Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Who says Indians are corrupt?

Introducing Cacofonix - The writer could have been a violinist, but succumbed instead to the drab world of engineering. Staying away from fixated views and beliefs, he seeks the mellifluous in the world of the cacophonous. And gets peeved enough occasionally to pen his thoughts.

I see a lot of despair in the minds and hearts of righteous citizens of India about corruption. There is a groundswell of opinion that this is the cancer that will spread inexorably, leading to the demise of our identity on the global stage as a nation to reckon with. I have thought this through, aided occasionally by a little tipple on the side, to arrive at this eminently elegant solution – legalise it! Because it’s too darned difficult to get rid of it. And modern management teaches us to be collaborative, not punitive.

We are very efficient at legalising things, so this should be easy. We build an extra floor on our house, we extend a balcony on to the neighbourhood park, we grow our gardens on the footpath in front of our house though it is not our property – and then, we get it ‘regularised’! Once ‘legal’, the judiciary no longer has a reason to frown on such excursions. All in exchange for a few measly rupees or a favour. Which we will no longer call a ‘bribe’, but the more appropriate and dignified, ‘facilitation fee’ (F2).

In fact, we will remove bribery and corruption from our lexicon altogether. We will write to Oxford and Cambridge, and whoever else that keep publishing all these dictionaries, and tell them they have to remove these words from their next edition for the Indian market. If they object, we will pay them an F2. Or break their legs by appointing someone appropriately qualified, through an F2.

This will have the immediate and hugely salutary effect of catapulting us up the perceptions index that Transparency International keeps publishing, always unfairly putting us near the bottom, below Burkina Faso and below Turkey. Thankfully, Pakistan is way below us. Let me illustrate my idea with a sample question. “Did you have to pay a bribe to get your passport done, even though you are a bonafide citizen with all the correct paperwork, address proof and a voter ID card (never mind they got your gender wrong)?” 20 years ago, my answer would have been “Yes”. It was a reluctant “Yes” because, when I refused to pay up the first time, my file got an “adverse noting” that no amount of follow up and visits to the RPO could reverse. With my idea implemented, the answer now would be “No”, because I would not recognise the word “bribe”. Pre-empted from unfavourable responses, the survey will leave us vying for the top spot with New Zealand as a country where things get done without underhand payments.


The F2 regime will ensure everything gets done. The University of Convivial Law Avoidance (UCLA), registered in Jharkhand, will offer a degree on F2. Besides, just think of all the waste we will eliminate – a brilliant demonstration of Lean Principles!

The Parliament will no longer be disrupted by charges of misappropriation of funds that each party discovers of the other party. No more getting reluctant people to protest against the Reddy brothers and their Bellary misadventure. No more suitcases being lugged around with risk of injury to their chaperones. Not clouded by negative perceptions, everyone will realise that Mayawati is merely living up to the literal meaning of her name – ‘The illusionist’. Votes of our MPs during no-trust motions will be secured through F2 payouts administered by lobbyists, something I am told is exercised in a better-dressed form in some advanced economies. This will also spare our MPs the blushes every time they have to give themselves a two-fold hike in salaries, because now there is a windfall of legal money from other quarters. It will feed more cash into the Indian economy because there would be no reason to put it in Swiss bank accounts. It will reduce cash transactions and remove all those ill-gotten bundles of 1000 and 500 rupee notes that still go around stapled, years after RBI banned stapling. Handling less cash will also eliminate millions of litres of human spit that go into the counting process, preserving our saliva for its intended use in our digestive system.

Economists will exult at the sustained double digit GDP growth that will result, because all the money going around will be legit, whether we look at expenditure, income or output. We crib that more than 60% of our GDP is driven by Services, not Infrastructure. The good news is that Infrastructure will bring in the highest F2 revenue. Contractors will no longer have to depend only on a Suresh Kalmadi – poor chap, nobody is talking about Shibu Soren anymore – but will have access to a bevy of honourable individuals whose kindness can be officially purchased, to build stadiums and sport complexes and flyovers and entire townships, let them be brought down by the rains, and build them again through fresh contracts, generating revenue, employing poor labourers and raising their standards of living. Of the labourers, I mean. Just as we do when laying roads. Or desilting the city’s drains. Or building schools in villages.

