Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fostering corruption

The other day when a friend was buying some sweets, a couple of Sales Tax officers in mufti, walked into the shop. They caught the shop owner selling sweets without a bill. The shop owner immediately barked at his assistants to pack the best available sweets and pressed it into the sales tax officer’s hands. He wouldn't take a "no" from them and with great humility insisted that they take the sweet. He was finally let off with a severe warning. The officers were clearly disarmed by the shop owner’s affable and courteous behavior. But they were not too happy to let him off the hook.

I have heard of several such incidents. Officials saying ‘no’ to a bribe but being gently coaxed to take it by people who want to be let off the hook. We are so used to calling government servants corrupt that that we fail to realize that it is we who make them corrupt by paying them to bend laws on our behalf.

How did corruption start? It surely did not start with the government employee getting up one fine day and exclaiming in surprise and delight at his powers and making a resolution to use his gift to the fullest extent!!

Corruption would have begun when people realized the advantages a government servant had and bribed him to avail of those advantages. I am sure people who bribe know the system better than the people who take bribe!

Recently I went with SP to the Indiranagar RTO. This RTO was a hot bed of corruption a few years ago, mostly due to touts and the driving school mafia running a thriving racket here. A Lok Ayukta raid changed all that. This RTO became one of the cleanest and most efficient RTO overnight. I know because I got my bike license from here.

SP was through with the DL in record time without paying anything except the DL fees. On the other hand, there were some people whom we saw bribing a reluctant and clearly apprehensive official to push their papers a little faster.

Do these people realize that they are undoing the work of the Lok Ayukta? The Lok Ayukta raid had made life much easier for thousands of people who make their Licenses here without the hassles that plagued them earlier. Are they aware of the dis service they are doing to the rest of the citizenry because they do not want to stand in the queue?

I think people giving bribes should be more severely prosecuted that people accepting a bribe. A person who bribes is an anti social element. He/She creates corruption. Period.


Ajith said...

Read 'freakonomics'..Or keep a tab on http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/
-- This actually gives you lot of insights ( ofcourse the correctness of those are debatable ) on such corruption , bribes and underlying economics :)

~==[[[ Abhi ]]]==~ said...

Well i'd say the 1st guy to start bribing was the devil when he made adam n eve have the apple to go into the path of evil. So its inherent in a human to be corrupt, only that we should decide when and where it should stop.

shruti said...

well said ...if we decide to abide by the rules people taking bribes will also feel less of a strain on their souls ..I recently attended a municipal officers workshop that MRA ( moral rearmament now renamed IOFC or Initiatives of change ) had conducted and the was exposed to the perspective of the govt officials ..who face every kind of harrasment possible from politicians ., contractors ( read goons ) and their own bosses sometimes . Some survive with a lot of hardships , transfers , career set backs and hardly good pays some are forced into what they never wanted to do ..Also their is a huge disparity in the public and private pay structures .. if these people are paid at par then we can attract brighter talent ..and dedicated individuals who can change the face of Indian Administration ..

Alexis said...

Very true...
Never thought about it from that POW.

@ Abhi: well said.

mathew said...

It reminds me of the analogy that the first policeman came after the first thief.

The policeman was never there in the first place..

Probably the main problem is that our public has almost legitimised corruption..its like see the policeman has such a low salary and a few bucks for him is all a balancing act..Maybe government jobs should be well paid enough to cure this menace.

.ethics are all low these days and turning a blind eye isnt a big deal..

ap said...

Bribes always being the easy way out!!!!RTO,Village Office,PassportOffice,Police Station...these are some of the places where I was forced to shell out those extra 100's.
I remember the first time I had to shell out a 100 in a village office at the tender age of 14!!!!that too for paying tax for the land!!!!!!!

Fleiger said...

I think people giving bribes should be more severely prosecuted that people accepting a bribe.

Well, this generalization may not be just. As you said, many times people are forced to give bribes, in which case, it is not fair to make criminals out of them.

It is a vicious circle, which can only be broken if both sides try at once.

chacko cherian said...

This is like the "chicken or egg" question. Was bribe taken or given first? :-)

p.s how you doing?

ToOothlEss WOndeR! said...

All of that is true. The system is not inherently currupt, it is us.
But what do you think of this:
Just last week, I get out for a bit from my office on a motorbike, to the tyre shop near by, because my car had a flat at the office.
I pass a policeman and his assistant on the road, who look at me, but let me pass.
Now I saw the shop was closed and turned around coming back, and this time the cop stopped me. he siad it was a one-way starting today, and there was a board stating that at the other end of the road.
(They had seen taht i never got to the end of the road in the first place.)
I said if they were expecting a bribe, i wouldnt give it, andt hat i'd rather take a ticket for the violation.
Now the guy says it's alright i can go, but that they've been standing in the sun, so as a favour I take some army stamps from them that they were expected to sell.
I paid him the money, joked about the police having to sell stuff for the army, took the stamps and came back.
Now at work, i was telling my boys that there were good policemen too, and that everone could keep a stamp.It was only when they showed the stamp to me amidst hysterical lughter that i realized i was robbed by the policeman in broad day light.
The stamps said "Armed forces flag day 2004".

**A person who bribes is an anti social element.
But the life of a "social" element is very tough.

PS: regret the long comment.

Rakesh said...

Rightly said..
But then, to stop this, someone has to take the initiative..

shruti said...

@toothless wonder - poin to pnder - were the real policemen or fake policemen ?

silverine said...

Ajith: Thanks for the link. Will def check it out.

abhi: Good observations and well said!

shruti: That is a really nice thing you guys are doing. The Lok Ayukta raid in Blr govt offices actually turned things around. Now if the public will only cooperate we can actually root out corruption.

Alexis: Thank you :)

mathew: No amount of salary hike for govt servants will root out corruption. Who would say 'no' to free money? :p

AP: Exactly!! Bribes are the easy way out and in a country teeming with people one tends to pay to get their work done a little faster.

flieger: People are forced to pay bribes as the govt servant has got used to taking bribe. If we stop paying bribes they will stop demanding. But we ourselves will never let that happen as 'bribe' has become a sort of a thatkal scheme for us.

chacko: *hugs* great to see you here :)

toothless wonder: LOL!!! Dont blame yourself. How many of us would read the date on the stamp :)

Rakesh: In Blr we have the Lok Ayukta cleaning up govt offices. Now if only the govt will prosecute those who were caught then things would begin to look up.

shruti: It might have been fake cops. You get a lot of that here :))

Pradeep said...

I agree with you. The giver is a shade more criminal than the taker. Even developed nations have corruption. The problem with India corruption affects every day life, but in the west it does not. Corruption is more akin to lobbying. But here it is a corrosive cancer that has eaten into the system.

Fleiger said...

If we stop paying bribes they will stop demanding.

Well, as I said, that's like searching for the starting point of the circle. Will they stop demanding? Is it easy to let go of the extra non-taxable income when you are being paid peanuts?

I am not defending the bribe-takers. I am just saying that the conscious effort should be on both sides.

mathew said...

Better salary for government employees does atleast help in reducing.If you see in west the salary difference between a policeman and a doctor is not as vast as you see in India..When all get almost same amount of money corruption comes down naturally..

And the bestway is to have surveillance camera's in places where chances of indulging in corrpution is higher..I dont say it will root out corruption but atleast minimise it..

silverine said...

Pradeep: "Cancer" would be a more appropriate word for corruption!

fleiger: Take for instance the clean up done in Blr govt offices. The govt employees here are clearly scared of taking bribes. But people still press them. Which is why I said that the people should stop buying favors.

Mathew: If the govt had funds I am sure they would pay better salaries. But 'salaries' are determined by ROI and if pvt sector employees get a better paycheck then it is because they give a better ROI. So we cannot compare the two in terms of salary. And I still reiterate that rooting out corruption cannot be as simple as raising the salary of govt employees. Well...I am no economist and what I have written here is debatable :)

J said...

I guess it's hard to eliminate bribe. The only solution is perhaps to educate the next generation about the evils of it.

Until then....

Jithesh said...

Wow! Its a long time since i have seen someone write about the other side of the great corruption saga. Its very diifficult for an outsider to experience the mental disposition of a government employee for whom every passing minute is a test of temptation. Like Jesus Christ said "Let the person without sin throw the first stone at the sinner". Babudom is ony a microcosm of the society in which we live. I doubt if any section can say with credibility that they are morally superior in the discharge of duties as compared to government servants.

silverine said...

J: True, teaching kids would be one way to tackle this issue!

jithesh: That was an awesome observation!! Agree with you totally!