Corrupt Politicians in the land of Clean Citizens?

Every time there is a discussion on corruption, we lay the blame squarely on our politicians, bureaucrats, policemen, everyone but ourselves!

Isn’t it a mystery how we have such corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, policemen, etc. in a land of Clean Citizens?

Some years back, my General Manager and I had visited a customer at his factory to finalise their order for a few machines for his company’s expansion. After we completed the discussion, the Proprietor described a peculiar problem that was being faced on one of their existing machines, and asked me if I could suggest a solution. After getting some more information from the Factory Manager, I suggested a few adjustments to be made in the machine’s settings. 10 minutes later, the Factory Manager returned and reported that the problem appeared to have been solved. I told him to let me know if the problem recurred.

A week later, I visited the same customer to collect their Purchase Order and cheque for advance payment. When I asked about the problem on their existing machine, the Proprietor replied that the problem had not recurred. He was extremely pleased about it since they had not been able to solve this problem for a few months. He then asked me if I could suggest a consultant who could visit his factory one a week for a few hours every Saturday afternoon and advise them about operation and maintenance of all their machines. He mentioned the monthly fee that he would pay, and said that, if the person happened to be employed in any other company, he was willing to pay the fee in cash so that nothing would be on record.

While he hadn’t said so in so many words, the gentleman was obviously making me an offer to be his unofficial consultant. The profile fit me perfectly! He knew that my office closed at 1.00 pm on Saturdays. The monthly fee was generous, more than half my monthly salary at that time!

However, I acted as if I hadn’t got his message. I told him that I couldn’t think of any suitable person, but I would definitely try to suggest somebody at the earliest. At that point, as if he had got a sudden inspiration, he said, “You know something! I just realised that you are the ideal person to be my consultant!!”

I replied that, while I certainly could do justice to the assignment if I took it up, I couldn’t accept his offer since the terms of my employment explicitly forbade me from engaging in any work or business other than that of my employer.

The customer was an educated man, owning a few flourishing businesses in various industries. He was one of India’s ‘Clean Citizens’! No politician, bureaucrat or policeman was involved in this matter. His intended act of corruption was self-motivated.

Like my customer, almost all of us indulge in voluntary acts of corruption in our daily life.
We offer bribes to policemen because we don’t want to pay fines. We use official facilities (car, telephone, etc.) for personal use. We get birth certificates for our children with the Date of Birth changed to ensure earlier school admission. We jump traffic signals. … The list can go on and on. We are not victims in these acts of corruption, we are the perpetrators.

Corruption of politicians, bureaucrats, policemen, etc. is a problem that needs to be addressed. But, we ourselves are no less guilty. Politicians, bureaucrats, policemen, etc. are only the face of corruption in India. The body of this problem, and of all other problems, is we, the people of India. Along with our efforts to change politicians, bureaucrats, policemen, etc. for the better, let us try to change ourselves as well.

(This post was originally published on Aug 17, 2013.)

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Law-enforcers and law-makers, or law-breakers?

The following figures were reported for traffic violations in Pune from January 01, 2014:
Cases registered:
Helmet violations: 22,140
Seat belt violations: 70,989
Signal jumping: 1,24,995
Riding triple seat: 11,364
Total number of traffic violation cases: 6,84,692
Total fine collected: Rs. 7.67crore

From these figures, it appears the Pune traffic police are sincerely trying to ensure that the citizens of Pune follow traffic rules.

However, Mid-Day, which reported the above figures, also reported that, on November 11, 2014, around 300 police officials were seen visiting the Commissionerate on Pune Station Road without wearing helmets (on two-wheelers) or seat belts (on four-wheelers) that the traffic police has deemed mandatory for all. However, the traffic cops did not fine them, but simply denied their vehicles entry inside the premises.

The Mid-Day report adds that, once the news of this ‘action’ became known to other police officials, several had found a way to bend the rules. Those who had helmets were made to wear them as they turned up at the Commissionerate gate. Officials who did not have their own helmets simply borrowed helmets from others just to pass the traffic cops. In fact, some of the policemen kept a few common helmets at the gate itself, which were then recycled amongst all those who needed to enter the Commissionerate. The helmets were immediately removed once they were inside, and promptly sent back to be used by other cops.

