Fortune favours the ethical!

In his post on October 15, 2013, my guest had described how he found that he could have obtained a PCC (Police Clearance Certificate) from the Passport Seva Kendra (Passport Office) without having to depend on a “Passport Agent”. Today, he describes the events leading to his obtaining his visa without having to engage a tout or pay any bribe at any point in the entire process.

Along with my visa application, I had to submit the PCC and 3 affidavits, all duly notarized, attested by the Secretariat in the city in which the embassy was located. One affidavit was to be signed by me, the second by the Notary Public and the third by my parents (since I am single).

After the bad experience with the “Passport Agent”, I had decided that I would do everything myself. When I telephoned the Secretariat (in the city in which the embassy was located), they told me that the documents should be notarized in my home city, attested by the Home Ministry in my home state and then submitted to them (the Secretariat) for attestation. I asked about the procedure and the time frame, and was told that the documents could be submitted on any working day between 10 am and 11 am, and collected the same afternoon.

I telephoned a Notary Public near my house, who informed me that he would notarize the PCC, sign and notarize the affidavit to be issued by him, and also notarize the other two affidavits (one to be signed by me, the other by my parents). His only condition was that my parents and I should sign our respective affidavits in his presence. He readily told me his charges and said that we could meet him on any working day with an hour’s notice. I checked with another Notary Public and found that he quoted the same charges as the Notary Public near my house. I now knew that the notarization of documents could be done easily.

Then, I telephoned the Home Ministry in my home city (fortunately the state capital), explained my requirement and asked where and when the documents should be submitted for attestation, the fees and mode of payment and the time needed for attestation. I was told, “Come here. We’ll tell you everything after seeing the documents.” When I politely insisted that they give some information over the phone, the person said: “It should take anywhere between 10 and 40 days, could be more. We can tell you about the fees only after seeing the documents.” It was clear they wanted to know how much money they could extract from me. I was faced with a choice: either I could pay a bribe and get my documents attested or the Home Ministry would send me on a wild goose chase, which meant I would have to spend time there (instead of on my work) and they could take much more than 40 days. I didn’t want to pay a bribe, and I couldn’t stay in my home city for more than a couple of days since I had to be at the site of our ongoing project in the other city.

I telephoned the embassy, told them that it was almost impossible to get my documents attested at my home state Home Ministry, which meant the Secretariat (in the city in which the embassy was located) would not attest the documents. I requested them to treat my case as a special case (since I needed a Work Visa even though I would be in their country for only a short project, not for long-term employment) and accept my documents without an attestation from the Secretariat. They told me that it would be very difficult, and suggested that I should try and find out from the Secretariat whether there was any way my home state Home Ministry’s attestation could be waived.

Since my father had earlier lived in the city in which the embassy was located, he was fluent in the local language of that city. He told me that, if he spoke with the Secretariat official in that language, the ‘language bonding’ would most probably make a difference. He telephoned the Secretariat and managed to speak with the officer in charge of the section that did the attestation of documents. He explained the situation to the officer, and requested him to suggest how my documents could be attested without the prior attestation of my home state’s Home Ministry. The officer finally said, “If he gets the documents notarized in this city, we will attest it. This is not a regular procedure, but we’ll do it only this one time.” Obviously, ‘language bonding’ had worked!

Now, I was faced with a new task – that of finding a notary public in that city who would sign the documents which were prepared in my home city (on stamp paper issued in my home state). As I had mentioned earlier, the embassy (and the Secretariat) were located in the same city as our ongoing project. I tried to find a Notary Public who would sign my documents. Every Notary Public whom I called said he could not notarize documents prepared on another state’s stamp paper. Finally, after a week, and about 15 Notary Publics later, I met an elderly Notary Public, who was so impressed that I was going through all this trouble to avoid using a tout that she agreed to notarize all my documents, except the affidavit signed by my parents since she could notarize that affidavit only if my parents had signed it in her presence. She even refused to take any fee, saying she usually dealt with people who had property issues, while I was a youngster who was going abroad for a short project.

I telephoned the embassy, explained that I could get all documents attested except the affidavit signed by my parents. They agreed to accept that affidavit without the attestation.

A couple of days later, I submitted the notarized documents to the Secretariat at 10.30 am and collected the attested documents at 4.00 pm the same day.

A week later, I visited the embassy, submitted my visa application along with the documents, attended a short interview, and got my visa.

