I was 18. I was not supposed to ride a scooter without a helmet. But that fateful morning, I was doing just that. As luck would have it, I was stopped at a traffic signal by a constable who pulled me over and gave me a dressing down. My newly minted license was pulled out, and I was asked for a fine. I pulled out the only Rs 100 note in my pocket, and the same went into the pocket of the constable. I was chastised.
When I reached home, it was yet another moment of reckoning. My father was out there to reprimand me next. At the end of all that then, he asked me for the receipt for the fine paid. I said there was none. All hell broke loose, and in addition to being shouted at, my father asked me to take him to the constable. I did. Out there, the constable was asked why he had not made out a receipt for the fine. It was time for the constable to be on the back foot now.
Not wanting any more trouble, the constable actually returned the `100 with an apology that was extracted for pocketing a fine. We left. I silently gloated at the thought that I had gotten away without paying a fine for my misdeed. Thanks to my father.
The matter did not stop there, though. The next day, an appointment had been made with the then Police Commissioner of the city of Bengaluru, and I was taken to his imposing office. Everything was moving quickly. I was asked to narrate the incident, and a complaint was filed. In addition, my father insisted that I pay a fine for the misdeed. The fine was taken, a ‘challan’ made out, and I was reprimanded once again. This time in front of the Police Commissioner and his many officers in the room. I saw some of them smiling.
I know many of them thought my father was crazy. I thought so as well at that time. My personal gloat of getting away with my misdeed was gone now, though.As I sit down to write this piece today, we are just about entering the 76th year of our nation being independent. ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ is just about being celebrated, and there is an air of patriotic fervour in all of us.
This is the right time then for me to raise a big issue—a big issue that plagues us and eats into the very gut of the success we have created over all these decades of being independent. This is the big C. Corruption. Corruption as you and I know it, and corruption as you and I experience it.
The data on corruption is rich. A Transparency International study in 2005 indicated that 62% of Indians had paid a bribe to get a job done some time or the other. An assessment of what is corrupt income and what is honest income might as well throw up an alternate mirror economy out there. And that sure is a scary truth to behold.
Corruption is then the biggest issue that faces the nation today. Not very strangely, this is a
big internal threat. A threat that has the potential of being our biggest weakness in a world that is progressively getting empowered through the implementation of every rule and ethos that talks about equality, liberty and fraternity.
Corruption then has two facets to it. The facet of the giver and the facet of the taker. Each is equally guilty for sure. In sheer number terms, there are really more givers and fewer takers. Corruption is a citizen-centric retail enterprise of big value. The value is really all the money that is hijacked into personal pockets at the cost of the nation. If the giver were to just cease and desist, this entire industry of corruption would come to a standstill. Wouldn’t it?
But then the giver is not too sure that he, she, or they want to stop. Every giver is really an insecure entity. An entity that believes he is in the wrong. An entity that believes oiling the system is the easier thing to do, as opposed to getting his own act together to move ahead in life. Corruption is the path of least resistance. In many ways, corruption is the way in which the less efficient in society move ahead at the cost of the more efficient. There is a “corruptor” and a “corrupted”. Both are equally guilty. Must the corruptors take note and act? Act with a movement that is mass and national. Do we have it in us to
do just that? Or will we, as usual, just let it be? Are you and I the bigger problems out here than the guy who is demanding his cut?
The nation would surely gain in more ways than one. The nation and its many institutions that look after the good of the people would benefit hugely. I do believe it is time, after all these 75 years of independence, to bell the cat of corruption. We need to attack the root of it all. The root of it lies in the dynamics of the giver more than that of the taker. If there is no giver at all, what will the taker take? And from whom?
As we step into our 76th year as an independent nation with independent ambitions to be the best nation among them all, if we do not tackle this big C word, we will not go much further. It’s time to rectify the wrongs. It’s time to talk the language of firm and affirmative action on corruption. Just stop giving. Get very aggressive on the mechanisms that stop the giving. Police the giver as much as you try to police the taker. The taker is a well-trained and clever professional. The giver is a novice. Stop the corruption economy at that very point of the novice. There is more hope here at this end, rather than at the end of the taker, where all these years of action and attention have just made no difference to the corruption economy.
Just think. When was the last time you gave a bribe to someone? There are lots of answers lurking in that one nasty answer.
Brand Guru & Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc