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Friday, April 15, 2011

Chp 348. Corruption: Not right = Wrong?

Tata Tea’s social awareness and anti-corruption campaign Jaago-Re is not just a great initiative and amazing campaign, it also fills me with immense pride to be one of the many admen who have worked on this project.

It’s not every day that we get to work for a cause we are passionate about (AND get paid for it, Lolz). As is evident from the recent Anna Hazare incident, corruption is something all of us detest, but still, it runs rampant in our country, like a horde of barbaric Vikings pillaging a defenseless village and leaving behind nothing but trails of destructions and ruins.

And corruption can come in different forms. The Grim Reaper wears a hooded black cloak and carries a scythe, but sometimes I’m sure he goes around dressed in Armani suit carrying the latest Android phone. But he is still Death, nonetheless.

Today I saw something that made me wonder about the other forms of “corruption” I’m sure many of you may have witnessed before too. The question I want to ask you is, “Yes, I know what the cops are doing is not right, but is it wrong?

Every day I pass two busy junctions near my house. Since the two junctions are on service lanes and not the main road, there is usually just one traffic cop handling both junctions. And when there is a deadlock (car coming from West turns South. Car coming from East turns North, blocking first car. Car travelling from South to North blocks second car, but cannot move forward because it is blocked by first car. And all three cars cannot reverse because many vehicles are behind them, honking their horns), the entire service lane can even be jammed for hours.

Yesterday there was no such deadlock. There was a traffic cop in one of the two junctions, dutifully manning the junction. At the other junction, there was an auto-driver! He too was manning the junction, making sure no such deadlock occurred.

I was impressed! That was extremely altruistic of the auto-driver to spend his morning (especially during rush hour) making sure there was no traffic jam, I thought.

This morning, again there was another auto-driver doing the same selfless work! A traffic cop was manning the second junction while this auto-driver was commanding the first junction. I became curious, so I asked my auto-driver how these “civilians” could sacrifice their time (and money) doing the work of a traffic police.

My auto-driver laughed.

That was when he told me about them. It was never about service to society. My auto-driver said that those people were being “punished”. It seems, sometimes when cops catch errant auto-drivers (probably for jumping a red light or not wearing uniforms), instead of fining them or confiscating their license, sometimes the traffic cops make them do some work, like the ones I saw today and yesterday!

So basically, the traffic cops became judge, jury and executioner right there on the spot. They had no rights (or power) to do that, but then again, because of that, many of us reached office in time. At the end of the day, I know it is still like bribery. Instead of paying the cops cash, you are giving them something else so that you don’t get caught. Does this make the act any less serious? Does it make you feel less guilty?

This reminded me of an incident back in B’lore around 6 years ago.

A bunch of my friends were partying and things got a little out of hand. They even got into a fight and created quite a ruckus. It was around 3 in the morning so the neighbors complained.

A police jeep (Hoysala) and a police van soon busted the party.

As they were transported in the police van, my friends sobered up real fast, and they all behaved very politely with the cops. And so, instead of taking them to the police station (or even asking for a bribe), the cops stopped the jeep and van, and made the guys clean the van! Lolzzz.

And so, at the break of dawn, my friends were busy filling water in a bucket from a roadside pump and scrubbing the police van thoroughly while the cops were sitting nearby having tea. After an hour of intense cleaning, the cops told them to stop and let them go. No charges. Just a warning not to create trouble again. My friends were more than happy to walk free, and didn’t mind cleaning the police van at all.

Again – right or wrong? I know your conscience says wrong but… yes, there is that feeble “but” too, right? Hard to explain, I guess.

3 years ago, back in Delhi, I lost my phone and my mobile service provider was not willing to give me a duplicate sim card without an FIR report from the cops. So around 8 months ago, I lost my mobile phone again. This time I went straight to the police station (with a Maharashtrian friend) to file a report.

My friend said the cops would take time to process my request as there were many people at the police station. So we approached one senior looking cop and told him about my problem, and that I needed a letter from the police.

I was praying the cop would not ask me for a bribe. He didn’t. But instead he did something else. He told me he would write the letter of course, but… he pulled out his drawer, shook his head, and said he didn’t have any sheet of paper! And so my friend and I went to the stationary shop on the other side, bought one set of A4 size paper and gave it to the cop. He took one sheet, wrote his statement, sealed it, signed it and we were good to go. He kept the remaining 199 papers with him.

Was that a bribe? Well, technically speaking, he didn’t demand money and I didn’t give him money either. But deep inside, I still know it was not right. It’s just that, the guilt felt less heavy.

At this point, I’m sure some of us try to convince ourselves that “not right” necessarily does not mean “wrong” sometimes. Am I right or wrong?


Stas R said...

Neither right nor wrong.!!huh:-P

H.Vangchhia said...

A law can be twisted for the benefit of the citizens and this is not what they called "Above the law" kinda thing.

blackestred said...

Mix a drunken party with a couple of cops and you always get a great story to tell your kids.. when they grow up, that is..
I support Anna and applaud his efforts, but I'm skeptical about how effective the implementation would be..
When you break/bend the law for good, people overlook it and the act may be accepted, if not justified, but when it is for wrong reasons or personal gain, people cry "Corruption!"..
So how can we deem such acts as being good or bad when they are both acts of breaking the law?

Zaia said...

It is really a very nice idea to punish those errant drivers instead of taking their money by the traffic police. I doubt that millions of money collected from lawbreakers reached it's destination in our country. It may well be wrong in the eye of the law, it just is kinda good for me... perhaps for people like you - who reached office in time. :)
Btw, what would the 'senior looking cop' do with your 199 sheets of paper afterwards? lolzz

odzer said...

I think the guy who manned the traffic as a punishment would learn to have some more respect for the traffic laws. Although I think the police in this country are still very colonial and have no sense of "service" but only of maintaining law and order.

Sangpuii Pa said...

Tha khawp mai

VaiVa said...

You are not right but not wrong! :P

Ka type ve teuh a, hmanni khan a comment theih si loh a, tikhian lo ngaidam mai teh!

daniel said...

Confused,yar, as I always am about 'white' lies. I'll just make sure not to be on the receiving side.

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