I must admit I had many things working in my favour like the embassy (and the Secretariat) being located in the same city as the ongoing project that I was in charge of, my father being fluent in the local language of that city, me finding the helpful Notary Public, and the embassy agreeing to accept my parents’ affidavit without the attestation. Maybe if any one of these things did not work, I would have ended up paying a bribe. But I am happy that I didn’t give up at any of the points when I came across a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

The moral of the story for me was that it is very easy to get most of your work done by paying bribes and much tougher to hold on to your principles. But, I think each person must try to get work done the correct way. Then, like me, they may find that “Fortune favours the ethical!”

18 thoughts on “Fortune favours the ethical!

  1. Thanks for posting this. This surely addresses a situation faced by millions of us everyday. If only half of us follow your guest’s approach, it can bring about the revolution that is badly needed in our country. I do follow the same principles but i must confess that i had to give up on one occasion… renewing my Driving Licence in one of the Bangalore RTOs. They had a fool-proof system in place… only if such brains are used in a constructive fashion…

    • Deepak, I wish more people follow your example and try as far as possible to get things done the ethical way.

      I agree whole-heartedly …. if only some people’s brains would be used in a constructive way!

  2. It’s not that people want to pay & get their work done. The thing is most do not have the time to run around in circles & also most do not know the rules & procedures involved. Hence it’s easier to pay an agent to get your work done.

    • Feroze, the problem is we believe in ‘getting our work done’ rather than ‘doing our work’. Unfortunately, this had resulted in a situation where the agents/touts have so much control over the system that it had become almost impossible, or extremely difficult and time-consuming, to do some things (passport, driving licence are 2 examples) without going through an agent/tout.

      Now, things have changed and are changing. Further, getting information is very easy in most cases. Hence, we must try to do things ourselves. Authorised agents are OK, especially for people who really cannot do the legwork themselves.

    • That’s right, Vidya. Many touts are shocked when one refuses to pay a bribe. The others are amused and assume that the person will come back to them after trying to do the work themselves. If more of us try to do the work ourselves, at least some of us will have the last laugh.

  3. The rules and procedures change quite often and are not documented very clearly. By electing a government that can give us proper governance such issues can be ironed out. Hats off to your friend (In his case as well there were exceptions made, which may not be the case with some unfortunate people).
    I do not give bribes and did go through an agent once.
    As of now the system functions in such a way that it helps official taking bribes.
    Hope Shri Narendra Modi comes to power and can change that.

    • Yes, Jayaraman, the system does favour the bribe-takers. But, things have changed significantly and are changing. We have a role to play in ensuring that things keeps changing for the better.

      As regards your comment about Narendra Modi, I strongly believe that the leadership has a limited role. Yes, the leadership’s role is significant, but it is limited. The critical role is that of each one of us.

  4. While the system actively discourages touts by having well lit sign boards outside their offices it is a well known fact that they encourage them behind the scenes as they get a commission or a service charge from the touts for the services provided to them. The entire system needs a clean up to ensure that this menace of corruption and out of turn favors are eradicated from their roots.

  5. A couple of decades ago, I applied for passports for my family. We had done everything all by ourselves, and the only thing we offered was a cup of tea to the policeman who had come home for police verification. To his credit, he said “No, thanks”. We got the passports home delivered in about 45 days from the date of application. These things are possible even now, what one needs is some will and lots of patience.

  6. The moral of the story that “it is very easy to get most of your work done by paying bribes and much tougher to hold on to your principles” is very appropriate observation. I also believe that “Fortune favours the ethical!”, however, those favours may not be immediately evident and may manifest after a long time. A somewhat similar sentiment is expressed by the Sanskrut saying – “|| धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः ||”.

    • Sanjay, it is correct that the “favours may not be immediately evident and may manifest after a long time.” This is equally true about the benefits of being ethical.
      Thanks for your comment!
      Do keep visiting and commenting.

  7. I know for a fact that it is difficult to get your driving licence in Delhi without an agent. You will run in circles for a long time. But yes, I agree it is not impossible. You must have the time and courage.

  8. I was posted at a client site in another city and the client, impressed by my work, requested me to give them a quotation for part of future work, that should have gone to my company, ideally.
    I refused.
    Many would call me foolish. I can’t live with the burden.
    Life goes on. We all do such things in our own little ways. EOD, it’s ourselves we have to face.

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