Friday, May 31, 2013

We are all corrupt

We have just witnessed the exit of a BJP government in Karnataka, ostensibly because of corruption and non governance. It has been replaced by a Congress government which is reeling under mega scams at the Centre. So is corruption really an issue in electoral politics?. I think not, judging by the number of corrupt politicians who keep winning elections over the years. Inspite of the mega scandals during her first tenure, the current Chief Minister of my State has come back to power twice. We will have to wait and see how much the mass awareness created among the growing middle class in the country by Anna Hazare and his team at India Against Corruption is going to affect the next Parliamentary elections.

I have been pondering over this much talked about topic of corruption, trying to find out the root cause for corruption in our society. I find that a man’s greed, impatience and his unwillingness to follow rules of the land helps corruption to spread like cancer. Besides corruption in our country is a part of our culture. It starts with our system of `bribing` the God to get what we want. For the last 39 years I have been offering the elephant God (Vinayaka) 108 coconuts whenever I am facing a crisis or before I get involved in a major project. Each one of us in our own small ways is contributing to corruption.

Let me explain. Take the simple case of a traffic offence. While your vehicle is stopped by a traffic constable for some offence and he tells you that if he books the case against you and you have to go to the court, you will end up paying `X` amount; but if you agree to pay him `X` minus `Y`amount on the spot , he will let you go, without registering the case. What do you do? Most of us will obviously take the second alternative because it is hassle free and costs less. The cop is happy and you are happy because you have no time to waste! You have inadvertently contributed your bit to corruption.

Similar thing happens when a person applies for a driving license or goes to a Registrar`s office for registering some document, or when Corporates have to close any kind of tax related issues be it income tax,, sales or service tax. The list is endless. To escape the harassment and accompanying waste of time, they agree to pay the bribe demanded by the officers concerned, albeit after some negotiations. Even if our books are in perfect order and as per the rules; we have no patience to fight the system because of the hassles involved. If we have the patience to find the time required to fight a case, we will win but we don’t because we are in a hurry to get over a problem fast , at any cost!

It is this inherent unwillingness of the public to fight the unreliable system and the delay in meting out severe punishments to those who indulge in corrupt acts, which according to me is the causes for all types of corruption.

When I started my advertising agency and had to apply for accreditation with Indian Newspaper Society (INS) so that I can avail of credit facilities offered by print media, I was told that I can be successful only if I grease the palms of a certain gentleman in charge, at the Society. I refused to oblige and naturally my application was rejected twice for some petty reasons.. But I persisted with my stand, providing all the clarifications that the gentleman asked for. Ultimately my agency did get its accreditation after a delay of two years, but without paying any bribe. It is another matter that in the meantime I could manage my finances thanks only to the generosity of my client-friends.

As an entrepreneur, I have followed value based business policies, with ‘no give, no take’ as my credo. While this has helped me get a reputation in the industry as a honest person, it has not helped me make any money out of my business. Looking around, I find that people who have made big money in short time or Corporates who are in a tearing hurry to grow big are the people who compromise on values and who have encouraged corruption to become a way of life.

Ultimately the giver of a bribe is as guilty as the receiver when we talk about corruption. It is wishful thinking to believe that `Lokpal Bills` or enactment of Laws will eradicate corruption. As I said earlier, as long as a human being wants to cut corners or break rules to achieve his goals, there will be corruption. Indians by and large do not consider giving or taking bribes a great sin!

While I have followed the `No give No Take ` policy in doing business, I must confess that I am equally guilty of going with the system when it comes to a simple traffic offence, which I seem to commit more often these days because of old age. And even today, as a faithful Indian(!) I continue to bribe my `Gods` seeking special favours!

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