Disclaimer : My thoughts on this site are not intended to cause physical emotional or financial harm to any person or thing mentioned in this site or to the reader and I take no responsibiilty for the same.. So read at your own risk!! I also hope this font is large enough to be considered legal and small enough not to make my blog ugly !

Friday, July 01, 2005

Bribes - Changes over time

70's :

When I was still a little boy, Bribes were considered shameful. People who took bribes were talked about in my house in hushed tones. (we are taking lower middle class perceptions here).

80's :

Bribes were more commonplace in real life, movies. We used to talk about how friends and relatives who were known to take or give bribes werent being punished by god and seemed to be living more comfortably ! The taboo was slowly lifting.

90's

Bribes were legalized thanks to terms like "capitation fee" for college admissions and "fast track" fee for jumping the line in telephone exchanges. We are talking about the sprouting of "self financing colleges" in the month or so of Janaki's Chief Ministership. These things were considered bad things at one time. But most of these colleges have developed over time and are now producing high quality engineering graduates who have taken the world by surprise. Today, the average Chennaivasi has a cell phone and those land line connections which required an 8000 rupee payment (instead of the 3000) for jumping the line are long forgotten. People get used to the concept that given the extra payment, we can get faster access to phones, education, bisleri water and Gods like Thiruppathi Balaji and Madurai Meenakshi.

Now :

Bribes are a common theme in tamil movies today (Vivek's comedy in general, Anniyan etc. are classic examples) and Tamil Serials (even today in some serial my wife was watching, a cop takes bribes collected by his subordinates and hands it back to an old man!) and not to mention, in real life. The derogatory connotation seems to be only in movies and teleserials. The average man has either accepted it or legitimized it. But reality is that, now you are forced to give the bribe and sugarcoat it in other terms. Lower middle class folks who were trying to balance their budgets are now doing the same thing but instead of bargaining with mango vendors and dress sellers, they are now trying to minimize the bribes they have to give !

Future

Currently a lot of companies in India have a scheme of paying their employees a fixed income and a non fixed income (?!) which includes a bunch of allowances. Employees exploit this system where they claim medical expenses, petrol charges, haircuts and what not with the added advantage of not having to pay taxes on these amounts. This is a legitimate way to bribe employees. While these are not like stock options, they are the future of payscales in the country. Pretty soon, bribes as a term will not exist. It will be fully legitimized as "variable pay" and an auction type capitalistic system will evolve for the rich and a "fixed pay" system will be set up for the lowest common denominator. The people who cannot afford much will pay a minimum for the poorest form of any service (be it in terms of time, quality or quantity) and the people who can afford anything will bid for better quality service where quality is proportional to pay.

What is the downside ?

1. Honest people who delude themselves into thinking that bribes are bad get hurt : example is the honest priest in Pazhani (everyone has to get with the program !).

2. People like me who feel that gods should be bribe exempt, get hurt. My wifes ex-colleague from Bombay came to visit us when we were on vacation. He said "hi, why is it that we have different tickets for balaji temple and more money means faster access.. i havent seen that in any temple in the north or west!". My answer to him was that Balaji was a busy god and he has more demand than supply (only so many people can pass by his shrine in any given day and so his stock price is up!.

3. People who cross the borderline between bribery and thievery like the winch operator who makes you sit on the side if you dont pay extra or a temple employee who yells at people in a temple line but lets you bypass the line if you pass him a fiver hurt people.

There is no downside till everyone gets on the same page, but until then...

4 Comments:

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 7:52 AM, Blogger Raj wrote...

I got an invitation today to attend the inauguration of the Tamilnadu chapter of Transparent International,whose mandate is to receive complaints of corruption from common people and help them expose the wrong-doer. Sounded pretty interesting. At least, somebody is trying to weed out bribery and corruption.

 
I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 12:14 PM, Anonymous prabukarthik wrote...

good one.. i have two points

you are a bit lenient on the middle class. Let's take govt. offices.. how many of the birlas and tatas work there? surely its the lower and middle middle classes...and needless to say govt. offices is perhaps the most corrupt of all places in India. its wrong to say politicans come to govt. offices to harass the officers everyday.. thats not true...they are corrupt because it pays to be corrupt... So middle classes are equally to be blamed...they are good at playing victim role... good at hyprocrisy.. naanum middle class dhaan... but this is what i think...

The present education setup especially in medical, is unfairly called a 'business'. I'd say its not even business...its bloody monopoly...

For e.g. we have ONE govt. dental college in the whole of Tamil Nadu...add issues like reservation and what seats are we looking at? Not many...

Almost the same goes for medical.. Assume i am a doctor having my own hospital and i have a son who wants to do medicine...and he fails to get the impossible cut off marks for a free seat...what will i do? Go to these private colleges of course..or send my son abroad...

I don't think a guy who scores 296.6 will be a much better doc. than a guy who scores 295.6..and who has money and who has a hospital to boot...

What's more, the problem is even more acute in PG level...

Its more of a demand-supply issue just like Thirupathi balaji, just like tatkal booking in railways...


If variable pay is bribery...a good percentage of IT employees (again middle class folks) plain cheat with forged medical bills, forged travel bills, forged rent receipts etc. At least the former is legal.

Coming back to Bribes.. i had one keralite friend of mine who was glad to see a COng. govt in Kerala..His quip was, "The Congress is corrupt but hey, at least things will happen if you pay them their due....unlike the left".. so its always relative :)

I had only forest department employee accompany me in Intercity exp. (Chennai and CBE) the train reaches CBE @ 10 PM. it was a saturday... he was cribbing throughout because that day being saturday he could've made a decent collection from timber firms nearby if only he had been in CBE.. he cited some reason why he could not do this 'collection arrears' in the coming weak...He told me there are a good number of rules which are impossible to follow and it all works in an 'understanding'.

There is enormous 'social proof' for bribery now...I think it will remain high and prevalent so long as

- resources are scarce and there is huge demand for almost anything,
- power is centralized,
- there are stringent (and impossible to follow) rules..

morality is a weak force...

I think in general we Indian folks (unlike the western societies) are culturally not familiar with living in an urban setup... and i think bribery/corruption is more of an urban phenomenon...thats a totally different topic to think and discuss :0

 
I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 12:52 PM, Blogger Sundar Narayanan wrote...

PK agree with you on your take on middle class..

also after reading your comment, was thinking... lets say a person gets in on merit and becomes a doc. what are the barriers to that person actually starting a practice? probably a lot more steep compared to getting in and out of medical college..

only thing I dont understand is what do complex rules have to do with bribes?

it is not like the bribes magically change the rules. whatever is being bypassed with the bribe can be bypassed without the bribe, no?

:)

 
I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 8:49 AM, Anonymous prabukarthik wrote...

complex rules are there for a reason, to aid and abet bribes...

i once had a chance to travel with a forst dept. guy in intercity to kovai on a saturday...

he started 'talking' from jolarpettai... and did not stop till cbe... it was pure cribbing..

'indha vaara vasool pochu saar' was his mantra...

he was made to travel on a day train which reaches CBE on a saturday night... which means he had to lose out on the 'mamool' from the timber shops in his locality...

he says the forest dept. has some impossible to follow rules purely for this purpose...

so ~all of the timber folks pay regularly as a practice...

I think his 'self-respect' forbade him for asking for the 'weekly bribe arrears'.. avarukkum oru 'ethics' irukku :)

so, yeah rules can be broken without bribes, bribes makes the process smoother, the rule-braker need not hide anything an can be candid (at least in this context)...

 

Post a Comment

<< Home