Thursday, 1 September 2011

Is the Middle Class Draupadi or Menaka in the corruption drama?

The middle class (including traders), unfailingly portray themselves as Draupadi, when it comes to corruption. Don’t we, many a times, play Menaka in the corruption drama? Our reflex action is to break a rule and bribe when hauled up.
During the Anna Hazare show, a TV channel showed a hilarious video featuring, `a victim of corruption’ who had paid bribe for jumping a traffic signal. This lady had jumped a traffic signal, because nobody was around but was caught by a traffic cop, who was hiding behind a tree and she paid a bribe. Hello, Madam, the cop lost 2-1 to you on the dishonesty count. He took a bribe from you, no doubt, but you broke a traffic rule as well as paid a bribe, instead of a fine. This is Middle Class attitude towards corruption. If they break a rule, that is fine but if they pay a bribe to escape punishment on that account, it is corruption.
Our traders also agitated for a corruption free India.  In reality, they disregard civic, health, weights & measures, labour laws and tax norms but get away due to corruption.  Most traders in our cities consider footpath as an extension of their shop and pay a bribe to ensure continuance of the encroachment. Are they Menaka or Draupadi in the corruption saga?
 All the bloggers ranting for anti-corruption, kindly check if the software in your PC is a legal one. Are we not fueling corruption, when we buy pirated software, DVDs and books? How many of us have built their houses as per the approved plan? Don’t we bribe the municipal inspector who comes for inspection?  Why do we agree to pay/receive in black when we buy or sell a flat? Most parents in a benevolent mood allow their under aged children to drive bikes. When the kid commits an accident, don’t these parents run pillar to post, to ensure that a case is not registered? Are we a Draupadi or Menaka in these cases?
Do we have any idea about the manpower and resultant expenditure that will have to be incurred to have an effective Lokpal? The global average is 1 policeman for every 200 citizens. Even if it is implemented, only for central government servants, who total around 5 million, the strength of Lokpal will be almost 25,000 employees. Will the part time revolutionaries (especially the techies and MBAs) quit their high paying jobs and join Lokpal to ensure integrity at the working level? It is easy to scream `Inquilab Zindabad’ but difficult to be an instrument for change.
There is a demand, for a citizen charter setting time limits, for each work in a Government office. The Government offices, in turn, are going to come up with demands for additional manpower, to meet these schedules. How much of manpower is this going to add to the Government machinery? What about the expenditure on account of increased manpower? Does the civil society have an idea about this?
Adequately staffed government departments have its own perils for the citizens. Just take the case of Bangalore Traffic Police, as against an adequate manpower of 10,000, they have around 2,500. As a result, many of the traffic offences go unnoticed and even if noticed, not penalized. Guess what would happen, if traffic police gets fully staffed. What would happen if the municipal authorities get adequately staffed and adopt a Singaporean model for penalising civic transgressions? Given our penchant for breaking traffic/civic rules, they will become self financing within a year.
Corruption is not a disease in India; it is a way of life. If you want to change the way you live, you must change the way you think. We need smarter solutions, to reduce the need for public, to go to a Government office. Merely adding a few thousand policemen will not get rid of the problem, it will only add to the layers of Bureaucracy.
The Civil Society should demand, for, inclusion of a clause that post Lokpal, the bribe giver should also be punished? Post Lokpal, it becomes our moral obligation, to complain against a demand for bribe, rather than comply with it, even if we are at fault. We should walk the talk, shouldn’t we?

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Banglaore, Karnataka, India