Corruption: have we taken it for granted?
Corruption has become a routine practice in our society and people learn it faster than anything else; it doesn’t require a gurukul or teacher, a majority of the people have mastered the art.
Everyone knows that in our day-to-day life nothing moves without our giving a bribe. When we watch movies on corruption, we hate the corrupt portrayed therein and wonder where the hell they come from. But soon we realise that they are not “aliens,” that they are one among us; in fact, they are either my uncle or yours or my father or yours. They are our own people and they represent society. You wanted your government servants to be like this and you don’t want things to change. Accept the truth and let’s move forward.
There are examples galore to show that we accept corruption, in some form or other, as normal practice; when we want a licence we pay a “service fee” to get it fast; “incidental expense” for registering our documents in time; railway tickets and bus tickets are bought by travel agency for a fee and we accept it. This is prevalent even in temple for a ‘quick darshan’! We want things to move fast and for that we pay a fee and are ready to pay even double the charge. This practice is widely recognised and we do not call this corruption; rather acknowledge it as part of normal practice. Why? Because, we want it.
There are people who work full time to deliver bribe and get things done faster. They are not called looters, but are recognised as agents, facilitators, intermediaries and what not! They bridge the gap between the general public and government staff, and clear the doubts on rules and regulations, throw light on the “Indian law” and they are the true torch-bearers and light house! Are we ashamed to move with them? Never!
I once went to a revenue office in Chennai for changing the name in my patta. Of course I had all the documents and was charged a standard rate of Rs.3,000 a ground by the middleman; the same day, a revenue officer was caught in Kanyakumari for accepting a bribe of Rs.3,000 for patta name change. This shows that there is a standard menu card, so to say, in our revenue offices — there is a price to pay for everything.
Does it mean that corruption has to be endured? That you have to grin and bear? Certainly not. Corruption has to be fought and fought relentlessly so that it will be minimised if not eradicated.
Technology perhaps provides the tool to bring down corruption, if not eliminate it. The best example being the online application for getting the encumbrance certificate and duplicate copies of land documents. If you go directly and approach the officer, you will be charged Rs.200 a copy and you will get it the same day; but this amount is a bribe. Applying through online will take one to two weeks but you are charged only Rs.50 — the prescribed amount. More advancement in e-governance without any time delay will certainly bring the required change.
Railway tickets through tatkal is another example of bringing revenue to the government from those of you who do things at the last moment but want results and are ready to pay even double the amount to jump queue. This practice can be adopted by all government offices so that revenue will rise and middlemen will be eliminated.
The canker of corruption needs to be fought on other fronts too. Our population is vast, our system is old and our offices are too crowded and the ratio in government offices is 1:100,000 per population. Our employees are not competent to handle this crowd hence it takes time. So wait for your turn.
Be an example to others in exposing corruption and educate the younger generation that corruption in any form is bad. Teach your children, wife, mother and uncle about corruption in family gettogethers. When you meet friends, talk about it.
We should make people feel ashamed if they are corrupt; while punishment has a limited effect, the moral fear about as corrupt works better.
( The writer’s email id is: email@example.com)
The Author (V Vijay) is a long time close friend of mine.
Courtesy: The Hindu (19th Dec, 2010)