Bribe has been a quintessential part of Indian life for as long as I have understood the meaning of the word. I am not talking about the 'lakh-crore' corruption scams which hit the headlines of the newspapers, but the smallest of bribes which change hands every day on the streets on India. From the simplest of offenses such as traffic violations to basic processes like moving your file through bureaucracy; almost any action involving government authorities is bribe worthy. In fact bribes are so imbibed into out way of life that it's even common to bargain over the amount of the bribe like we would for vegetables or clothes. I myself have been a witness to numerous such instances when stopped by traffic police for a random check. Further more authorities seem to be taking timely measures to standardize bribe amounts to avoid unnecessary haggling. Most attenders in government offices would be well versed with the latest market rates. In fact it wouldn't be too far fetched to say that the net sum of all sub thousand rupee bribes in a fiscal year could give the most extravagant lakh-crore scams a run for their money. So, what is it that makes giving and taking a bribe such a common practice. Why is it that the two concerned parties don't think of it as an unforgivable crime. To find the answer I have to go back to the beginnings, the very human nature and how it is nurtured through the Indian society.
Humans by nature are selfish. More so in India where kids are expected to survive in a cut throat world where survival is paramount. Right from day one you are expected to be a fighter who always comes out on the top. You have to be the first in your field, doesn't matter if you are going about it the right way or wrong. Nobody cares if you have understood the fundamentals of a subject or not; as long as you can ace the exams. Some desperate kids even resort to copying afraid of the parents whip. With passing time as these kids become the very adults who govern the society, they still feel the need to be at the top of the ladder. But, unfortunately in India for most part of the last century government officials always had the most meager salaries. For example a police constable or a government attender makes under Rs. 10000 per month which by no means is enough money to provide for their family. But, due to their limited skill set they probably can't make more, otherwise they would have already signed up for a private job in the software sector. So, as a easy resort they turn to bribes, which it so happens that most people are more than happy to provide to escape the law or work around it for their own benefit.
The second party to the crime are the people who give the bribe. This is were personal comfort in life dictates that it's easier to bribe a government official and get your work done than follow the law to the last word. There have been innumerable occasions when I myself have driven a automobile without proper paperwork in the vehicle. The confidence being I could bribe my way out of a legal situation. Similar to this there are so many occasions where people think they can buy there way through authority. It's such a common practice that if some poor soul wanted to the righteous path, people would look down upon him/her for making their own life miserable by following the law. So, over time people have become accustomed to the idea that giving a bribe works towards the general good of society. Both the concerned parties go home happy. But, what about the remaining people by whom I am referring to the society in general? This is where I need to fall back on my original premise that all humans are selfish. As long as we the people are happy and our personal lives are comfortable, they will never bother about society.
So how will people realize that bribes are crimes against society and it's something which needs to fixed. The ideal solution would be that all the people involved join hands to work towards the betterment of society. This is as good as saying everybody should become a saint which is most likely not possible. Alternately, one thing which seems to work for most developed countries is fear; the fear of the system. But with growing Indian population enforcing such fear would be near impossible as most people don't even have food to eat. The last thing they are going to worry about is abiding by the law. The fact is that corruption of some order of magnitude will always be prevalent when there is a wide socio-economic gap in the society. The only thing that could be fixed is the scale of corruption. One way is to fix the system, but I am pretty sure it will give rise to a new breed of intelligent criminals like the ones who lead to the housing bubble in the USA. The smart people will always figure out a way to rob the poor of their hard earned money. So, for the foreseeable future I will continue to live in a society where corruption is prevalent, if not a common household phenomenon...