Once a Railway Ticket Checker caught me without ticket. I just had to go one station and was too lazy to stand in a long queue and get a ticket. Hence, I decided to travel without ticket. After catching me, ticket checker took me to his small office on the platform. He asked me to pay Rs. 270. I did not want to shell out so much for a Rs. 4 ticket. I started to give excuses. But, he wasn’t to budge. At last he offered to let me off for Rs. 150, but without a receipt. I tried to bargain, but in vain. At last I paid Rs. 150 and walked off. I was happy that I had at least saved 120 bucks.
I am sure this would have happened with most of you or your friends. At least many of my friends have told me similar stories. In all of these instances, the ticket checker first asks to pay the full sum and take a receipt. But, most of us don’t, since we know we can get away with less. Who cares about morals and ethics and the larger issue of corruption?
There are many reasons why people pay bribes. Sometimes, it makes our work faster and saves us time. (Even in a temple, if there is an option, we prefer to pay someone and skip the line). Sometimes, because we don’t fulfill the set conditions, but want our work to be done anyhow.
The notorious 2G spectrum scandal is not much different. Big corporate houses wanted to save money, save time and gain resources illegally. What did they do? They bribed politicians and bureaucrats. Politicians and bureaucrats were more than happy to take the bribes. What if these corporates had denied to pay bribes? The process would have been carried out legally and with set rules, because politicians would have been left with no other choice.
It is a fashion to blame politicians and bureaucrats for all the corruption in this country. But, how many of us do the introspection? If we look at ourselves, we will find that we are the ones most responsible for corruption. We don’t want to go by set procedures, we want to flout rules, we want bureaucrats to overlook our incomplete forms, we want to save time, we want to save money. Obviously, bureaucrats won’t let us do that for free. If we are gaining in a big way and that too illegally, why won’t they demand a share in it?
Here, I don’t want to suggest that citizens are the ones who approach bureaucrats with bribes every time. That’s obviously not true. But, the bribe-taking and bribe-giving has been cultured in our psyche so much that bureaucrats have now become habitual to it. They think that bribe-taking is their birth-right. They just won’t do anything without getting paid under the table.
Under-privileged people are the ones who suffer the most because of this. They can’t afford to pay bribes. They don’t even have connections. Bureaucrats obviously favour the rich, because they are the ones who provide them that extra-source of income. This has further widened the gap between haves and have-nots.
The current anti-graft movement led by Anna Hazare is very interesting. Most of Anna’s supporters are from the same middle class which pays the bribes most rampantly. An illusion is being created by these people that politicians are the only ones responsible for corruption. They also suggest that implementation of Jan Lokpal bill wipe out the corruption completely from our country. But, that’s just an illusion, because corruption has a symbiotic relationship between the bribe-taker and the bribe-giver. And if both choose to remain silent about their doings, nothing can happen.