night on a bridge over the Yamuna River, Vanshidhar catches the sight of vehicles crossing the bridge for smuggling purpose. He objects and then the owner Pundit Alopodin offers him heavy price for letting him go, but Vanshidhar remains adamant on his decision. Instead of the money being offered to him, he chooses to be an honest government officer. Pundit Alopodin is a very wealthy man with immense influence over the local public and government officials, though it is a different story that Vanshidhar didn’t get persuaded by him. He arrests Pundit Alopodin.

As expected at the trial, Pundit Alopodin bribed the judiciary and in return got Vanshidhar transferred on the charges of misbehaving with him by showing his official power. This incident lowers the honesty and integrity of Vanshidhar, thus he returns home sadly. His father is not happy with him at all. He expected him to take bribe and be rich, but he did just the opposite.

Unexpectedly one fine day, Pundit Alopodin arrives at his home and offers him the position of manager of his wealth with perks like bungalow, servants and other benefits. The end of the story was bit predictable but the message it carries is very strong. People need to believe that honesty does pay.


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