Dec 08, 2023
Dec 08, 2023
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.
|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.|
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.
In Mumbai where I had applied, in the time that I waited for my slot, I must have seen at least five people trying to get in by bribing the guard. It just set me thinking that the guards have to be extremely honest souls to be able to resist the lure of the bribe. Either that or the cameras coupled with the risk of losing the job if caught accepting bribes, did the job of stopping the corruption at this step. Next was the queue for checking the papers required with the application form. Here too, the moment the staff announced that the papers were not complete, one heard the same question – can we not compromise? After this hurdle were the other processes involved in the passport application. Here too, I heard most of the people complaining that earlier they just had to catch an agent, pay him some money and the job would be done. It was so much easier and it took lesser time, if you had the money. Of course nobody had any comment about the other people who, in the past, stood in the queue for hours together & had to come back another day for completing the process. And when it came to Police verification, I must say that the Police too were very professional about it. But here too I noticed a couple of people who had not managed to get the correct papers and they too said the same thing: “Earlier we never had to step into the Police Station … it was all arranged. So much simpler; give money and forget all the headaches of paperwork.”
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.
It is the same story everywhere; if one has to stand in a queue, one wants to find a way to avoid the queue. If possible, one tries to butter one’s way to the front of the queue; if not, one tries to bribe one’s way through. Look at admissions to educational institutions. Almost every trustee worth his salt will say how difficult it is to try not to be corrupt. Every year the trustees are bombarded with parents who will do anything to get their child in the institution of their choice. Once the child is in, the same parents will complain how they had to bribe a trustee to achieve success and how education in India has reached its nadir. One wonders how these parents hope that their children will achieve great heights when the foundation that they have laid is based on corrupt practices.
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?
There are no easy solutions to destroying the evil of corruption. Easy procedures, one window solution for every application, strict disciplinary action on the corrupt people, all will help in reducing corruption in our country. But the best solution, in the meantime, is to be patient enough to go through the work without succumbing to the pressure of getting one’s work done immediately. One must discipline oneself to follow procedures without wanting to break the line, so to say. Only then can we hope to become a corrupt-free nation. Do not give bribes and only then say “do not take bribes”.
More by : Rati Hegde
|The scenario is bleak, malaise is deep and the cure remote.|
|Shiv ... it may have begun with the caste structure, but it has permeated all levels of caste and class. That is the unfortunate truth about today's India. But another fact is also that there is now a resurgent conscience thanks to Anna Hazare ... I only hope that there is a change for the better while this conscience is still heard.|
|Rati, I agree with the attitude of Indians especially the middle/upper class who are the most complaining lot.This bunch will never know manual work, think it infra dig to carry their own bags or clean their own plates.This is rooted in hindu caste structure, higher the caste greater the dependency on others for cleaning their own "shit".These are the people who are ready to jump queues,bribe ensuring all the rules and regulations are undermined.They will also have the temerity to tell us that corruption is a way of life, cannot be changed.Imagine if the world cricket body had allowed the use of "coolies" india would have produced many fast bowlers.It is said that many Indian cricketers of 50s/60s/70s generation will not come to field after lunch and send 12th man to do this, Dileep sardesai was one prime example.These are the same people who sit in important positions and destroy the country.|