February 18, 2020
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We, The Wretched

An open letter to Gujral on coping with the daily bribery grind

We, The Wretched

The Prime Minister
7 Race Course Road 
New Delhi 110011

Honourable Sir,

It was being a most pleasant surprise, sir, the other day, watching television interview and you are saying you are 'helpless' to control corruption. For the first time, sir, a Prime Minister is coming out and saying the truth. We are appreciating very much. My father, sir, freedom fighter, was upsetting and saying if Prime Minister is helpless, what about us? And he was also saying references to 50 years of independence and this is what the country has come to and all that.

But, sir, I am very much appreciating, for now I am knowing what to do. Last Tuesday, I took autorickshaw to go for duty and the meter showed Rs 30, when I am knowing that it is only Rs 18 from the street corner near smuggled goods shop to my office, so I said wicked man, you have done dishonesty with meter. So he is telling me why you shout at me, I am very short man, big men are doing so much bigger bigger things, like people are saying about Narsingh Rao and Laloo Yadav. I gave him Rs 18 only, but I was feeling sadly.

Sir, when all the newspapers are writing very long things about big, big politicians, I am thinking that I am average Indian and those politicians are making so much money I am not knowing how many zeros in how many crores. But every day I am waking up in the morning and going to sleep at night, and I am doing many things in between, and in all those things I am meeting so many average Indians and all of them are doing dishonesty.

 I am going to government offices and giving my application, and when the babu is sitting back in his chair, and using ballpen to clean his ear and looking at my application for 15 minutes and doing hmm hmm like he is thinking hardly, I am knowing babu wants bribe. I am now being able to know which babu wanting bribe and which babu not wanting. So I am humbly giving, and then the babu is giving me lecture on how Indians are being very corrupt, and he is going to hospital, and doctor is taking money to give bed to patient, it is big shame. I am nodding, sir, what else can I do?

So after seeing your TV interview, I am thinking very hard. The Prime Minister is helpless, so I am knowing I only have to help myself. So I am doing study, I am developing National Bribe Index to help fellowmen so they are knowing rate card and procedure. I am enclosing National Bribe Index with this letter, sir; please to see. I am also going to MODE who are coming up in market research and asking them to do survey. So they are coming and telling me that only 14 per cent of Indians are believing he can get work done quickly by honesty. And they are saying 70 per cent are feeling situation is being beyond repairing, there is no hope only. I am putting MODE survey findings in box, sir. Please to see.

I am doing all this, sir, because if I am not going to get help from top person in government, sir, I am having to think out how to be carrying on. I am having to put child in school, I am having to look after aged parents, and suppose I am dying, my wife is needing insurance money too much. So I am having to make arrangements. I am having to know which peon will let me meet official and for how much and which official I must offer what percentage. But I am, sir, very appreciating that you have spoken truth about helpless so I am not wasting time thinking I will not pay bribe.

BUT, last night, I am thinking why so much corruption? So I am asking my cousin brother who has read Constitution. He is saying Constitution very fine, it is saying right things: executive, legislature, judiciary. Very good people are giving very hard exam after mugging very fat books in toto, sir, and becoming bureaucrats. And there is being fourth estate. One of the best systems in the world, he is telling me. 

So confused myself, I am going and meeting consumer activist Mr H.D. Shourie, and he is telling me: "It is the rules, regulations and procedures which in turn are based on archaic laws, enacted over a hundred years ago, that are the main cause for petty corruption today." I am meeting sociologist Shiv Viswanathan, and he is saying that today, even for a person with PhD, sir, no less, it is not possible to fill any application form properly. "So it is the clerk who comes to our rescue," he is concluding.

So myself, I am thinking why for the political parties are talking about only big corruption, and not about this corruption which is everywhere and all around. Is it too small? So I am going to Suraj Bagla, member of National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, and he is saying: "The BJP, whose trading base is among the worst sufferers of this harassment, has not taken up this issue. Even the communists who claim to take cudgels of the masses, are not interested. Everybody is concentrating on the mega-scams, as they, being more glamourous, get more publicity."

 I am thinking so much pages on Harshad Mehta, and Sachdeva of M/S Shoes and Mr Bhansali, but what about all this small cases I am knowing about, which are more important? Manohar Lal and Vimal Behari Saraswat in metropolitan magistrates' court in Delhi are demanding Rs 50 from Adya Prasad Yadav for giving him date of next hearing in court. Ram Kumar Dhaiya, head warder of Central Jail No 3 at Tihar, is wanting Rs 200 from undertrial Dharam Singh for shifting him to less crowding barrack. N. Banerjee, chief manager, and Yash Pal Basi, deputy manager, in Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation, asking for Rs 3,000 from Ashwani Bhargava, a printer, for clearing bill of Rs 61,000. Mukesh Kumar Rana, junior engineer in DESU, and his tout Mahabir Singh are wanting Rs 40,000 from Gitarattan Jindal Public School for installing second electric connection, which was already approved.

