While the Anna Hazare team is striving hard against corruption in the country by creating awareness among the masses, the media is focusing on the nature and extent of corruption. But a unique appeal by a Marathi daily Loksatta to its readers to come forward and disclose their experiences about giving bribes has met with good response. Innumerable readers have disclosed the hardships they had to face until they paid a bribe. While 40 letters were received, a select few were published on the 25th of August under the title: ”Yes, we have paid a bribe”. The offices which do not do work without taking bribes include the state electricity board, Mumbai Municipal Corporation, state revenue office, regional transports office, educational institutions, lift inspectors office and death certificates issuing office.
Mumbai-based lift manufacturer Ramesh Bhosale said he had to pay between Rs 3000 and Rs 10,000 per lift to the lift inspector’s office at Chembur. In his letter he says that with 200 lift companies in Mumbai the competition is stiff and a lift cannot be installed without a license. All lift companies must pay bribes for the licenses. For a new license the rate is Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh. There are eight inspectors who earn Rs 40 lakh per month in one office.
One architect who has not disclosed his name (because, as he says, he has to continue his profession in Mumbai) discussed how pervasive bribery is in the Mumbai Municipal Corporation. This began in 1980, and continued later when ‘development control rules’ came into force. Since then big builders started approaching officials in Mantralaya as well as the Corporation, getting officials to relax the rules in their favour. This architect says that these people get much more money than what is secured by architects and engineers after toiling hard.
The passport office is another centre where money has to be paid to the police, says Dr Rajashree Kelkar, who is director of a hospital at Dadar in Mumbai. In her letter she says that after residing in England for six years she came to Mumbai and wanted to change the addresses in both her and her son’s passports. She submitted her forms and the concerned official told her that police would come to her residence for verification and the passport would be sent by post later within two months. When police did not come as indicated by the officials, she went to the concerned police station where a police inspector on duty asked for money. When Rs.500 was paid he said that the work would be done. Money had to be paid for all her family members’ passports.
The state government’s regional transport offices (RTOs) are known centres of corruption where bribe is taken through agents who are located in front of the offices. A reader Surendranath Babar, said he had seen the movie Rang de Basanti and decided not to pay a bribe. When he went to the RTO office in Mumbai he had paid only the fees. One of the officers present asked him about a symbol, and when he failed to identify it correctly, he was informed that he could not get a license. However, when a bribe was paid, he got his license from the same officer. Another reader, Umesh Kadam, had a similar experience.
Sandeep Damodar of Mumbai, who started his career as an electrician, had a unique experience at the time of his first contract, which involved repairing the electric cabin in his own apartment. When he approached the concerned engineer of the BEST Company he noted a number of adverse remarks on his application, with the presumable result being an impending delay in the work. But after taking the official out for tea and handing him a 500 rupee note, the work was immediately approved. This remaining work was to be done by the state electricity company free of charge (because it consisted of simply joining the wiring inside the electric board).
When Sandeep approached an engineer working in the electricity company, he presumed that the young man would complete the work without any further expectations. But the engineer calculated something on a piece of paper, and then asked Sandeep to pay Rs 7000, which was to include the number of people being paid overtime for the job, as well as his own share from the total amount. He did not respond until Rs 7000 was given to him.
The cabin of about a hundred meters was to be installed in the apartment for which a peon of the BEST Company came and had to be paid Rs 500. The final result of this ‘no loss no profit’ work ethic was that everyone involved received money except the contractor. This bitter experience of paying bribes compelled Sandeep to not try for a second contract, and remain in his job as an electrician in Dockyard.
Two readers, Arun Bhalerao and Rajaram Joshi, narrated how they had to pay up Rs 500 to get a death certificate for a relative from Mumbai Municipal Corporation. One reader has described how he had to pay a bribe in a revenue office at various stages to get a property certificate. In a number of other instances parents have had to pay donations in order to attain their children’s admissions in a Pharmacy College. In a provident fund office in Mumbai, one teacher - Narahar Pujari - had to wait for five years to get a cheque for the amount due to him, even though he paid a bribe of Rs 2000. The instances highlight how all pervasive bribery is within the city.