Corruption Affects the Poorest the Most
The corruption in India is oppressive and severely affects the poor at all stages of their living. The lower and middle class are also affected but are able to bear it. The upper middle class uses it as a weapon to get its jobs expedited and does not mind it. The rich consider it a business expense and use it skillfully to expand their span of influence in economics, politics and other areas of interest to them.
It is the poor who face the maximum impact of a corrupt system and proportionately are the worst hit. The amount of loss they have to bear is a very high percentage of their earning compared to other economic groups placed above them. What is interesting to note is that every economic group exploits the group below it to fill its coffers. It is rarely the other way around.
The poor make the largest class and thus are able to generate small amounts per person but cumulatively are able to generate huge volumes in the corruption markets. It is like the Chinese labour which is very cheap but because of huge volumes are able to produce very large numbers giving the Chinese economy a distinct competitive advantage in international markets. In both cases it is the exploiter who gets the advantage at the cost of the exploited. The latter are unable to hit back.
The corrupt have no qualms at exploiting the downtrodden. An examplewill illustrate this. Many years back I happened to be at a railway station standing next to a ticket issuing window. Soon tribal laborers would approach me and in their colloquial language ask me to read what is the value of the rail ticket issued to them.I would tell them the figure and they would move on. I got curious and asked the stall owner at a slight distance away. He told me that the festival of Holi was going to be celebrated in a few days time. Every year the tribals who work as laborers in the city have a tradition of going home in very large numbers for a week or so. They are all illiterate. So the journey ticket for which they were required to pay Rs 5, the ticket issuer would issue them a ticket for Rs 3 and pocket the difference. If it stopped here only it would still be tolerable. But inside the train the ticket collector knowing what his colleagues at the station were doing would ask them fir the ticket. Knowing that they were traveling at lower value ticket he would threaten them and they would have to shell out an extra rupee or two to continue. So now they had come out with this defense mechanism to be sure that they had a ticket of the proper value.
Small amount per ticket but say a thousand tribals traveled in a day the total comes to around Rs two thousand a day, not a bad amount for a day's corrupt hard work. Whom are they exploiting, the poorest of the poor. Low amounts high volumes.
Those indulging in corruption have successfully mastered the art of avoiding their consciences by becoming indifferent to it. Therefore they are able to resort to heartless exploitation by indulging in corrupt practices. The fact that most of the time they are government employees whose service is secured till retirement gives them a unbeatable clout. The are operating in a 99% safe environment.
In almost all corruption transactions there is one gainer and multiple losers. In the latter are the one who is forced to part with money and the government which gets less revenue. The government is custodian of public money and thus all citizens are the ultimate losers. At lower levels it is considered that the petty official is acting as a front for senior officials with whom he has to share the loot. Let me illustrate with another simple example again from the railways.
I was in need of retirement room facility for one night while travelling with my wife and our young child. I was told at the counter that two beds were available at the dormitory and I should go the station office master's office for their allotment. I was told that each bed costs Rs 10 per night and I should pay Rs 40 for two beds. The difference was being collected for being given to the station master who had kept a quota of two beds per day for this purpose. The clerk told me that if I did not pay, then he would have to pay from his pocket. I had no option. Again small amounts, assured returns resulting into high volumes on a cumulative basis.
The law enforcers are equally ferocious in their collection drives. I was once traveling from Varanasi to Kolkata by train. Those were the days of rice shortage in the country and interstate movement of rice was banned. My train would be crossing from UP to Bihar and reaching Patna in about 2-3 hours time. I took my seat in one of the coupes of the second class sleeper. About 15 minutes before the departure a rush of single ladies with their faces covered by sarees entered the compartment and sat in all the passages on the side and in between the seats,huddled together. I enquired from my co passengers who told me this was a daily affair and these ladies were carrying 2-3 kgs of rice to Patna where they wuld sell it for a small profit. Poverty and shortages can make people do anything for a living. They were very poor and were being used as carriers. However what followed was interesting. A few minutes before the train departure time a single policeman entered the compartment. He had a stick in his hand by which he would tap on the head of each lady. As soon as she was hit she would raise a hand and hand over one rupee to the policeman. He collected a rupee each from all the ladies in the compartment. This was also a daily affair I was told.
What was interesting was that all of us were watching and the policeman wa openly collecting his share for allowing this 'illegal' trade by the poorest of the poor. Low amount but high volume.
Can this form of lower level corruption be eliminated from our society. It is immune to type of government or who ever is in command. It is pure class exploitation. But does it mean that it cannot be tackled or reduced. One way is by the poor getting educated and becoming aware of their rights. It seems to be a slow progress but is going on. Second is a mechanism which fights on their behalf like NGO's. They exist and are doing a reasonably good job. Again impact is slow and coverage is limited. The adoption of technology as is done by the railways through Irctc or Income Tax for filing returns or getting refund orders and by banks is helping to spread transparency in a big way simultaneously. Mere passing of laws is not going to reduce or arrest corruption that affects the poor.
Another area of big corruption is the hijacking of benefits that should reach the poor. The middlemen in the distribution chain and involved officials implementing the various social and welfare policies operate in league to either siphon or divert the goods and services from the intended beneficiaries. Technology can be employed here also but is not going to be easy. However it has been done successfully but in a very limited scale as it requires a very dedicated person/s to oversee them.
It is the citizens who have to be alert and unitedly fight the corrupt system to ensure they get their legitimate dues. The corrupt politicians and officials have become emotionless and heartless. They see exploitation and treasury loot as their divine right. The fight will go on but how long. A good government can reduce the period and is the need of the hour.
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