Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Which side are we really on?

It was 12pm in the afternoon, I was driving to my father's place when I saw the campaign on the back of a rickshaw that said 'Vote for Aam Admi party'. I had always been a proud follower, though never participated, of anti-corruption campaigns and thought better of Arvind Kejriwal and the mission he was fighting for. One man, who, by what his supporters say, has sacrificed all he had to fight against the corrupt government, now trying to help the society by taking its place. His deeds are all over the media, but still there are many who consider him a fool. These are the people who have contacts in either of the two big parties, and know how they could leverage on these contacts to benefit themselves in times of need. I personally have never been too fond of using contacts for anything, so I always thought that the poor lad has been right in what he was doing. Soon enough the autorickshaw that I was following turned right, and so did my thoughts.

When I reached my father's office he gave me a small errand to do. It was the court's notice for my father to appear in person that evening apparently for having crossed the stopping line at a red light an year ago. He passed on the responsibility to me, and I gladly took it.

I wondered what had possibly taken so much time to make the notice to reach us an year after we committed the fault. In one year I couldn't even recall having gone to that particular road mentioned on the notice. Then I thought of the number of people who cross the stop line at a red light. Frankly, I couldn't even think of a single red light in the city where vehicles stayed behind the line at red lights. So I guessed our car must either have stood on the middle of the road for the traffic police to have noticed, or maybe, our vehicle number was just a lucky guess.

 I called up a friend of mine whose father was associated with the police to ask him how the procedure works. Whether I can serve the charges on behalf of my father or not? How much time would it take for the whole thing to get over and questions like that. He asked for five minutes and when he called back after that time, said that his father was a regular visitor to the supreme court and that two of his friends were advocates so in case anything goes wrong, he was there to help me out. I said no issues its just a five hundred rupee challan and that I only wanted to know how things would go. He said that if i were lucky then there would be so-called dalals  sitting outside the court who would do the setting for me. I, instead, thought of meeting the magistrate in person and thought of all the reasons that I would present for appearing in stead of my father as the notice clearly said -

From : The Judge (evening court)
'You are hereby requested to appear in person at 5 pm.........'

So these were direct orders from the judge and could not have been faltered. Once again I thought of my friend saying that judges, if left to themselves, do not even consider the president of the country anything in front of their power. When I reached the court a couple of well-dressed officials stopped me well before the reporting room and one of them took me to a side of the room and asked me to show the challan. I promptly did that. He then sounded all secretive and promised me he could waive off the fine if I pay him five hundred instead of the six hundred that was charged. I asked him who was he and why would he do that. He asked my if mine was a personal or a commercial car. I told him that mine was personal and though I still can't figure out how that answer was related to his next move, but he instantly reduced the amount to four hundred. I took out my wallet and found only two hundred and eight rupees in noted of ten, fifty and hundred. He took them without even counting and asked me to stand besides the door of the room where the magistrate was sitting. I glimpsed inside and saw a female judge, probably in her early thirties, handling the proceedings. At that time I made a mental note of what I would say to the lady in charge. I thought of telling her, in case anything goes wrong, that the person outside pretended to be the fine collector and not in my dreams I would imagine an imposer right outside the court room. Then I thought I would say that the reason why my father didn't come was that I instead was driving the car on that day and had crossed the line because an ambulance was on its way and I had to give it space.

After two minutes of standing there I got anxious and signalled at the person who assured me of handling everything. Once again he came all secretly to me and asked me to shut up. For once, I thought of taking that money back from him but stayed calm. But as he  had instructed, the judge called my father's name within two minutes and I went in revising all the answers I would present. To my utter surprise, the judge herself gave me the register where my father's name was written and asked my sign there. When I did I was told, by her again, that my fine was waived off and that I should leave. Startled as I was, I left that room and turned my head to see that dalal deep in conversation with another man. Apparently the reason why he had asked me if mine was a personal or a commercial challan was to gauge how to negotiate the bribe with me. I felt stupid for having given even two hundred and eighty rupees to him as officially, my fine was waived off and none of the amount I gave would be going to the government's treasury.

The first thing I did on getting out was call my friend and  say,

' Dude, even the judge was bikau (for sale), she waved off my fine without even listening to me.'

To this he replied,

'Be glad that you are in India my friend.'

Now I wonder why that dalal was so secretive about his identity when even the judge knew he was there doing all that. I was glad I saved some precious time and three hundred and twenty rupees. I thought I was just being paranoid about the whole thing when all it took was ten minutes for the whole thing to get over.

On my way back, I saw the same ad I had seen earlier, this time on a different autorickshaw. But this time my thoughts were different. I was asking to myself.

" Do we really want corruption to end? Which side are we really on?"

PS : I know this is an everyday phenomenon, and there was no need for me to exaggerate the whole story, but essentially I wanted to point out levels to which this corruption has been entangled in the system. What I ask of you is sit back and ask yourself how many of such incidents have you been a part of. Bribing the traffic police is just one of the many. Imagine if all the money in the country was actually reported then how much money the government would have. And if that be the case how drastically reduced the taxes would be, which means a common shop keeper would not have to go for falsely reporting the sales to save taxes, because he would essentially earn the same amount by reporting everything. But we all do that, because we don't have the power to think beyond the moment. This is a thick vicious circle, which has each and every citizen of the country inside it. No matter how much we sit back and criticize, we ourselves cannot live without the corrupt demon that resides in each one of us.