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Doing Away with Corruption – Are We Ready?
|by Rati Hegde|
Last month I had to do a lot of work associated with Government agencies. I had to apply for a Passport, get the address on my Voters Id card changed, get my Bank Passbook updated and also get my MTNL phone repaired. Other than the Bank Passbook, I remember either using the services of an agent or giving a little for ‘chai-paani’ in the past for getting my papers processed. Most Indians must have gone through the same process as I did in the past. But this time around, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was no question of involving an agent or greasing any palms to get my work done. But on the flip side, I had to do all the paperwork and other related work myself. And this is where I realized how addicted we Indians are to bribing! It was also an eye-opener to the reasons why India has become such a corrupt nation.
Let us take a look at the Passport application process. It involves filling up one’s data online, taking an appointment, submission of all the relevant papers and finally after approval of the papers, a police verification. All systematic procedures, very much simplified and professionally done by all the people involved. In any other first world country this would probably be treated as a perfectly legitimate process & we Indians too toe the line when it comes to our dealing with western nations (for visa procedures, for example), but in India we behave like the Government is harassing us. The impunity with which we ask “Thoda mandoli nahi ho sakta hai kya?” (can we not compromise?) is unbelievable. If one reaches late for the appointment and the guard asks the person to re-apply for an appointment, the first solution seems to be bribing the guard.
The point I wish to bring to the attention of the readers is that all these dialogues were not said by poor, uneducated people, who genuinely had a problem filling in the forms or submitting the documents. It was the rich, educated middle class. The same class which is complaining left and right about corruption. The people, who are outwardly supporting Anna Hazare and saying that government agencies are the breeding holes of corruption, are the very ones who have no patience to get rid of it. They do not want to waste their time filling in the forms, standing in queues, bring in multiple copies of their papers, or go to more than one desk for submitting their papers. The common man today has become so accustomed to paying his way through the maze of forms and files, that he does not want to sort out those files and forms systematically without any complaint or attempt to bribe. He has no time for such niceties.
Most of us do not want to take ‘No’ for an answer. While I do agree that given our population, it is difficult to get our work done on time, but that should not be the reason for our embracing the culture of corruption. We need to learn to be more systematic in our work and our personal life.
In most middle class households children grow up thinking that any work which is time consuming should be done by another person. This is true for all kinds of work, whether it is housework or paperwork. If a room has to be cleaned, get the maid to do it. If a telephone bill has to be paid, get the peon to do it. “Pay somebody a little money and get the work done without any tension” seems to be the mantra that everybody follows. While this has helped in increasing employment, it has also led to corruption. And when the person on duty is constantly lured and tempted to accept a bribe, especially for small matters, it is just a matter of time when he succumbs to it. Our attitude of looking for a compromise on matters of importance too has brought this country to this sorry state of affairs. When a building is faulty, it is the duty of the municipal corporation to disapprove of it. But when you have a case of hundreds of buildings being built on compromised materials, just once picture in your mind the municipal official being bribed day in and day out, you will realize how difficult it must be to avoid taking the bribe. After all, with the runaway inflation, no man is a saint. So who is more at fault here – the bribe giver or the bribe taker?
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