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Here comes the bribe
In a show-me-the-money country, some citizens come clean about their brush with bribe-giving and taking.
My first bribe: Sorry, Dad, I never told you
New Delhi |I remember the day I paid my first bribe. The year was 1982. My father had just retired from government service and was finalising the paperwork for his pension. I accompanied him to the Patna Treasury. There, we didn't have a clue how to get our work done. We were sent from one desk to another as we tried to figure out the process. After about two hours, a clerk explained it to my father.
Being an upright professor my father had made sure that he had all necessary documents. But the clerk kept insisting the papers were incomplete. After a heated discussion between him and my father, he asked me to meet him at the canteen next door.
I asked my father to wait and sprinted across to the canteen. Bluntly, he told me I should not bring my father along the next time I came to meet him. He made it clear that his file would not move until we paid up. "Your father belongs to a different era. He does not understand the situation has changed. You must pay to speed up your case, " the clerk warned.
I told my father we'd need to come back later. I dropped him home and returned to the treasury building and met the clerk again. By then, I had borrowed Rs 2, 500, a princely sum those days, from my mother and handed the money to the clerk. Within a week, the pension papers were processed. I never told my father I had bribed the clerk to speed up the process. It's been 29 years since that incident but the guilt lives on.
I was made to visit the revenue office more than five times
Amritsar |I paid a bribe of Rs 6, 800 to register a plot of land with the revenue department recently. The process of paying the bribe began when I went to the patwari's office for a copy of the revenue records to verify whether the plot was registered in the name of the person with whom I had struck the deal.
This information was available to them but they refused to share it with me. They demanded Rs 1, 500 instead of the official fee which was just Rs 10. I refused to pay and was made to do five rounds of the patwari's office. The plot I bought was 300 square yards. I was asked to pay another bribe of Rs 3, 500 by the sub registrar office for registration of the plot and paid Rs 300 to the "witness" present in the sub registrar's office.
After registration, I went to the patwari's office again for mutation where I was asked to pay Rs 1, 500 though I had already paid the official charge of Rs 150. And guess what, I also ended up paying Rs 1, 100 to the sale deed writer who 'facilitated' the series of bribes.
The patwari demanded a car
Gurgaon | I used to think that only officials in top positions in our government were given to demanding bribes. But my recent experience was a real eye opener. The system is obviously rotten through and through. I had moved to Gurgaon as the marketing head of a top auto firm. On my second day in office, the patwari came to meet me. I had no clue why. We treated it as a courtesy call and thought he would leave soon. But he kept chatting with us without getting to the point. After nearly an hour he said he would like to have a car. In my innocence, I thought the patwari wanted to test drive a car manufactured by us but later realised that he actually wanted a car to be gifted to him. I was aghast. We tackled the situation somehow withot upsetting him but did not oblige him either. I realised what enormous power even small local officials wield.
Everything has a fixed price
New Delhi | I've had run-ins with corrupt government officials ever since I started my travel agency business in 2007 in central Delhi. When I first purchased office space four years ago, I was asked to cough up Rs 12, 000 to get the registration papers transferred in my name. I refused at first. Why would anyone want to give away one's hardearned money just like that? It wasn't a small amount. The NDMC made me visit them over and over again on the pretext of attaching extra documents,
getting more signatures, approvals from senior officers and things like that. This went on for two months. I had no option finally, but to give in. Once you see these things from the inside, you realise how systematic it is. Everything has a fixed price like a legitimate service. And at every point, there is a demand for a bribe. The electricity bill for my office still arrives in the former owner's name. I was given the option of paying Rs 8, 000 to change the name after moving in. But I put my foot down and continue to pay the bill which is in the previous owner's name.
For immigration clearance, the fee is something like Rs 200-300. But there is no way you can get it done without shelling out another Rs 5, 000-6, 000. I've come to the Ramlila grounds past four days to register his protest against the culture of bribery in government agencies. I still have hope.
I factored in bribes in my budget
Chandigarh | When I decided to help my son Avinash set up his own practice as an architect after his graduation, I factored in the illegal payments to the government's revenue officials in my budget. I purchased two pieces of land of 200 sq yard each in Yamuna Enclave, Zirakpur, on the outskirts of Chandigarh to build premium duplex houses. I bought the land for Rs 25, 000 per sq yard and each plot cost me Rs 50 lakh. After the deal was struck and cash payment made, we had to get the property registered in my son's name. The stamp duty itself was heavy at Rs 6 lakh for both plots. But being a building contractor, paying the government hefty stamp duty was acceptable but I knew that the revenue officials would demand a 'cut'. It's a fixed rate of one per cent of the total cost of the property. All officials are hand in glove - the tehsildar, his naib-tehsildar, the patwari - every one of them said we have to shell out Rs 1 lakh for both plots for registration. The staff of the revenue officials collected the money in the office of a senior official.
