Of Corruption, India, and My First Bribe

It was this Monday when I visited Rath mam with my friend Arvis. Rath mam had just returned from US after visiting both her children who are well settled in US working in IT companies. Somehow that day our discussion went on to what me and Arvis plan to do in the future after college. Mam was telling us why we should think about moving outside India for higher studies. She stated three important reasons why India is not yet the best place to lead life for those with some moral support system:

  • Corruption

  • Population explosion

  • Typical Indian mentality

The third reason was not much comprehensible to me, and the second is pretty obvious. What caught my attention was the first one - corruption. She was mentioning how one can try to keep up with their values, but the system just won’t let that happen and someday one just has to break. She also warned us not to regret ever in life over the decisions we take now, and advised to be aware enough of the opportunities that lie ahead in the remaining 2 years of our undergraduate life and to take the full advantages of them.

I have been inspired a lot by one of my seniors who has been offered fully funded PhD from 2 US universities and is leaving for the US soon leaving a major job offer from Amazon India. I have never given a serious thought to moving out of India but that discussion with Rath mam gave me a new insight to think over things. Also, perhaps it was just co-incidence just a day before meeting mam I tweeted:

And it was yesterday, in the morning, I was thinking about what happened of application for passport which I submitted last March in college (even this application got submitted only because there was this passport camp in college during the time, otherwise I might not have applied myself). I had heard about the difficulties in obtaining the passport from relatives and friends and how one has to bribe the policemen and officers involved to get it done. Anyhow, it was another co-incidence, that the same day my friend Mukul informed me that he got a call for my passport verification and I was informed through a call that I need to submit a few documents at Women’s Police Station, near Lohiya Nagar.

In the evening, I visited my friend Agam who lives in Lohiya Nagar and asked him to accompany me to the Police Station. We met the person (a man in his 50’s, sitting outside the passport verification room in open air) whom I had talked with in the morning, and submitted the documents with a little informal chat. He had a copy of my application along with that of another NITC friend of mine who also lives in Ghaziabad. There was a little silence while he was keeping the documents and I was feeling a little nervous before asking to leave. Just then he asked for a bribe. I had only 140 bucks with me, and tried to give 40 to him (I had heard that 20-30 bucks was what policemen in our hostel were taking during the verification), he immediately snapped, “ye kya de rahe ho, isme to bas prasad aayega” (what are you trying to give, one can buy only prasad with this much money). I was taken aback and tried to give him the only other note I had, that of 100 bucks, on which he laughed a little said, “isme kya hoga, chalo jao yahaan se” (what will I do with this much, just get lost). I said, “isse zyada to hain nahi mere paas” (I don’t have more than this) and was a little relieved believing that he was OK with not taking bribe from me  as I didn’t have enough. We started to leave, and the person, who had occupied his chair by now, called out to us from behind, “bataye de raha hoon, kaam nahi hoga tumhara, kam se kam 500 rupaye lagenge” (I am telling you guys, your work will not be done, at least 500 rupees are required). I was shocked to hear this - how openly could he demand for bribe like this?


Anyway we left the area for the time, and discussed a little in the parking area. I borrowed 200 bucks from Agam, he kept another note of 500 hidden and we set out again thinking about trying to settle the matter with 300 bucks. On the way Agam kept telling me how it was impossible to get the verification done without bribing this guy, he may just send a false report canceling the whole application in the process, and how even if I apply again (costing me above 1000 bucks), my application may end up with this same person, who will still not to do it until bribed. He also had to bribe this same person for his passport verification a few months earlier. To my relief, the person agreed with 300 bucks after blabbering a little. On asking how much time it will take, he said many more steps are there and somebody will visit my house too later (and ask for bribe again - read below).

On reading the above two incidents, I ask you - what choice do we (common, law-abiding citizens of our great country) have in situations like these? What Anna Hazare and team are trying to set up - Jan Lokpal - will that work to change the state of affairs even at this grass-root level? Staying here, either you forget about your morals/values or whatever conscience you have and become a part of the system, or end up nowhere fighting the system. Is the only way out is to leave this country because it will never change (not anytime soon anyway) hoping for a better future in foreign lands?

UPDATE (2011-07-26):

Got info from my father that some policeman visited my house for verification and again took a 1000 bucks (500 for himself another 500 for somebody he has to pass on the application to) this time promising that he will get the job done without hassles like the need to visit some police station. Listening to him, I had to wonder why it is not such a bad idea to legalize bribery (as I mention in response to Amarnath’s comment below), if the bribe takers can really get the job done fast.

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