What about our law-makers? The Times of India reports that Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport and Highways rode his two-wheeler in Nagpur without wearing a helmet on October 25, 2014. The report adds, “This is not the first time Gadkari was seen driving helmetless. After winning the Lok Sabha elections, he was driving ‘triple seat’ and recently a TOI reader shared a photo of him, his wife Kanchan and granddaughter on a scooter coming out of an ice-cream parlour.”

How can laws be implemented when our law-makers and law-enforcers are law-breakers themselves?

Don’t we see this in our homes and workplaces as well? Parents expect their children to follow certain dos and don’ts that they themselves do not follow. Teachers have one set of rules for their students and another set of rules for themselves. Bosses expect their juniors to follow rules that they themselves break with impunity.

Isn’t each one of us guilty to some extent?

Where and with whom should the change begin?

What happens when people speak up?

On September 15, 2014, PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) Flight PK-370 bound for Islamabad was delayed at Karachi for over 2 hours ostensibly waiting for the arrival of former Interior Minister Rehman Malik of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Dr Ramesh Kumar Wakwani, a National Assembly member of the ruling PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz).

According to Mid-Day, when Mr. Malik and Dr. Wakwani finally came, the passengers stopped them from boarding the aircraft, shouted at them, and booed and ridiculed them.

PIA has clarified that the delay was due to a technical issue and not because of the politicians. Whatever the truth, the point is the passengers spoke up when they thought the powerful politicians had caused the delay, and the politicians had to retreat in the face of citizen power!

DNA reports that, earlier the same day, in Vasai, a suburban town north of Mumbai, a motorcycle rider was confronted by the police for entering from the wrong side of a road. When the young man refused to furnish his Driving Licence, and further challenged the cops who were also allegedly parked on the wrong side of the road, a police officer started misbehaving with him. As can be seen in the video clip below, the young man stood up to the police officer. The people around vocally supported the young man, forcing the police officer to be less aggressive. Had nobody supported the young man, one can be certain the policemen would have beaten him mercilessly.

We would be naïve to believe that there has been a drastic change in the behaviour of politicians and policemen or that politicians and policemen will bow down to every protest against their high-handed behaviour. However, we can be certain that people can make a difference when they speak up.

Be the change

Politician-bashing is at its peak these days, with Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP making all kinds of allegations against all politicians, insinuating that all politicians are corrupt. Many of us are happy to agree with these insinuations. After all, by pronouncing politicians (and bureaucrats, officials and policemen) guilty of corruption and other sins, we give ourselves the status of ‘poor victims’.

My question is: how good are we, the people of India?
1. Have I always paid Income Tax in full, declaring all my income?
2. Have I never bought/used smuggled goods?
3. Have I never bribed a policeman or a government servant?
4. Have I never spoken on my cellphone while driving?
5. Have I never engaged child labour?
6. Have I never used official facilities (car, telephone, etc.) for personal use?

I have listed 6 questions, but there are many more. We should ask ourselves these questions. If we can answer YES to all these questions, we have the right to criticise politicians (and bureaucrats, officials and policemen). If not, it’s high time we all try to change ourselves.

While almost all, if not all of us have indulged in small and big acts of corruption, most of us will claim that we did not do so voluntarily, but only because the system (to use Rahul Gandhi’s favourite punching bag!) forced us to do so. Is that true? I don’t think so.

I believe we voluntarily indulge in small and big acts of corruption because:
a. We have an aversion for hard work. Hence, we always look for shortcuts.
b. We believe that the end justifies the means.
c. Our society respects wealth, irrespective of the manner in which it was acquired.

Politicians (and bureaucrats, officials and policemen) are only the face of the problems facing India. The body of these problems is we, the people of India. Democracy is “government of the people, by the people, for the people”. If people are good, government (politicians, bureaucrats, officials and policemen) will be good. If people are bad, government (politicians, bureaucrats, officials and policemen) will be bad.

If we want the country to change for the better, each one of us must change for the better. If we change, politicians, bureaucrats, officials and policemen will change. If we do not change, politicians, bureaucrats, officials and policemen will not change. Change has to begin with us.

As Gandhiji had said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”