Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bribes - take it or leave it

Paying bribes are so much a part and parcel of our lives, I often wonder what will we do if all of a sudden government officials in our country stopped accepting it. Imagine, being stopped by a traffic policeman, for jumping a signal, and he actually giving you a ticket! Na ah !! that cannot be, I must be dreaming. Or imagine, a passport inspector visits your home for identification, and then when you offer him his due he refuses to accept it. If such a thing happens, how would an average Indian react?
O my god, I will never get my passport done. May be, I need to pay him more!
Yes, while we all voice our support to Anna, we are all equally ready to pay a bribe at the smallest of provocation. This is because, any government process is not only long and cumbersome, but also at times, downright ridiculous.
Sometimes, they are created to promote corruption:
  • Ration cards: While most of urban India have stopped using this piece of document for getting any subsidized provisions, it continues to be used as the most reliable Address verification document. So, if you are moving around the country, then every time you change a city, getting a new ration card is one of the tasks you have to finish as soon as possible.
  • N. O. C: or the No Objection Certificate for your vehicle, every time you move from one state to another within our country. And since this certificate has to be issued by the Transport Department, god help you, specially if you are a little hard pressed for time.
  • Traffic fines: In general whenever you get a ticket for jumping a signal, or wrong parking, your biggest worry is not how much the fine is, but how to pay it. Because you have to go all the way to the Magistrate's office and stand in a queue for it. Instead, its so much easier to pay the ever-ready traffic policeman and close the issue, for good.
These are just a few examples, and there are many more, which all of us face daily.

But whatever people have to say against bribes, if one is in a position to take it does not mean that he will take it. Asking for bribes is also an art that takes some time to be mastered. Few things I learnt from my encounters with various officials all across the country:
Never ask for bribe, just create a situation when people will offer it on their own:
Once stopped by a traffic policeman when I inadvertently took a wrong turn, the officer very politely asked for my Driving Licence - "I want some cases sir, so even if it is small mistake, I cannot let you go". I knew right away, I had some Bribewashing to do. I did, and drove home happily.
Give Premium Service when you are bribed; and NO Service when not:
I learnt it the hard way when I tried to reason out with a babu in local Electricity office. I had received an unusually high bill and wanted to get it checked. But no matter how much I talked I was not able to get his attention. He seemed to have become the most busy person on earth, trying to finish the entire mountain of files in front of him right at that time. While I was trying to figure out whether the radiation from the huge transponders outside his office had made me invisible, the humble peon sitting on the corner stool, watching my plight, beckoned me outside the room. He flatly told me to pay him 500 bucks, which I did promptly. Then he took me to this Babu and introduced me to him (as if I had just dropped in). Now this gentleman's reaction was astonishing. Not only could he see me now, he stood up, shook my hand and asked me to take a seat. My job was done in a jiffy !
Be greedy but there are rules:
My wife, who is much smarter when it comes to dealing with this ilk, offered a 500 rupee note to the Indane gas inspector when he came for address verification at our residence. The man turned red! and gasped. My wife thought probably she had misjudged this very rarest of the rare species: an honest government servant. But she soon stood corrected, when the gentleman fished out a 100 rupee note and said " I cannot take more from you madam !, only 400 is enough". We were visibly moved by his honesty and thanked him profusely. The next day we got our connection.
So, you see! taking bribes is no child's play, it involves a lot of ingenuity and may be a bit of caution?