Corruption: a twist in my life

One day in the early 1990s, I visited my customer, a private limited company, to finalise their requirement of spare parts for 4 machines which were in the last month of Warranty. The Managing Director introduced me to their new General Manager who had been the DGM (Materials) of a large automotive ancillary. The MD told me that henceforth, the GM would handle all spare parts requirements. All capital equipment requirements would continue to be handled by the MD. He also told the GM that he had very high regard for me and trusted me completely. After a cup of tea, I accompanied the GM to his room.

The GM explained to me that, while we had submitted a quotation for various spare parts amounting to about Rs. 60,000.00, most of these parts were not needed immediately. They would immediately order only the urgently required spare parts amounting to about Rs. 5,000.00.

This was followed by an interesting conversation.
GM: How much cash payment will I get?
I: Sorry, sir. Our prices do not contain any provision for cash payment.
GM: You should be able to pay something, at least a few percent.
I: Sir, even if we can pay 5% of the order value, it would be only Rs. 250.00. I would not like to insult you by offering such a low amount. It would be worse if my Head Office agrees to a lower percentage like 2%.
GM: I’m OK with whatever you can offer. Please check with your Head Office and let me know. When can I expect your call?
I: The day after tomorrow.

The GM had actually asked for a bribe of Rs. 100.00 (2% of Rs. 5,000.00)! Even considering that their annual requirement of spare parts would be about Rs. 60,000.00, 2% of that amount would be Rs. 1,200.00 per year. As I had told him, this would not be a bribe, it would be an insult!

I was totally confused. Was this guy actually asking for a measly bribe of Rs. 1,200.00 per year, or was he testing me? If he was testing me, was it with or without his MD’s knowledge and approval? If he was actually asking for a bribe, wasn’t he afraid that, in view of my excellent equation with his MD, I might report the matter to his MD? Of course, I realised that, if I reported the matter, he would claim that I had misinterpreted his attempt to get a discount for the company.

I had to close the matter. After considerable thought, I hit upon a solution. Two days later, I telephoned the MD on his direct line, explained that I had been trying to reach the GM, but was unable to get through (this incident took place before the advent of cellphones), and informed him that I had referred the GM’s request for discount to my Head Office, but we could not offer any discount. The matter was closed.

That day, I realized 2 things:
1. Corruption is universal. It is not only politicians, policemen, government servants and public sector employees who ask for bribes. Even private sector employees ask for bribes.
2. Corruption can be addictive. Often, persons who start making money by unfair means continue to do so, sometimes without any sense of proportion.

This post (a re-post, with some changes, of Corruption can be addictive) is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

We educated Indians must stop pointing fingers at others

Recently, I overheard an interesting conversation between two persons. The conversation started with the man commenting on the bad habits of Indians (littering, smoking in public, spitting, urinating and defecating in public, breaking traffic rules, etc., etc.) and proclaiming that he had never seen such things in the 20 years that he’d lived in USA.

The woman replied, “Our people are so disgusting! They’ll never improve! It’s so frustrating!” and continued, “What about the function? Are all preparations done?”

The man replied that everything was under control, and added, “‘Didi’ (elder sister), I was really impressed by your husband’s contacts! Everybody gave us special treatment! Do you know I’m saving a hefty sum on the catering bill because the caterer offered to accept half the payment in cash, which means no tax on that amount!! He said he does this only for special people like Doctor Saab!”

Wow! This man had studied in USA and worked there for over a decade. After waxing eloquent about the lousy habits of Indians, he proudly proclaimed that he had saved money by doing something illegal, which had been facilitated by a highly respected medical practitioner!!! This man and his brother-in-law, both highly educated, did something that they knew was illegal.

We educated Indians are experts at criticizing the visible bad habits of our countrymen, but we ourselves have some really bad habits, which we do nothing about because we think they are invisible.
1. Have I always paid Income Tax in full, declaring all my income?
2. Have I never bought/used smuggled goods?
3. Have I never bribed a policeman or a government servant?
4. Have I never spoken on my cellphone while driving?
5. Have I never engaged child labour?
6. Have I never used official facilities (car, telephone, etc.) for personal use?
7. Have I never used software, books or CDs that are pirated?

I have listed 7 questions, but there are many more. We should ask ourselves these questions. If we can answer YES to all these questions, then, we have the right to criticise others. If not, we must first try to change ourselves for the better before trying to change others.

Many of the people who litter, smoke in public, spit, or urinate and defecate in public do not even realize that they are doing something wrong. In some cases, people urinate and defecate in public because they have no access to toilets.

However, we educated Indians indulge in wrong acts knowing that what we are doing is wrong! Further, we are not constrained by circumstances. For example, the man who paid half the catering bill in cash could easily have afforded to pay the tax on the entire bill.

Let us all remember: “When you point one finger at someone else, three of your own fingers point back to you.”

This post is being shared for Indispire Edition 24.