Some time in the 1970s the dramatist, satirist, lawyer, political observer, editor, publisher, writer Cho Ramswamy came out with a play “Hey Truth, what is your price”. He proved that everybody has a price – money, position, promotion…there was nobody who could not be bought.

Currently that seems to be more true than in the 1970s. Can we really turn the clock back? I am not so sure. The more I hear about political corruption and high level bureaucratic corruption the more I am convinced that it will require a lot of effort, but it may not be impossible. We need a will. No, not a political will, but a will among the common people. We, The People, need to push for reduced corruption.

Today, as the headlines of corruption in high office meet the eye of the common man, he can well ask himself whether we in India have not sunk to such a stinking level that graft in high office is almost accepted as commonplace — to the point where “every man has his price.” We are not even asking whether every man has a price. We are only asking what is the price. Even the high courts and Supreme court itself are not above being asked this question. Yes here it may not be cash, it may be political.

Those of us who feel that “a public office or even a fund manager’s job is a public trust” are growing fewer year by year. Gradually the feeling is growing that a certain amount of dishonesty in office is to be expected — that a fellow is foolish to turn down a little gift  when it comes his way — that, after all, “if he doesn’t take it, somebody else will.”

Such an attitude, if and when it becomes a national habit, will bring about the fall of the country. Remember if your judges are hobnobbing with the corrupt lawyers and the foreign missions in the country, it will not be very far away that China or some other so called “enemy” will soon be accessing our 1.3 billion people with policies favoring them.

GST was supposed to usher in more honesty. However many of our retail shops still ask you “do you want a bill”. I was surprised because the shop owner must be paying GST on the items he buys. Yes a furniture item costing Rs. 50,000 could set you back by Rs. 9000, and that was not an expenditure that you could claim credit for. For example even if I were doing a business, I can’t claim GST credit on an item that is not used for business.

What can we do? we should stop saying “those are old values”. We have to bring out the stories of Lal Bahadur Shastri, Madhu Dhandavate, and leaders of yore. Most of them were capable of earning a lot more in their personal lives, but gave it up for being in public service. We should start celebrating those stories. Honesty should never have gone out of fashion. We should shame the corrupt people. Sack whole departments. Like Subramanian Swamy says “Abolish Income tax” for at least 20 years. Sell off all the Aaykar bhavans. It will generate a whole lot of cash.

The British appointed CRIMINALS as zamindars to collect land tax to be paid to them. They did not care about the consequences. We have to change such stupid, usurious practices. The “ICS” – Indian Civil Services was appointed to collect money for the Brits. We should completely, completely change how the system works. Can you believe that the Motor Vehicle Act expects the Mumbai taxi driver to wear a uniform which includes shoes? and that it becomes a ‘fine’ point for the policeman to earn Rs. 200 for his personal self? Do we realize that people HATE meeting a civil servant? whether it is a policeman or an Income tax officer?

 

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  1. Ah the corruption debate..

    All stated is true. However, Is corruption only limited to top level? We love to bash Politicians, Industrialists and everyone having Power for being corrupt, but is the average Indian honest? Really, lets ask ourselves, when the Traffic Cop pockets Rs 200 fine for his personal self, is the person giving the bribe not guilty? In fact he is guilty on two counts, breaking a rule and then bribing the police. When millions of employees submit fake bills for medical re-reimbursements are they not cheating on taxes. Sure an individual is cheating of say Rs 2000 of tax and cant be compared to crores being swindled by politicians. But if 1 cr individuals do that, it becomes a “scam” of 2000 cr. Not so small now? Is the shopkeeper who offers cash transaction to avoid GST not corrupt? Is the customer accepting cash transaction not corrupt?

    So lets not kid ourselves, the fact is that 80% (my guess, you can make yours) of Indians are corrupt. And this corruption has been the oil running our economy. GST and DeMo were attempts to withdraw this oil. And when the lubricating oil is withdrawn from the machinery…

  2. I still remember an interesting debate with a close friend on corruption during the anti corruption movement led by Anna Hazare. We were all supporting the movement and talking about putting an end to corruption. However, my friend argued that if we somehow end corruption, people will be back on the streets within 24 hours to bring back corruption.

    The problem is our plethora of mind boggling rules, laws and regulations which in many cases stifles human endeavours, introduces artificial distortion in efficiency and increases cost of compliance.

    Take a simple case. If someone plans to buy a piece of land, he has to run around multiple offices (which includes travel cost), take time off from work, fill forms etc. Now let us say this whole thing will cost 1000 Rs (apart from taxes and fees) and the clerk in a Government office offers to complete all formalities if we pay 300 Rs as bribe. Which one would we opt for?

    In many cases, if you go to shops during present times, you would be offered two prices. One with a bill (which will include GST) and paid by any means, and one without a bill (No GST) and paid only in cash. The second option would be cheaper since there is no GST and the good shopkeeper generally gives a higher discount when payment is done in cash. Which one would we favour?

    We cannot get rid of corruption without getting rid of our frivolous laws and introduce a more scientific process in law making.

    Unfortunately, corruption is what makes modern India efficient.

  3. @Srihari, very very valid points and the examples were very precise. One thing I want to add is the option to pay a bribe or not, pay gst or not are applicable only for the income taxpayers. For the rest of the population especially the ones who evade taxes, there is only one choice by default. Pay by cash, pay the bribe. They hink no further.

    For taxpayers, they already are fed up with many evading taxes. So they won’t think much to take the less expensive option which is to pay a bribe and pay by cash to evade gst.

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