I could only imagine that bribery was there when time immemorial as ancient as cockroaches. As long as power and trust was entrusted to humans, at least on occasions they tend to misuse them. One could find treachery and betrayal even in epics.
When bribery is as ancient, a custom of practice, there was something that differed from time to time. The way it was perceived, encountered and reacted upon differed at different times of human history and at different cultures and countries.
What scares me most is not the bribery itself that prevails in our country today, but the tolerance level the people of India show. Only one way of protecting ourselves from this beast is to curb it continuously with all the might and force we have.
Every one of us knowingly or unknowingly tolerates or practices bribery in our daily lives. I wonder if the imaginative and the intellectual thought about the impact or aftermath of bribery. Did anyone try to trace and assess the damage it leaves upon us? Did anyone try to project the inefficiency that would be incurred in the future by the bribery committed today?
Did anyone try to factor out how many people die or lose their limbs, bear diseases, experience psychological damage, be deprived of their livelihood or even denied the exit out of poverty or barred from educational upliftment?
The people, who accumulate wealth through massive scale of bribery, also join the elite rich families in controlling the most of the wealth of our society. This is evident from larger and larger scandals thrown at our faces regularly nowadays.
The police that protected wealthy and raped the poor during British rule, continues to do the same even today, as I happen to have friends and their family who got arrested and beaten in police station, simply because someone shoved money into the hands of the police.
To get my community certificate, I pay bribe just to avoid harassment and lethal delays.
Even when those few good people left in politics and in bureaucracy work their heart out and rage a war against all other ill-minded forces for bringing out welfare programmes to benefit the weaker section of the society, it doesn’t help. How do we welcome that programme? What happens down there at the lowest level of the programme? Bribery and misappropriation of welfare programme funds, exploitation of PDS food grains, at the very lowest end of government arms, and in small scale.
This small scale bribery by local common men, who belong to exactly the same section which they exploit, weakens the effectiveness of a nationwide programme, leaving a rather larger impact. On the other hand, the large scale bribery and the money involved in it, impacts the economy of the country itself when it is hidden in Swiss banks and comes back as foreign direct investment. This makes the government weaker and weaker economically by increased debt due to the loss of its rightful revenue, thus impacting the quality of life of every citizen.
When the governments are tied together by the thread of bribery, foreigners not only laugh at us, but they also get a chance to coax and exploit the people in power who are ready to sell themselves for money, and influence our governance and foreign relations through disguised agents. Along with dreadful terrorism, this very bribery exposes our country to foreign threats. Bribery and low personal ethics can become a question of national security. Our soldiers are cheated, deprived of their rightful benefits and left with a feeling that our government does not care for them, as it was reported by many military grievances in the news lately. Will they feel proud to give their life for their country when their government can’t even fulfill their basic need and sense of appreciation for their dear service to the nation?
This beast poses threat to the integrity of our nation, weakens economy, increases inequality in the society, and creates dissatisfaction among people of India.
Hence, a sensible way is, to treat bribery with iron hand, to treat it as severe as a rape, as horrible as human trafficking and equal to murdering many lives. We should realize that it is time to curb this with strong legislative changes. The awful impact of bribery should be given due thought and work towards criminalizing all bribery small or big.
It is time for us to shed our tolerance and demand the government to enact laws criminalizing this shameful practice. We are capable of creating a law, as powerful and useful as RTI in this matter as well.
Every act of bribery or misuse of power should be analyzed before the court and the impact it would leave should be projected by experts and punishment should be as severe as the projected impact of the bribery.
The following factors can be considered by experts to decide the punishment for practicing bribery. The financial loss to the concerned parties, psychological impact and abuse, number of persons possibly would be affected, financial implication the loss leaves on our economy, inefficiency incurred by the misuse of authority, percentage loss in future growth of the society, number of socio-economic levels or layers hit by this bribe, etc.