Indians all over the world have been gripped with the happenings in Delhi over the last couple of weeks - where Anna Hazare has been leading a crusade against corruption through pressing for a LokPal Bill which he and his team has drafted.
There has been quite a debate on how the war against corruption has to be waged in the country. Many of us has been quite overwhelmed by the sort of crowds that Mr. Hazare and his team has been able to muster.
However, we need to realise that corruption is very much entrenched in our present culture. Since I came to know about Mr. Hazare's campaign and the fiascos which have been unearthened regarding the 2G spectrum allotment, the commonwealth games etc. I was reminiscing about my trysts with corruption.
Since I've been travelling quite a lot over the last few months, the first thought that comes to me is the Indian Railways. Even as I sit in the New Delhi-Ranchi Garib Rath, I've seen the Ticket Examiner discretely calling passengers with Reserved Against Cancellation (RAC) tickets to the vestibular area between the coaches and offering them confirmed berths at an unaccounted extra cost. It is quite common to see this happening whenever the train is fully booked. And it becomes quite rampant during festival season when almost the whole country is travelling.
If you go to the metro cities it is very common to find people coming and ask you if you need confirmed train tickets. It does not need much imagination to conclude about a possible unholy nexus between the reservation agents and the railway authorities.
The most unfortunate part is that many people do not see this as corruption. I've had people giving me all sorts of explanation for this sort of thing. Few people told me that it is part of human behaviour and few told me that many poor earn their livings such. However, I'm very definite that this is corruption and steps need to be taken to discourage such practices in the railways.
The second instance which comes to my mind is an account of my friend who was trying to get his land registered in his name after his father had passed away. There was a clear will which was written whereby the land was bequethed to him. To formalise the procedure, he had taken the help of a lawyer. My friend told me that the first thing the lawyer told him was that he should be ready to pay a certain amount to the tehsildar and the land records office so that everything will be done smoothly. My friend was shocked - here was a man who is supposed to a custodian of the law telling him outrightly to encourage corruption.
The third instance is that of my friend about whom I had narrated in my blog http://jeevankuruvilla.blogspot.com/2011/08/dying-young.html. Someone in his family had committed suicide. The police told him very clearly that things could be unpredictable unless he is ready to cough up some money. The 'some money' was 20,000 Indian Rupees. If the money was not given, they could not assure him that the case will be closed without any problem. My friend who was already in quite a lot of stress ultimately ended paying up. Later, we tried finding out what problems could have occured. It seems that anyone can be framed for instigating suicide and if the police wanted it, they could really prolong the case and harass the family members. One of the policemen also stated that the usual charges was 50,000 Indian Rupees and because they knew my friend, the 'costs' were discounted. It was quite frightening.
I know that quite a lot of us would be able to narrate such incidences. In many instances similiar to the third story I just wrote, it becomes quite difficult. However, we need to realise that the crowds we see on television is just a miniscule of our population. The fact remains that majority of our population approve of corruption and using money-power to acquire our needs and wants have become the order of the day. I know of companies and organisations who have budgeted for corruption. The other day I came to know of an organisation who was budgeting 'speed money' as 'extortion money'.
Before I close this post, I should tell you about one of our former nurses who had applied to rejoin. We were quite surprised that she wanted to rejoin, as all of us knew that she had paid quite a large amount of money (about 200,000 Indian Rupees) to get a government job which pays her about three times of what she earns with us. I happened to talk to some of her acquaintances and I enquired about the reason why she is coming back. The explanation baffled me - it seems that nurses in government recieved their salaries once in 4-6 months and the amount being quite large - they had to pay part of it at various levels in the treasury office (place from where the salaries are made and given). So, this lady had calculated that working in a mission hospital like ours is better - although she will get a lesser salary, she will get it regularly without any hassles.
I sincerely pray that the efforts being taken by Anna will make each Indian think and take a decision to stand against corruption at all levels. The war against corruption needs to reach the grassroot levels.
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