Friday, August 2, 2013

An encounter with this demon called corruption.

This started when I lost my 10th grade certificate and marksheet. I assumed it was going to be a quick painless process to get the duplicate copies from CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education), but boy was I wrong! There are a bunch of things that need to be collected which are to be attached to the form that will be sent to the CBSE office so I can get duplicate documents.

One of such documents is a newspaper advertisement in the lost and found section announcing that I have lost my documents. When I called the newspaper company, they informed me that I need to show them an FIR (First Information Report) for validation before I can publish the ad.

My brother had told me quite a few times that it costs Rs. 100 to get an FIR registered which I never believed. I was once mugged so I went to the police station to get an FIR registered accompanied by my mom. The policeman signed and stamped it as he was supposed to, so I picked it up and left. Later, my mother told me that I walked out on him while he was still speaking, which I didn't realize. He might have been expecting a bribe, but I gave this scenario a benefit of the doubt. So I wasn't in agreement with my brother on the 'paying for FIR' issue.

Anyway, here is what happened. Accompanied by my brother, I went to the nearest police station to get the FIR registered. The policeman there helped me rewrite the matter verbatim since the one I had written was too brief. He told us to go to a different station where FIRs for lost documents were filed. So we drove to the other station. As we walked in, I saw 4 men in uniforms sitting behind desks doing paperwork. It was about 7:00 PM which is considered to be an unusual time to be visiting a police station. I have even heard stories of cops drinking on duty late evening onwards, which may or might not be true. But since I insisted, my brother came along anyway. We walked up to the person in closest proximity, but I had my doubts on my way towards him since his facial expressions screamed 'what the fuck do you want!' . He looked up at us as though we were a couple of brats who had done something wrong and now were at his mercy to have it fixed. I presented the written application to him. Upon a quick look, he asked for an explanation which I then gave. The moment I was done explaining, he shook his head in denial and said "We will need an affidavit to sign this." My brother, in a friendly smiling tone asked, "Please do it, sir, it is very important."

Now, before I go any further with this story, I would like to admit that I am quite naive and know very little of the laws and rules. I doubted that one would need an affidavit to get a First Information Report registered but I kept my mouth shut since I wasn't sure.

The policeman went on... "Ofcourse you need the documents for 10th grade so you can get a passport." His face reeked of contempt. I was quite puzzled by his passport statement. He mentioned the need of passport several times which is not why I needed my educational documents anyway. Made me wonder if he thought we were some rich kids planning to fly off to exotic nations while he rotted on a cop salary (and bribe money). I could tell he was convinced that in his head, it was just for him to expect money for something that is supposed to be free. But then, he couldn't 'ask' for it because it was illegal. From what I know now, every person is supposed to already know that you are supposed to bribe the policeman. But I didn't, and it sickens me to know that I should know it. He kept stalling us waiting for us to offer the bribe. When I told him that the other policeman didn't inform us of any need to present an affidavit, he let out a smile out of amusement. After I pressed on it a few times, he even made a phone call to the other cop which went something like "Did you lead this person to this place?... I told them that they need an affidavit... yeah they are saying that you didn't inform them." He giggled through most of the conversation. I am not even sure if he called the same cop or if he called anyone at all.

After about 15 minutes of the drama and the pleading, my brother once again asked him to do it. This time, he gave him a nod as though he was in agreement of what he was asking for, while his hand moved towards his back pocket. He pulled out a 100 rupee note from his wallet, rolled it to make it subtle and sneakily slid it in the poilceman's hand. He did sign and stamp the paper now. I wondered where the need of an affidavit went now.

I was appalled and disgusted by the act, but there was nothing I could do. Then a thousand thoughts started crossing my mind. Were we supposed to present the affidavit at all? People come to register complaints and FIRs in horrible situations too, do they have to go through the same rigmarole of hostility? If a girl had just gotten raped and yet she somehow mustered up the courage to file a complaint, would the cops have had no decency to do their jobs right for her either? What if someone was registering death of a loved one?

I have lost all hopes of a corruption free country while I am alive. But for the future's sake, I hope I am wrong.

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