Wednesday, March 02, 2011

My tryst with bribe and corruption

As a child, I took a wooden scale home from school and lied at home that it was given by my teacher. My brother complained to mom. Trying to act cute and innocent did not work with mom, and I had to take it back. We had Moral Science classes where we figured that fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Being honest and ethical then slowly became part of our value system through parents and teachers. During induction in companies, we are taken through a lot of online courses on ethics and what is expected of us. The companies too, are very strict about it. Sometimes, I do wonder what the employees of Satyam must have felt if they do have a course on Ethics. We crib about our salaries and managers once in a while, but deep down, all of us want to believe in the values, vision and mission of the organizations that we work for. I do feel many politicians must have come with the intention to serve, and right the wrong, but get mired in POLITICS.

My tryst with corruption started with my marriage registration. We were adults nearing 30 with all the right papers. The clerk in the registrar office smiled and asked us money when we submitted the form. S and I were shocked. We saw another lady who was his supervisor. She was in her late forties, well dressed with a huge gold chain and bangles. S said, “She is the supervisor and the others will not dare in front of her. Let us submit to her only.” We went to her and to our horror; she demanded money even without fluttering an eye-lid. S asked why, and she said everybody gives. We gave a few hundreds and left to get back after 1 month. We went after 29 days, as it was a weekend. We were not allowed to get married as we did not complete 1 month notice, for all the money that we paid. We had to go back again after a week. We were married, but to celebrate our wedding, they asked money again. S gave a hundred rupee note this time and we left.

Then I applied for my Passport. I had the marriage certificate too as a proof this time. I went through an agent and submitted all the documents. The policeman who came to verify the address and identity was so thrilled to talk to my bro-in-law who was in the army. They shook hands, one soldier to another, and then he asked me money. I gave him a few hundreds again. My passport to foreign travels was at stake you see.

With financial independence and staying alone, came the need to set up my own kitchen. I know these days, Facebook and blogs are where we cook and praise each other’s culinary skills, but we need some kind of fuel for whoever is doing it behind the scenes. I left home when I turned 19. Never voted. I was told; in Karnataka, you need the ration card or the voter’s id to get a gas connection. I shifted hostels and never got my name registered; as you need to be in one address for a certain no. of years. I tried registering through many of the corporate initiatives that came my way, but none of them worked. I pulled along a Kannada speaking friend to help me get a Ration card, for identity purpose. The officer told me that I need to bring the list where my name has been stricken off from the ration card holders’ list at home. Asked mom. She said, we never had our names in any list like this. I ran from pillar to post for 5 years, while paying exorbitant amounts through private players. When people have paid Rs.320 for a cylinder, I have paid Rs 800 and above. Finally, one neighbor told me to pay Rs 5500, and I got the connection without ration or voter’s Id, my citizenship, my Indianness, identity all established.

Marriage gave wings to many dreams together as a couple, and we booked a flat. When we had to get our flat registered, we were asked to shell out 20k over and above the registration fee. The builder advised our file will not move otherwise. We asked around to fellow flat buyers. All of them seemed to have paid and we toed the line.

Yes, I never opposed to any of these. I stooped in front of whoever exercised power, even when I was right.  But, i have recorded these incidents on my mind because they did not agree with  my values. Tomorrow, I may pay huge capitation fee to get my child admitted to a good school. Like all parents, I will continue giving him/her the values about right and wrong.

Wish life was as simple as it were in childhood. All you bothered was about homework and getting good marks. You could still afford to be uncorrupted.


S said...

This is the condition of everybody who has changed a lot of cities in their life, except for govt. employees.

Just like you, for ALL the things mentioned above I have paid a hefty sum as bribe.. and many a times, the work even did not get done!!

It is amusing how one has to suffer just because of living in different states and find it difficult to prove that they are indian!!

Meenakshy said...

Circa 2004: The person at counter asks for money. Husband says, he doesnt have it anymore. I didnt know the context, jumped off and said, take this 500.
Needless to say, we got the marriage certificate immediately.
Ration card, Voter ID card, all Jugaad.
Passport office has surely become ethical these days. Need to check the system when I apply for Ganesh. :)
And we talk about ethics here. :(

ganapati said...

well thats true.. we are in the vicious circle. true that sometimes the work doesn't get done. I applied for my passport in jharkhand and got it by paying some bribe and firing two RTI applications. My friend has not yet received his passport even after bribing.( Thats almost 18 Months since he applied)

Ardra said...

