With Indian elections around the corner and lots of tweets going on about the corruption in India; I couldn’t stop but think, how can a new leader stop an age old tradition of bribing? Is it only the responsibility of the new leader to change the overall culture of India? What about the people of India? Do they not bare any accountability in prospering this corrupt government culture from ages? Obviously, people have the intrinsic responsibility to be the part of this cultural change, but the major changes can be implemented by the new leader in order to reduce corruption in India. Following is one of the ideas through which we can achieve this goal.
I still remember that day from 2003, when I had to go with my friend to check out the application process for the new passport application. During that time, there was no consistent information available for a simple task like a passport application. No one could predict what kind of documentation will be asked for at the application counter, or how long it will take to finish the entire process. During our first visit, we ended up inquiring about all of that information, and noted down all the necessary procedures to acquire the passport. Next day, we took all the desired documents, which we had noted down the other day, and started our journey again. But during our next visit, the same person told us that we need to notarize all of these documents, and get few other documents. Obviously, we were two naïve kids at that time, who hadn’t experienced life. On our third visit to the passport office, we had realized that this was more than just missing documents. What would have happened to that officer, if he would have just given us the list of required documents at once? Ah. We had then realized that this was the sign given to us by the government officer to give him some extra money under the table. Though we didn’t give any bribe, and visited the passport office at least 8-10 times before getting our passport; most of the people would have given some money, and would have got their work done in 1-2 visits.
When people give bribes to the government officers in India, they are looking for a convenient way to finish their work. Shouldn’t these kind of tasks be convenient to begin with? Applying for a passport is not a complex task. I shouldn’t be giving some extra money to anyone for doing their regular job. Do you agree? If we were to have the consistent and transparent information available to us before making our trip to the passport office, we wouldn’t have to go through 8-10 different inconvenient trips to do a simple task. Unfortunately, that is how things work in India. For a country like that, where everyone is mostly busy and working 24×7, bribing an officer seems a convenient way to get your work done, instead of hunting for the right information to apply for your passport, ration card, etc.
One of the prevalent reasons behind the corruption in India is….restricted access to the information. When the same and consistent information is freely available to all the citizens of India, they can take their own decisions based on that information. Unfortunately, that is not the case in India. From applying for your birth certificate to applying for your death certificate, there is no centralized and consistent source of information where you can get all the information about all of these applications. Thus, you have to depend on the government officer’s best judgment on what kind of information you need, and how to apply, etc. There are many people in India, who would rather bribe the officer in order to get their work done, instead of visiting the office 4-5 times. Unfortunately, most of the government officers take advantage of this fact, and use the lack of transparent information to their advantage in order to get some extra cash under the table.
Thus, we need a centralized, transparent and consistent source of information in the Indian government. If we have that kind of a system in place, government officers are less likely to take benefits of our needs, and more likely to concentrate on their basic duties of helping people. And, maybe, then people of India can demand answers from the government officers based on the facts and consistent information, instead of basing their questions on their assumptions. Let’s make the system more transparent, so that we can hold our government accountable for their actions. If you had all the required documents for applying for your passport, then you should be able to get it within a certain time period. If you don’t get your passport application processed within the average processing time, then you should be able to question the officer and hold him accountable as per the transparent guidelines published by Indian government.
What do you think? Will transparency of information bring a new cultural shift in India? Will it be able to help us in reducing the amount of corruption in India?
Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi