Bribing our way out

July 27, 2007

It happened again, though after a long time, I jumped a signal and landed right into mama’s arms. He was ready waiting for me and at once snatched the keys off, a grandiose violation of my property rights.  Clearly I misjudged that I could somehow push myself through the last few seconds of the singal. I really have to tell you the about at the amazing speed, efficiency these mamas work in extracting the bribe. Last time I was caught for jumping a signal it was around close to a year and half ago. Back then it was just a single mama who in my opinion was a bit less experienced. He let me off with just a warning that warning proved to be useful for a whole year and a half. But yesterday was different, this was a major signal, there were 4 mamas, a sergeant (the one with white cap), two of his henchmen, each posted at different signals of the junction, and finally the one who does the actual talking and the collection work. The first act, as you know, is that the guy snatches your key away, which is something they are clearly not authorized to do. After that he sends you the collection agent and he proceeds to fish for another victim. Now I have to tell the guy who he sent me to was a professional. No wonder he got assigned to this major signal (I heard that there’s a lotta competition for main signals). He proceeds to write something in a big file sheet with zillions of coulumns. In one of them he writes FSS. That was, I guess, intended to tell me that he is bent on booking a case. Now I dont know what it stands for but I’m sure it is not even remotely connected to my identity or identifies my vehicle or anything like that. We move on to the first major phase. This guys talks fast, you can see that he’s no amateur, this guy has done his time, honed by several such cases. He wants to waste no time. I thought I was gonna end up paying some heavy amount. He then asked for my license, though I’m a license carrying bike rider, I dont usually give the license to the mamas when they ask for it, for it is the license that identifies you. Once your license it is in his hands it’s almost over, your in his pockets. So I plead with him, yes I did. “Please sir”, those were the only two words that I kept saying. You could say I am someone with no self respect, but neither was the mama. If it was his job to lure me into bribing, it was my job to beat the system, no matter what. So I had to “please sir” him for a while, it dint hurt me a bit. What would’ve hurt me the most is paying 100 bucks or more to him as bribe. It would’ve arose a great deal of guilt in me because,

a. It is an amount of Rs.100 which is of great value to me, hell I can get a happy meal (beer+biryani) with some change left.

b. It is an act of bribery, why should I pay 100 bucks to some unknown prick who is supposed to keep the road safe.

  Anyway I kept playing along. After tired of trying to get hold of my license, he finally gave up and moved to phase2. This is the extortion phase, the first being the terrorise phase. But before phase1 and phase2 the guy gave me sometime to move the money in my wallet. That is the first thing you do, get all the money in your wallet to your ticket pocket (sometimes you would be asked to empty your normal pockets, so it’s safe to push it in the ticket pocket). What mama did next amazed me. He took a xerox (photocopy) of news item from some Tamil newspaper and showed it to me. It read ‘Jumping signal will cost Rs.1000 fine from now’, in Tamil of course. I know it to be as a newspaper from its layout and font, no government circular or memo looks that way. The guys tells me that I will be fined for Rs.1000 and asks “is it ok?” I told to myself “c’mon what is he doing? Bargaining the fine amount?” In fact he was indeed bargaining the bribe. I said I dont have any money and showed my wallet with 10 bucks plus change in it (never completely empty wallet, they might not believe you). So he advises me to get 100 (or 10% as he says) from friends family etc. I replied that I’ve come from far away and that’s the only amount I have. He gives the sergeant a look. The sergeant signals back that I’m just a waste of time and that he should move on. The guy then proceeds to coolly take the only 10 rupee note from my wallet and hands over my key. Just to make it look like they are not fucking scavengers haggling for a mere 10 buck, he orders me to get 40 bucks more soon. We both knew that I wont be returning, but he had to say that to make sure I dont think low of him. So I was off, for a mere 10 bucks. I wouldn’t exactly call that a victory, I did actually give Rs.10 to him, but I did beat the system. I dint pay the hefty fine.

