Here’s something interesting, albeit in a very pathetic way: The Times Of India, Delhi Edition, dated 11 September 2007, reported that the Ghaziabad Municipal Corporation now officially accepts bribes.
In case the link breaks, this is what the article said:
GHAZIABAD: If you can't check corruption, institutionalise it. This is the bizarre mantra that the Municipal Corporation of Ghaziabad (MCG) has hit upon.
Believe it or not, MCG is now officially accepting bribes paid through cheques that would otherwise have gone into the pockets of its officials.
Here's an instance of how it works. A contractor who bags a tender for a government project is now required to pay 15 per cent of the quoted amount to MCG. That's the kickback money he would ordinarily have paid to department employees. But now it’s going into the municipality's coffers.
This is the new system being put in place by municipal commissioner Ajay Shankar Pande to "curb corruption as well as enrich the MCG". And, as much as Rs 22 lakh of 'bribe money' has now officially gone into the corporation's account. And this in just two months that Pande has headed the corporation.
Says Pande, "Corruption has gone so deep into the working of government departments that officials cannot dream of handing out work, or payments for it, without taking bribes. So, we have adopted this method of officially taking the bribes, by cheques, into the MCG account."
Interestingly, most contractors have reacted by revealing the exact amounts, usually ranging from 5 per cent to 15 per cent, that they had agreed to pay as bribe. They are signing declarations that they are "voluntarily depositing the amount that would have gone into bribes to realise payments, into the corporation's account. And, this amount should be used by MCG for public welfare projects".
But, asserts Pande, giving this "official bribe" does not absolve any contractor from providing quality work. "Contractors who have earlier done sub-standard work are being given one more chance because it appears that everybody was earlier involved in corruption. They have to repair the shortcomings at their own cost," he adds.
I’m not quite sure if it’s a stupid move or not. After all, if it’s legal, then it can be tracked and accounted for. So, if it does work out, then it’s a good thing and would show that the guy who came up with the plan is a pretty smart fellow and that tough times call for tough measures.
On the other hand, it reflects rather poorly on us; that we’re this incapable of dealing with corruption that we have to shift focus from stopping it to making sure we can at least profit from it.
I figure it’s like telling kids that “stealing chocolates is a no-no; but if you do do it, you’ve to give up half”. So what do kids do? If you said “stop stealing and lead an honest life”, go directly to the Ghaziabad Municipal Corporation ( apparently they employ similar thinking folks ), do not pass go, do not collect 200 rupees ( over or under the table ). If you answered, “steal twice the chocolate to make sure their share doesn’t drop”, congratulations. You’re an unfortunate, thinking, rational member of a society that seems to get weirder everyday!
Next they’ll be telling dacoits “…alright, so you can loot and burn trains. But make sure you buy a ticket first!”
Update [13 Sep 07]: Here's another post about this on the "Weird India" blog