Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The wheels of Life in India - Greasing the palms that turn the wheels

Every Indian should read this article.

Not because it is a breaking news story. Not because it is a scam that stands exposed. This is a mirror to each one of us. From birth to death, we cannot escape the web of graft that has been laid out for us. Whether this web is broken and totally dismantled, is up to each and every one of us. No one can fight our battles except ourselves.
Caught up in the rat race, we find it convenient to pay tips to ensure that we do not wait and that our things get done. Depending on what we can afford, the tip soon degenerates in to ‘negotiated’ bribes. It becomes far more convenient to buy our way through life than to struggle at each stage. So we ourselves use this. Not one of us can plead ignorance to this. Right from giving a Diwali ‘baksheesh’ to large bribes for school or college admissions, bribes have entered our lives.
Any act of ours that involves interaction with a government servant seems to yield results only when there is a ‘give and take’. Rare are those government servants who do their work for which they are already paid for by the taxpayers (good salaries, unreasonably high holidays, lack of accountability, regular salaries with guaranteed increments, pensions etc etc). In fact I have become so sceptical that when I see a rare honest public servant, I immediately wonder whether my work will get done. The typical government servant’s attitude was explained to me very nicely by one of the persons in a government owned financial institution in New Delhi, in 1978.
“Sirjee, the government pays me salary to come to office. However, the work I do benefits you/your company. Hence you have to remunerate me”.
And there is no shame or guilt in saying this. There is a breed of people who love these jobs that are auctioned by the politicians in power. And they have absolute harassment powers that can threaten our material livelihood. So we use the convenient option.
Legal deterrent in the form of meaningful punishment (minimum jail for ten years plus confiscation of wealth of the person plus his immediate family at the bare minimum) will not happen since the legislators will not cut their own feet.
Can we fight them? Yes and No. Yes, if you do not have a family to feed. Yes if you have so much money that you can wage a legal war. Yes if are not bothered about any of the consequences. Yes if you do not care about your safety and well being.
Is it then a NO for all of us? I think there is a mid way available. Social media is a route available to each one of us. Using that to blow our whistles is good. Let us make enough noise and shame the powers that be in to some action.
Our PM, Modi says that he won’t take bribes and won’t let anyone also take. So bring it to his attention.
Hats off to Sucheta Dalal and Debashish Basu for the fight they are engaged in and the personal sacrifices they have made along the way, to ensure that nothing will compromise their battle for good. 

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