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Almost a week or two back I had gone with a family friend to sign as a witness for his stamp duty registration. As is the practice in ALL government offices I had expected that my whole day would be wasted (which was by the way!). But living in a metro insulates us to the other realities of life in the villages. We, who live in big towns still believe in the concept of the sweet little innocent villager who is God fearing & polite, a man who is ruled by principles, someone who lives the good life like we find in the text books unlike us sinning souls of the city. Some months back when I had read the blog of a friend where she was talking about her fathers experience with a corrupt officer my only reaction had been…oh yeah this is all common in the cities. I was in for a rude shock.

We had been given an appointment of 10:30 AM. As is my habit I reached 15 minutes earlier. But time is one thing which villagers have in plenty. The officer came in at 11 & started with her (yes a female. We are very particular about our rights of equal representation in government jobs, the duties are negotiable) pending work from yesterday. When we asked her when our turn would come we were rudely reminded that some of us have to work hard in order to earn money!!! :O

That was when a ‘friendly’ man came up to us (which we later found out was her assistant) & said that if we are in a hurry he can request Madam to do our work but then he will charge a commission. Given that we just had one day with us & unfortunately a day only has so many hours we decided to give him his commission. The money he charged was huge. My brother even commented that if this is the earning per day it makes a very lucrative career option!

What we were to discover when out turn came, at 4:30, half an hour before the day ends for Madam was that the money had been split into many parts and had been shared by one and all.

Some money had been gobbled by the girl who feeds information to the computer. She makes mistakes like getting our surnames wrong, writing the ages of all the owners, witnesses & sellers the same & ends with saying, “Check it once. I wont correct it later!” If only her work had been as good as her attitude!!!

The next installment is eaten by the man who fetches the printed document from the paper. A huge work this is you see…to put one foot ahead of another & fetch a document.

The next installment goes to Madam who says we should consider ourselves lucky that our turn came today, what with her being busy & not having time. The only thing which we needed to do was sign against our names on a register!

The next counter we went to was the photograph & thumb impression counter. I was sure they couldnt mess this one up but they can! Messing up quality is a prerequisite for any government job. They jumbled up our names, photographs & signatures so that some women ended up having mustaches. This needed to be corrected naturally which was done after a lot of tch tch tch. Now you see what keeps them busy.

And the best part was the woman who sat with a stamp. All she does is bang a light (not even heavy) stamp on the papers which make it all official. And for this she slips a Rs. 500 note under her table without even a flicker of shame on her face.

Most Government employees earn decent salaries. The Madam I found out later earns around Rs. 35,000 per month. Is it then really necessary to get this cheap & beg around for Rs. 500 more. Oh but they don’t beg do they? They threaten us with our most prized thing….TIME! That’s one thing which they have in plenty & which we lack the most. Is it the same with shame too? Don’t know…the more we think about this the more we understand that a corruption free India is a ideal dream with no place in reality because a majority of the people believe it is their right to earn extra money by hook or by crook. While many will say we shouldn’t have payed the money in the first place, is it practically possible to get our work done in any other way? Not all of us have the time, energy or resources to start an anti – corruption movement the moment we notice such things. Other than our ideals we also need to think of practicalities of the office, the increasing hotel bills due to our prolonged stay, the hours wasted in the dirty government offices with rats for company! Throwing some money on their expectant faces doesn’t seem like such a bad option then! And when you get back home all you can say is even in the metros the government authorities aren’t so shameless as to take money is such an open fashion.

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