Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Indian Railways, the Army and my first experience at Bribery!

Me and my friend K were returning from New Delhi to Chennai after our exams at Chandigarh. After a looong bus ride to New Delhi we found ourselves standing at the end of a short queue at the current booking counter of the New Delhi Railway station.

Standing in the queue was quite uneventful except for a guy or two who tried to jump the queue inviting abusive language from the others. Then there were the women who refused to stand in a queue and considered themselves too big for such formalities. The guy at the counter was fair he sent back every one of those women. Standing in the queue was so uneventful, that even after an hour we found our queue was shorter by just 6-7!

While inside the counter there was so much activity that it could have been easily mistaken for a tout's office, but for the location. There were people walking in at frequent intervals, slips of 'paper' were passed around and the guy sitting behind the counter had booked around 15 - 20 tickets in the same time we had been standing!

As we got closer to the counter we learnt that we had to cough up a few extra notes to get the tickets. Those who did not utter the magic password were told that the chart has not arrived, and to come later! K asked me if I had any 'experience' at bribing, though both had none we were emboldened by those around us and we decided to go ahead.

By the time our turn came someone senior had come into the counter and was watching over things with hawk eyes. So when our turn came we uttered 'Sir urgent, we're ready to pay extra' The counter guy still told us to wait. An hour later when the 'hawk eye' left suddenly the chart appeared by magic and we were all given tickets after paying him some bribe.

Our bribing didn't end there, when we rushed to the train, We found, there were many like us who had obtained current tickets by bribing the counter people but through the back entrance. The TTE came a little while later, we had to then pay a bribe to get a berth to sleep! We shared the cabin with a few army men who were returning home for their holidays which was already delayed by the snow fall in Kashmir causing them to forfeit their previously reserved tickets. We learnt, that even they, had to bribe their way to get into the train and then also to get a berth!

It's bad that our country's government officials are neck deep into bribery and corruption that they're bold enough to accept bribes over the counter in full public view. It's even worse that most departments of our government have powerless vigilance departments.

It's bad that we don't remember or respect the men who brave rough weather and the enemy to protect us with their lives. It's shameful, that our government officials who lead cosy lives, have to suck bribes out of these poor army men also.

So at the end of the day, even before I have earned enough to become a tax paying citizen, I have already bribed twice and become a bribe paying Indian citizen!
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