'Rs 25, 000 pad but the plot is still not in my name'
Ludhiana |Registering a plot I bought in a colony developed by the Ludhiana Improvement Trust is an ongoing nightmare. After having the sale deed executed in my favour in October 2010, I was to have ownership transferred to my name in the trust's records. The clerk received my file that had all the necessary documents for the transfer in December last year. I was informed that it normally takes a month for the transfer of property ownership to be completed.
But nothing moved. The clerical staff offered one excuse or the other. In January, I approached the chairperson who assured prompt action and said that the work should be done immediately and that this was a 'genuine' case.
But the buck didn't stop there. I was told to meet the concerned clerk again. Finally, in March this year, the clerk demanded Rs 50, 000. I have already paid Rs 25, 000, but nothing has been done till date. Transfer of ownership in my name is really a day's work but it still hangs fire.
I am in a wheelchair but the wheels of bribery still turn
Chandigarh | In October 1996, I had gone to Renuka Lake with friends. My car accidentally fell into a deep gorge and I suffered a spinal injury. I have been paralysed neck below and confined to a wheelchair since then. It was devastating but more frustrating was the insensitive attitude of government hospitals in Chandigarh.
I applied to get a disability certificate from a government hospital but doctors and medical officer of the institution kept delaying the matter. A time came when my family and I lost hope and did not know whom to approach. Then one of my relatives, through a conduit, paid Rs 5, 000 to a senior doctor to obtain the certificate.
When I came to know of it, I was upset but later decided not to pursue the case by reporting it to the police as there would have been no evidence against the corrupt doctor in question.
Win-win : Pay and get paid
Lucknow | I work with a service provider for coal-intensive industries in UP and my job is to liaise with coal companies on behalf of a consumer company. After a given tender was won, I was told by a senior official of the consumer company that negotiations were still pending. According to our bid, I had agreed to provide services at Rs 8 per tonne of handling coal. The highest bid, however, which was rejected, was Rs 13.
When the management approached me, I was told that on paper, I would be awarded the contract at Rs 13 per tonne of coal. In reality, however, I would continue to work at the agreed rate of Rs 8. The additional tax liability that I would have to incur, I was told, would be borne by the company. The remaining, I was to return to the owner of the private company. That was how they were pumping up their black money collection. I ended up getting Rs 9 per tonne to factor in the additional tax. It was a win-win situation for both parties so I agreed.
When I protested, the babu simply returned my file
Kanpur | In 1986, I made an initial payment towards the registry of a 288sq m plot of land in Lucknow. On approaching officials at Lucknow Development Authority (LDA) to register this land in 1993, I was informed the registry would be done at current market rates. When the registry papers were drawn out, I was informed that though I would need to pay the current value, the registration of land on paper would be done at rates that were five years old;and the additional amount would be pocketed by the corrupt officials.
I ended up paying over Rs 1 lakh for registering the land in 1993. On paper, however, the land was registered in rates that were applicable in 1988. When I protested, the babu simply returned my file saying he would not complete the formalities. I support a family of four and didn't have any option. Some friends tried to put in a word, but were told this is how the "system" works. I had to pay the babu an additional Rs 72, 000, on the conditions laid down by him.
Conned by housing official
Mumbai | We are residents of a housing society in Nehru Nagar, a Mhada Colony in Kurla (E). A few years ago, we decided to protect the open space in front of our building from anti-social elements by building some kind of a boundary.
We appointed a contractor, who suggested that we use a wire mesh supported by metal poles. We were also advised that such temporary structures did not need Mhada nod. As soon as the work began, a Mhada official incharge of our colony approached us and suggested that we build a more sturdy stone and cement wall. We pointed out that we didn't have the money or the permission for that.
The officer asked us to trust him and go ahead with a regular wall. We bought material worth thousands of rupees. As soon as the work began, the same officer sent us a notice. He wanted a bribe to settle the matter. We approached the local MLA Nawab Malik for help. He reprimanded the official for the mischief he had played.
Flat fee for builders: Rs 110 per sq ft
Chennai | A group of us builders visited a VIP some time ago to complain about a few officials who were sitting on our project files. The VIP listened patiently and retorted, 'I thought you were aware that it was I whoy asked the officials to delay clearance. If you want approval, pay Rs 110 per sq ft. I am only a messenger and I get only Rs 10 per sq ft out of it. Balance goes to a person whose name I cannot reveal. ' We expressed our inability to raise such huge funds. After another meeting, he said at best he can reduce the amount to Rs 75 per sq ft for projects inside Chennai and Rs 55 per sq ft for projects outside Chennai. Most of us threw up our hands. But two builders, who could not wait any longer, offered to pay Rs 75 per sq ft for their city projects. One of the projects is one lakh odd sq ft and the other is more than two lakh sq ft. They paid 50 per cent advance. Once the project approval was issued, the balance money was paid at the VIP's house.
REPORTING BY KIM ARORA IN DELHI, PRIYA YADAV IN CHANDIGARH, VAIVASVAT VENKAT IN LUDHIANA, YUDHVIR RANA IN AMRITSAR, SWATI MATHUR IN LUCKNOW.
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