Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Bribe Giver and the Bribe Taker

It is a common thing these days. If you raise your voice against anything, you will be first questioned, all your details and sordid past dug out, a party spokesman will voice out all these completely irrelevant charges and maye link you to the rightwing or leftwing, and you may be quickly jailed for an offence that no one cared about for all these years. It is almost as if the system is waiting for you to show up and then you are fired upon. The Baba Ramdev brigade got a dose of it, most whistleblowers get blown off, honest government officers get shot and burnt alive (as a Deputy District Magistrate was in Maharashtra not too long ago by the kerosene mafia). The moment you raise your voice, the threat of transfers, postings to unknown and useless positions, enquiries, IT raids, the works.

The ones who share the loot have a way of closing ranks very quickly. The complainant, whistleblower, informer has no one - not even the police. Most likely the police will ask questions like, so what do you want us to do, what is the jurisdiction of the crime, go to that PS, that department, why are you bothering us, what is your background, why do you want to complain, should I lock you up first etc. If they send the guy home without a couple of kicks or some massive blow to his dignity and other parts, he should be lucky.

Making bribe giving and bribe taking equal crimes is probably the key problem area.

In most cases the person in power is the one who is using his power to not process work. To do the work he has to do in normal course he will ask a bribe. To get work done and thereby save time and energy, most people willingly part with the bribe. Because otherwise, they will have to spend a large amount of money and time and energy to get the work done. The entire system closes in. Most cases the bribe giver in such cases is forced to either forego what is due to him or pay. This can be really cruel. I know of government officials who pay large bribes to the government clerks to release their own salary arrears! It is unbelievable how much they pay to get what is rightfully theirs cleared by a clerk! It is all known and acceptable to everyone.

Now these are the kind of bribes the common man faces. Since he is already squeezed by all kinds of taxes, inflation, consumerism he really has no money to pay the bribe, and he does something to cut losses. Most anger of the common man is against this corruption because it makes bigger dents in his already strained pocket. Every single government department where you have work is lined with these bribes, with humiliation, with indignity, suffering. It is unbelievable how callous it is. Hospitals, police stations, passport offices, pension offices. We know what happens to all the welfare schemes, what happens to the poor, the backward in their schools, hostels where the children have no money and have to pay by other means.

On the other hand there are bribes that are prompted by the giver and not the receiver. He does that because there is a big cake that he wants and he is willing to give a big part of it back to the people who let him get at the cake. Win, win. Here the people in power actively collude with the chap who brings the best bribe proposal and hands it over as soon as the kickbacks are brought in. Money, women, travel, cars, watches, jewellery...the good life. These are the bribes that really hurt the nation because they are done in humongous proportions, with complete disregard to the people. It is organised loot where everyone gets their share. The whole system is set up to protect this racket and that is why the whistleblowers stand no chance. In fact since these rackets send money at regular intervals for merely looking the other way, or for actively pointing out the loopholes, it is far better for the people in power to spend time on these cases than in sorting out problems of the poor or the middle class. That is a class that can be kicked around and they will still be around, begging, because they can go nowhere.

It is time to empower the whistleblowers. Make their bribes not offences if they have been done under coercion as in the first case when they are harassed. In the second case, the whistleblower should ideally get some lenience for bringing it to out in the open. The only problem is what to do when a billion people start complaining!


Anonymous said...

Poni and and me had a long whiskey fueled discission on "in comming" and "out going" bribe and which is more " bad". Don't remember what the consensus was. Poni won't remember either. But it was a fun debate.

Harimohan said...

Poni has only one thing to say on this matter - 'You guys are just not understanding what I am saying. I have been saying this for so long, transaction tax is the answer to all our problems - incoming, outgoing etc!'