One feels so trapped, and there's no way out.

IPAB said...

Dear Arunima,
We completely understand your plight. Just like yours, we have 4100 other cases of bribes reported on our website Why don't you add your report to it? Bribe reports you post on I Paid A Bribe are collated and analysed based on departments. To know more about IPAB's activities, log on to our website

IPAB Team,

kirti said...

We too had a tough time getting a marriage certificate .
Not taking bribe is something we can decide but ,not paying is sometimes a very difficult choice to make , it can seriously change our plans in life .

AmitL said...

Sigh!!That's the sad state of affairs, indeed.And,you know what-it's a way of life for most of us. Better to pay than to make umpteen rounds of people and places- time's much more valuable than the money paid as a bribe.:)

Nisha said...

I am actually surprised that this post came from you !
I thought the girl who always talked sense, would not bow to these tactics.

I have also acquired all the things you've mentioned, but for a change, I did not pay a single penny. I repeat, I did NOT pay.

I also had a court marriage, had to book for a cylinder and also got my passport done.

It all depends on how much you are for a "chalta hai" attitude. Just b'coz everybody else is doing something, it does not become right.

Once we were going in a car, my husband switched on the indicator to turn and then waited for vehicles to pass and then came to that road. Not a fault at any point. He is a sensible driver.

Just then, being a weekend, a traffic policeman who wanted to earn a few bucks, stopped our car and shook hands with my husband long enough for money transfer to take place. He would not let us go. We argued without success. At last my husband gave him Rs 200/- under that handshake.

Obviously, he wasn't ready to give a receipt or challan. I came out of the car and politely asked the policeman to tell us what was the fault since we would not like to commit this mistake again. he was speechless.
When repeatedly asked, he felt so humiliated that he returned back the money !!
Can you imagine that?

There are so many incidents.
I would have asked that supervisor the reason point blank... "everyone gives", is not a good enough reason to part with my hard earned money.
Believe me, it does take time & effort but things do move if you are firm on sticking to your values.

I think, for little comforts or fear of discomfort, we are ready to compromise on our values.

I am sorry if I am harsh but this is my opinion.
Sincerely hope that you approve this comment.

Arunima said...

hey, Nisha.

Thanks a lot for this comment. it is so nice to read it. I have mellowed down over the years. I have faced a lot of unwanted situations because of being forthright. 5 yrs was too long to wait for an LPG connection, it made me feel like a moron at the futility of it all. Also, being from the north-east gave me the insecurities to an extent. My actions or reactions to situations are based on my experiences. I am so happy you stood firm. I wish I could, but in my case, it would have looked like being obstinate rather than being assertive.

Arunima said...

@Nisha: and yes, pls leave your URL. i am sorry to ask this again. :-)

Nisha said...

Thanks, the comment came thru. At many places when I think I am talking 'sense' they don't approve it. :-)

I can understand your concerns & insecurities and that's why most of us bend down.

P.S.- Why do you think I have a url? :-)

P said...

For some reason I was not asked for money for either my passport or marriage registration. We were actually really surprised. Maybe there are some good people still there :)
But in general corruption is truly a vicious cycle. Easy money without consequences. What could be better? I am afraid it's going to get worse with the increasing gap in salaries in Govt. and private sectors in India. Everyone has to keep up with their neighbors and everyone needs more and more money.
Have you seen the movie "Well done Abba"? I wish there was a solution like they showed in the movie.

Arunima said...

@Nisha: The name sounds familiar that is why. :-) If you do, I would love to read your thoughts.

tys said...

I have always paid when questions...i had the money, he/she needed the money and my work gets done...everyone is, does this mean the cogs of the machinery will only move for these who oil it with something extra? or is the extra asked only from those who seem to have that extra?

I dont know.

but i think the corruption runs becoz of people like me who likes to get their work done faster and cant be bothered to stand in line....

eventhough i have not taken a single penny under the table, iam duly responsible for making many an honest men will be surprised how easy it is...iam not proud of it , but neither do i apologize for it...the need existed, i just acknowledged it.