The RBI governor will no longer have the headache of monitoring market liquidity, because there is just too much of it anyway, and focus on minting less money in our mints. The Direct Tax Code will have progressively lower tax slabs as F2 income of a person rises. On the other hand, your F2 spending will be tax exempt. Tax compliance will shoot up. Lots of savings for the honest tax payer.

Money raised through auction of SHO posts at prime locations can go into a benevolent fund to be administered for post-retirement benefits to our police force. This will have trickle-down benefits in the form of lower haftas. Why, maybe even make haftas payable through an online portal so that legwork can be eliminated, releasing the time of beat constables for better things like beating up rickshaw and tonga pullers. More money in their hands will also mean lower F2 bills when you are caught jumping a red light, shooting someone in a bar, or running over some labourers.

Judges will no longer be harried about ‘revealing their assets’, a phrase that had me worrying endlessly about what I have to see on prime time TV – being a family man after all, and not holding a particularly high opinion about their fitness regime or manhood. With all graft cases removed from its backlog, the judiciary can quickly decide on things like getting buses to ply in bus lanes. F2 payouts to judges being legal, you can pick from an online menu of false accusations and their rates that you want to explore to send, say, your neighbour to some place far, far away.

The entertainment industry will have a glut of camera and reporting crew, freed up from all the gory reportage and sting operations, leading to a general improvement in the level of television and cinema that you see. The bahu may end up asking the saas, after clobbering her on the head, “kaisa lag raha hai aapko?” and the episode may get compered by someone who shouts “reporting live, from the studios of Bahujan Bahus and Manuwadi Saas” but that’s a small price to pay. Mayawati would be pleased that her politics, besides her hand bags and elephants, is getting the attention it deserves.

The country will free up a highly talented pool of individuals with the sharpest financial minds, once the F2 regime gets going. These are people thorough with the laws. These are people who have created wealth out of nothing. Just think where they can take us if we gave them something! $12 trillion, here we come.

I must start writing a book......
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22 comments:

  1. India has been a corrupt country, traditionally

    Today the politicians draw all the flak when there is huge pool of ppl benefittiing from corruption

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  2. You've taken a very common topic (and common solution) to new heights! Amazing writing, I must say!

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  3. i like it..like it a lot.first of all lets not call it corruption. thats a bad word. let us call it expediting payments as the americans do.
    and let us make it taxable. in a single stroke, we can eliminate the fiscal deficit.
    privatise expediting payments..that should be the new slogan for progress

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  4. Haha...! Awesome stuff! We should pay an F2 to a newspaper and get this published.

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  5. Things sound simpler than they are

    when you legalize corruption via F2, you bring the money going under the table under tax umbrella, in that case the F2 that we pay will go up. are we willing to pay extra F2? (frankly I don't know), maybe, maybe not.

    Also, quite a bit of bribes go for illegal activities ranging from rigging a case in your favour by bribing a judge to getting away from chalaan. there is no way you can legalise these bribes. you can't sell justice by legalising bribes. (not that it doesn't happen, but you can't make it legal)

    Also, it will make things socially awkward for our bureaucrats/administrative staff, because now all their under the table activities will become transparent. so there is likely to be a strong resistance from these people and note quite often bringing about these changes rests in the hands of these people.

    And it gives rich business entities even more power and that too, legal. Now they can easily snuff out small upcoming players by bribing the authorities to not give them permits and licenses or give permits and licenses in their favour because they can easily afford bigger F2/bribes.

    Legalising bribes as F2 may work in certain cases, not really a solution to the problem of corruption in general.

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  6. You know, you might actually be on to something here. And engineering hasn't managed to mess you up completely !!!

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  7. if you leave bribes, a lot of other stuff is possible, buying votes of mps and all is possible thats where the real cash flow is, rest all is so scattered that it cant be helped, even road contracts are passed after adjusting the facility fee...so most things can be covered...but this was supposed to be a sarcastic article. a lot of us found positives...nice

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  8. I think it's apt to point out two things in a country like the US that would be classified as bribery in India, but are legalized corruption in the US.

    The first is lobbying and campaign contributions. Companies can not only openly donate money to politicians to push through legislation, all the data is available on a website no less! So when one senator was responsible for blocking the bill to raise the oil spill cap to $10 billion from $75 million, everyone could see she had received huge donations from the oil industry.

