By Nupur Dave
Can we first wipe out mediocrity? Can we first wipe our self low confidence? Can we first wipe out bad hygiene, cancer and aids? What should we prioritize first? The choices are endless.
I walked into RTO, the regional transportation office, on a Tuesday morning. Famous for corruption, as a teenager, I heard how agents help you obtain a license easily, on exchange of a few hundred rupees.
Now, aged double those teen-age years, I wore my arms close to my body, and my eyes… my eyes were darting from one person to another, alert and speculative. I was ready for agents to corner me, swarm around me and ask for my business — because you know, I’m a woman, and I can’t figure out how to obtain a license renewal form.
None of that happened. The most time spent was in finding which line to join. That took three minutes. Another two minutes to submit my perfectly filled out form (which I printed from the internet), and one minute to exit the building.
No agent, no money, no sweaty palms. This is 2018, and 10 years earlier, I would have surely mumbled under my breath and pushed back many agents, with a stern and angry look of my eyes.
Why did this change happen?
The push and the power of Technology. Nothing is hidden. Transparency is supreme with technology, because it can get audited (Yes! The database keeps logs of what happened even when you’re sleeping). There are no physical forms to arson and burn. No human to slip rupees in the folded palm of your hand, and no physical application to expedite.
Is technology working against corruption? No. This is technology against YOU. Because YOU were willing to pay that agent for easy licensing. Because YOU were happy with a fast track. Because YOU thought your one hour is more important than your ethic. Don’t believe me?
Lets call my friend George. George is a convent educated, post graduate from Australia, kind of guy. He recently voted for a party which supported the anti-corruption agenda, “No more corruption! All should be clean and transparent”, he would say firmly. He attended rallies in Sydney and distributed material outside Indian shops and restaurants, to spread the word of the anti-corruption “movement”, as he called it.
Last year, George visited India from Sydney on a vacation, and purchased a Mercedes for his parents, their fifth car and a two bed room flat. In cash, $5000 was sent through his cousin in an envelope. In cash, $6000 was given through a friend travelling to Mumbai. In cash, $9000 he carried himself. This money was given to the property builder “off the books”, to avoid tax payment. The remaining value was given through cheque. “Anti-corruption is the right way to go, as long as it doesn’t apply to me, and my family”, he might as well have said. Just say it George, just say it!
The convenience of corruption and evasion of ethics is taken on, as soon as it saves you money. Save Rs 500,000/- in exchange for my ethics? Sure!
Save Rs 20,000/- in exchange of my ethics? That too!
Why does George shy from giving taxes, or hire an agent?
He doesn’t have the confidence that the right thing to do (give taxes, or go through the license process) is a smooth experience or value adding. He has lost faith, because of two reasons:
(1) Personal experience (2) Anecdotal experience.
I cannot say about the lenses behind personal experience, but anecdotal influence, “My friend had a friend, who paid that little extra masala (cough, cough), and got permission from the municipality to build two extra, obviously illegal, floors” is debatable.
This anecdotal experience, however fake, makes listeners believe that the process of bribery works. One never wonders if this method will get you into trouble because, it appears, “everyone is doing it”.
Fear keeps people honest.
Technology will catch up soon: A quick snap, a post on twitter, and highlight this illegal floor to the municipality — action will be taken.
Police use databases to track repeat traffic offenders, and cheating businesses, but get poor reviews online, for their deeds. CCTVs know who ran away from the crime scene, and big-data analytic software can pull out money cheating patterns that the human eye cannot compute.
With WhatsApp and Twitter communications, speed is inbuilt into the solution. You can’t run and you can’t hide. Fear of getting caught keeps everyone honest.
Corruption is not merely of the money kind. Lies, evasion and exaggerations in a corporate workplace, are branches of the same tree.
Colleagues passing off your work as theirs? Colleagues (or you?)exaggerating about how hard and long they worked on the document? Colleagues evading the question about who changed the slides at the nick of time before a presentation without asking? The use of Google Documents (a cloud based editor) can immediately expose these bad eggs. It’s worked for me every single time: The document has a history of who wrote what, when and even shows me lines that got deleted. Even better, the document is on the cloud and anyone can access it at anytime. No longer does the ‘The document is on my laptop, I’ll send it when I’m done’ impede any project from moving forward. Technology exposes the Corruption of the liars.
Till the time ethics will be weighed in gold, we will not move beyond corruption. Ethics will be gold only when the country starts to value itself, and its own culture. When my country, and my love for my country exceed my personal gain, only then will our ethics make us stick with each other. For that, we have to know who we are. What makes India, India. We are a traditional society, and we have to understand dharma. Ah! Then the day will dawn, with no anti-corruption, because everyone’s values will be in sync. Till that day, another person will pick up George’s fourth property with black money, and till then we will need technology to monitor us.
Nupur, lives in Pune.She loves photographing inanimate objects and writing about anything.