ANGRY. HELPLESS. HUMILIATED. That is how young tax-paying Indians feel when they confront corruption in their lives. Partly complicit in the wrong-doing but confused about what to do, they see in the Anna Hazare-led movement for a strong Lokpal bill a possible solution to their pent-up frustrations about the system.
‘I paid a tout; it was worth it ’
Ankush Wadhera, 29,
Business strategy consultant
Earlier this year, I lost my driver’s licence and went to the licence office in Sheikh Sarai to have a new one made.
I was told to fill out a form and return in about two weeks to find out if my case number had come up. If not, I would have to return every couple of days till it did. Then I could begin the process of getting my new licence. I explained I travelled a lot on work and asked if there was a way I could be told when it was my turn at the counter. He said there was no such system; if I missed my turn, my file would automatically go to the back of the queue and I would have to wait another two weeks.
As I turned around to leave the counter, I spotted a man who was clearly a tout. I decided to ask him for help.
“Just file an FIR, give me your details and R1,500 and I’ll take care of it,” he said. As I handed over R1,000 as advance, he told me to meet him the next time I was in Delhi, pay the rest of the money and I would get my licence the next day.
The next time I was in Delhi, I returned to the licence office. My tout was ready with all the forms. As soon as I gave him the R500, his assistant strode to the front of the long queue and slipped my forms to the man behind the counter.I stepped up for a photograph, and the next day I had my licence. It cost me R1,500 instead of R270, but it was worth it. I see it from the perspective of a service at a premium. What choice did I have given the fast-paced life I lead?
(As told to Shalini Singh)
‘The police were the worst’
Suneel MN, 30
My worst encounter was with the police, when my motorcycle caught fire. I had parked it in my apartment complex and no one knows how it happened. I rushed to the local police station to lodge a complaint but realised I was at a great disadvantage because I was a non-Kannadiga; I grew up in Delhi.
The policemen decided they did not understand Hindi or English, instead demanding that I lodge the complaint in Kannada. I spent two hours pleading with them.
I needed an FIR to pursue my insurance claim, so I was forced to take time off from work to visit the police station. I went there six times before a constable finally agreed, in fluent Hindi, to take the complaint down in exchange for R500. Then, my insurance company told me I also needed a police closure report to wrap up my claim.
So I had to visit the police station seven more times, but still the police would not help. Finally, a person claiming to be an advocate approached me, demanding R5,000 to get the desired result. He said the policemen would share this money among themselves. The visits to the police station and insurance office took a huge toll on my work, so I finally decided to give up. Four years later, I still have the charred motorcycle as a reminder of the bribes I paid.
I never received the insurance claim. I drive a car now and pray that I never need to approach the police again.
(As told to Salil Mekaad)
‘I can’t fight alone, can I?’
Shoeb Shaikh, 26
Technology specialist in a finance company
My first interaction with a police official turned out to be my first brush with corruption. I had applied for a passport four years ago and was told that the process would take 30 days. The stated fee was R1,000. But then I went to get my forms cleared at the Kidwai Nagar police station near Sewri (an area in central Mumbai). Although all my documents were in order, the police were lax about clearing my application. The first time, I simply did what everyone I knew had done — I gave the official R100.
However, 25 days later, I realised my form was still lying at the police station. This time, the officials claimed I had submitted more documents than necessary and that I had different home addresses on different papers. I realised they were not satisfied with the money I had handed over. They did not
explicitly ask for money, but people told me not to argue with the police. So this time, I gave them R500.
My passport arrived just 20 days after that, a good three months after I had first filled my application. Thanks to the delay, I missed an opportunity to travel abroad on work. Although I was angry about having to pay a bribe, we are all part of this corruption. I have been caught driving my bike without a helmet and the officer took R30. I did not get a receipt and I know it went into his pocket.
We allow the system to be corrupt, but if I want to fight, who will support me? I can’t fight alone, can I?
(As told to Aarefa Johari)
‘I’m in an unequal battle’
S Duraibabu, 51
Director of a multinational company
In 2008, I bought a flat in Adyar (an up-market residential locality in Chennai) in my wife’s name. We rented it out. In 2009, the first tenant vacated the flat, so I found another one, finalised a lease agreement and handed over the flat’s keys to him.
But when he and his family arrived there with all their belongings in a truck, they found that the flat had been locked from the inside. I made inquiries and learnt that a man in an adjacent flat had rented the flat out to someone else.
I was shocked to find that he had managed to get the flat transferred in his name even though my wife had been paying the electricity bills and property tax until then. I also learnt that he had cheated four others in the housing complex of 30 flats.
When I tried to register a complaint against him, I discovered that this man was very well-connected politically. So it is an unequal battle that I am fighting. Eventually, I got the police to register a complaint against him. But I was horrified at the extent of corruption across government departments.For the past two years, I have been unable to concentrate on my work because I have had to track the progress of the case at different levels, make rounds of police and administrative offices and regularly file RTI applications. If after so much education, exposure and experience, I can land up in this huge mess, I shudder to imagine the plight of those who have fewer resources.
(As told to KV Lakshmana)