    To make matters worse, the supreme court in the US recently ruled that there was no limit to the amount of money that corporations could give to politicians since "money is a form of speech and freedom of speech is unlimited."

    What. The. F***.

    The second is tips. It may not seem like much, but the tip industry in the US is $18 Billion annually! And it's nothing short of legalized bribery. Waiters demand it and even an ardent opposer of tips like me ends up leaving way above what I would leave in India.

    In fact, waiters openly tell you that if you don't leave a 15% minimum tip, you have no business going to a restaurant.

    Just putting India's corruption in a bit of perspective you know :)

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  9. hey is the f2 valid here too?! had posted my comment in the afternoon but has disappeared!!

    the fiery rage of frustration comes through wonderfully!
    but even after f2 is introduced these guys will find some way to make some more illegally! do not underestimate their ingenuity!

    any idea, once institutionalized, is fertile ground for corruption!

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  10. Amazing piece of work! My fingers keep threatening to write something like that but the poor mind can't do it! Fortunately, we have folks like you who can crib on behalf of the Non-F2-Enabled race.

    I'll sure wait for your Book.

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  11. @ magiceye - sorry your comment disappeared. You are one of the first ones always. You are right about Indian ingenuity. Every time a law introduces higher penalties, it serves only to jack up the 'expediting payment' that menon mentions. Maybe, like tips in the US, F2 gets standardised at 15%??

    @umashankar, SuzyQ, priyankaamrith, kartikay - glad you guys liked it. my first post actually

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  12. @Jon - politicians, you are right, face the brunt of public ire. Maybe because we elected them and feel let down when they get too brazen?

    @menon - quite tongue-in-cheek there!

    @Bhagwad Jal Park - I distinctly remember my first visit to the US many years back and how aghast I was at leaving hefty tips, constantly converting dollars to rupees! That was also when I learnt more about the existence of lobbying firms and agents on Capitol Hill, something that I related only to arms deals before that.

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  13. @achal, shahid - of course I am simplifying things. How else could we laugh? Laugh at our helplessness at getting this menace in check. Laugh at the futility of preaching probity in public life and rectitude to the marauding millions.

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  14. I just want to add this quote

    " The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false. "

    --Paul Johnson

    available at this page http://www.tsowell.com/quotes.html

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  15. But, isn't corruption in India "illegally' legalised?Don't we see our chosen representatives in parliament corrupt?Don't they represent us?
    It is a pity that corruption is in our intestines and has become part of our daily routine.One only has to be careful that one is not caught--has any politician ever been caught and those actually get caught get a life time bail.

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  16. Auditors, Lawyers,Doctors etc will be rejoicing for they are always exempted from disclosing any income to tax authorities because they neither keep any record of income nor issue receipts. How good it is.

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  17. @ bk chowla, sr ayyangar - yes, it is indeed way of life. A popular public poll has recently put the media as a pillar of our society. The media never reports about corruption in the media world. But does it really mean it is as clean as we think?

    Of course, the last thing I want to do is paint everyone with the same brush. There are upright people, dedicated to our nation, working for the uplift of the poor, working for industrial and agricultural progress. They have earned our highest respect and regard. I fondly hope that this minority becomes a majority some day.

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  18. you have shown the mirror to many of so-called patriots.. thanks

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  19. Isn't it all so every legal already?...most of my neighbours are the briborich and I didn't reach were I am, fighting for my rights!
    govt officials with salaries of 25 thou can afford very posh living and large cars
    superlative!...this post deserves being on Purba's blog...it's got style and character!

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  20. @ deepak - my thoughts exactly..
    @ nalini - thanks for your note. This was my first post. I hope Purba will continue to periodically allow me to reach out to her readers.

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  21. nice work...
    i feel the state of mind of our leaders is reflected here
    http://vikram-monika.blogspot.com/2010/07/different-strokes.html

    have a look if you get the time

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  22. So true in present context of indian politics, However I feel corruption starts from the very basic level of society. My views are Reason for corruption in India

    Do tell what do you feel about my explanation for the same topic?

    ReplyDelete

Psst... let me know what you are thinking.

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