Cutting edge technology has entered the domain of corrupt state officials who frequently use the short message service (SMS) to demand a cut in kickbacks or bribe.
Child development project officer Padamshree Kashyap was in for a surprise recently when she received an SMS—containing Rs 50,000 bribe demand and threats—from the district programme officer (DPO).
Kashyap, who is posted at Simdega block, saved the message that says: “As told earlier, u hvn’t snt the amount (50). Be ready to face consequences.”
She showed local deputy commissioner Sunil Kumar the SMS on Friday. After that she filed a written complaint against the DPO’s repeated demand for his “share in the alleged kickback received from the supplier of eatables at Anganbari centres”.
“I have seen the SMS. Prima facie it seems to be sent from the DPO’s mobile phone. We have contacted cell phone experts in the BSNL to verify the genuineness of the message,” Kumar told HT on Monday.
The district administration is waiting for the findings of BSNL experts. “If experts say that the SMS is genuine and sent from the DPO’s number, then stern action will be initiated against the officer,” Kumar said.
So the days of veiled demand for bribe by asking for a mithai ka dabba and chai pani seem to be over in Jharkhand. SMSing has become the cheap and most convenient mode of conveying the bribe demand.
This practice is now prevalent in most government departments. A case in point is the state home department. When the department provided mobile phones to all officers in-charge (OCs) of police stations, inspectors, deputy superintendents of police and other senior officers, it had not imagined that the gadgets would be used for sending across bribe demands.
A hassled officer in-charge of a Ranchi police station summed up the new method of bribe collection saying: “Our problems have increased manifold ever since we have been provided cell phones.
Seniors now send coded SMSes, whenever they or their wives want something from the local market. At times, they even demand air tickets.”