I am knowing about this because these people are refusing to pay bribes, sir, they are making noise. Mr U.N.B. Rao, additional commissioner of police heading anti-corruption unit of Delhi Police, sir, is telling me 90 per cent of bribes "that exchange hands are by mutual consent. It is only when the demand is unreasonable that a complaint is lodged. Whenever the police arrest officials accepting bribes, corruption and harassment subsides for a while in that department. Only to raise its head later," he is saying.

AND then also what is happening? Less than 20 per cent only, sir, getting conviction. Ramesh Gupta, former president of Delhi Bar Association, is giving the reason to me for this. He is speaking: "When the police or anti-corruption unit lay a trap to catch corrupt officials, information is leaked out by the officials themselves, rendering the system ineffective." Also, sir, people are saying, scale is important. Mr Ajay Kapoor, one citizen warden appointed by lieutenant governor of Delhi, is saying: "If an official demands Rs 200-300 for installing an electricity meter, then it is OK.

 But if he demands Rs 50,000, it becomes a bribe." Mr Shourie is correctly telling me: "Today, there is hardly any area in which a citizen of this country does not feel harassed for seeking a service which he is rightfully entitled to receive." Mr Ved Marwah, former commissioner of Delhi Police, is telling: "Widespread corruption is upsetting public administration. There is a nexus between lower, middle and higher bureaucracy with regard to corrupt practices." K. Madhavan, former joint director, CBI, is agreeing: "The numerous scams only prove that India suffers from a leadership crisis. This crisis extends to all levels, and hence bribes have become widespread and rampant." Even IGs of police, sir (I am putting Mr J.K. Khanna's story in box), are having to write letters to papers to get railway refund. Bagla is telling me: "It is only after retiring from the service that I realise how callous, casual and insensitive the administration can be." And he is former transport secretary, sir. I am very revealed by what he is saying.

So I am thinking very hard till my head is pain, and I am finding two-three reasons for so much corruption all over place. One, I am thinking, sir, is scarcity. Population grow very much very fast, two crore people are borning every year, so too many people for too little things. For, I am thinking, where things are growing fast, bribes are growing down. Two-wheelers, telephones, cars, sir, look at them, so many companies producing so many more, so all touts and all are unhappy because I can get my Bajaj scooter easily now. But, then, I am thinking, when extra trains are running during holidays, touts are buying up all tickets and selling in black, benefits of extra trains not coming to people, sir. So myself I am very confusing.

My cousin brother is telling me monopoly is bad. Government doing so many things for so many years and not allowing other people to make same things. So babus and touts charging bribes so I can get those things. M.R. Pai, consumer activist from Mumbai, sir, is telling: "Corruption has arisen out of scarcity created by the public sector, the inefficient officials manning these offices of responsibility, and the controlled economy from the Second Five Year Plan in 1956." Petty officials having so much powers, sir, and they are not being paid well, so they are knowing they can turn their power into money. Pai is telling me, in 1960, in Mumbai, a person was needing minister's recommendation to get bottle of milk from monopoly Aarey Milk Colony. Now so many cooperatives are there, sir, in Mumbai, corruption is very down in milk.

But what to do, sir? If I am not paying bribe, the babu is harassing me, file is not moving. Suresh Kumar Golani, senior accountant in the Ministry of Human Resources, apply for apartment to Delhi Development Authority (DDA) in April 1981. Sixteen years passing, sir, no apartment, no refund of Rs 2,000, and Rs 2,000 worth more than Rs 16,000 now. Every month he is going DDA three-four times. He is telling me: "The first time I visited the DDA office, they asked me to buy soft drinks for all the 15 officials in the room, just to listen to my grievance. When I refused, I was shown the door." So I am reading history. And I am finding very strict guidelines in very old Indian books. In Mahabharata, I am reading, Bhishma is laying down very terrible norms of 'chastisation' of corrupt offi-cials. And in Arthashastra, sir, Kautilya is listing 40 types of corruption and laying down punishments. I am reading that list and seeing that that list covers everything. So I am thinking maybe you should read that list. It will be very enjoy.

But that was once upon a time. Now we are saying 21 century and 50 years of freedom. So Shiv Viswanathan is telling: "The real test of citizenship is to cope with corruption. It is important to understand that clerks, cops and touts are the backbone of the Indian economy." My cousin is saying he is presenting "contrarian view". Viswanathan is saying: "Corruption facilitates fast entry and better service. Corruption is based on trust, as no receipt is given for the money taken. It creates bonds of friendship and humanises." I am agreeing with him, sir. I am thinking I have to make arrangements. I have to build house, I have to look after family, I have to get good posting. And I am worrying how to do all this many things.

But now I am knowing. I am not worrying any more. If you are being helpless, I am to be helpful, to myself. And I am carrying National Bribe Index with me all places. And I am very carefree.

Yours faithfully, 

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