 The thing is that I’m not a socially irresponsible citizen for not paying fine. It’s actually got more to do with the fact that the fine for jumping a signal is just too much. Too much that no one would actually want to pay them, and they will finally settle with bribing the mama for a lesser amount say, 10% (mamas talk in % these days). That’s where the system fails miserably. It was actually thought that raising the fine amount will increase traffic discipline, but the fact is the traffic violations remain the same because most of them are just accidents, acts of negligence. What happened to me was that I jumped the signal accidentally, yes it was my misjudgment, and I would gladly pay the fine for that, if it were within the limits. I just cant pay Rs.1000 for mere misjudgment, no one was hurt, nothing serious happened that demanded 1000 bucks from me. So I had to talk my way out of this situation. You could argue that to prevent them from taking bribe the govt could imprison whoever gives or takes bribe. Valid point, but the funny thing is that such a law actually exists and the fact that it is still not imposed strictly speaks for the very fact that such a law cannot be imposed strictly at all. It will only lead to corruption at a higher level. Suppose me and mama were arrested by the vigilance squad at that very moment he took the Rs.10 note, we both would have to end up paying the vigilance squad a bigger amount to get off. How can you be sure that vigilance will not accept bribe? If the people assigned to protect and serve people take bribe, it is only natural that people assigned to tackle corruption will themselves take bribe. Also it will prove very difficult for those people to be vigil everywhere and every time. What are they? the omnipotent God? None of this can happen. The only way to beat corruption is not by imposing penalties or imprisonment but only by NOT GIVING CHANCE for it to exist. Imagine if the fine was 50 or 100 bucks, it still is a considerable amount for most folks but they would indeed pay it and stick it to the mama. No one really wants bribe the police if the fines are reasonable. Most folks hate giving money to police or any authority for that matter. Paying 50 or 100 as fine for jumping a signal will definitely raise a flag in my brain, so the next time it will judge more carefully in trying to pass a signal during those last few seconds, thats how you do it. Instead, now I’m pretty confident that the next time any mama catches me for signal jumping I would be able to talk my way out of it. Well I could only hope the govt recognizes the extreme stupidity of its laws and did something about it, until then people like me and you will just try to bribe our way out.

 Note:For who are not from chennai, mama=Traffic police and that stuff about omnipotent God, that was just a joke. God is not omnipotent, he’s just your imagination.


6 Responses to “Bribing our way out”

  1. mark iv Says:

    well, on the onset, a pretty convincing conclude…
    but how does lowering the fine amount reduce violations? at a fine of 50 bucks, you now save the bargaining time and clear your conscience by not indulging in bribery… but still, the 50 is nothing to haggle- you would now break the law more comfortably and throw aside the fine amount as you pass…
    the bigger fine amounts serve twin purposes- the MAMA holds the baton: it is his choice in the amount you have to squeeze…
    and (2), its not the amount that deters you from violation but the time you waste begging the MAMA with the please sir charade!

  2. swamygee Says:

    My whole point is that the fine amount should be tied to the offence I commit. Now jumping a singal without causing any other damages, should, not in my opinion, be fined Rs.1000. And MAMA holding the baton? come on you all know how irritaing MAMAs can get. Its a blatant misuse of their authority. The slighest sign they get that you’re someone well to do, they’ll try to milk you for all your worth. MAMAs are should be appointed to regulate traffic and not harass public, which is why lowering the fine will eventually lead to MAMAs doing their jobs and not be bent on counting the days collection (because they wont have any be getting any bribes).

  3. vicky Says:

    “The thing is that I’m not a socially irresponsible citizen for not paying fine”

    unga postlaye idhudhan ultimate comedy…

  4. vicky Says:

    but anna…think about those mamas who kanjify in that veyyil for a paltry sambalam

  5. swamygee Says:

    Vicky, it is also a resposibility of a citizen to point out the flaws of a govt. Whats more irresposible is taking in whatever the govt dishes out without ever questioning them. So i feel i’ve dont my part. You could argue that i’m just an escapist under the guise of a “responsible citizen”, but the fact is, like you and most of the people, i do feel things are very corrupt and inefficent in this country, but instead of just ignoring it (or worst abiding by it) i’m just doing my small part to save it, by bloggin abt its stupid laws. You could argue that this post would never be noticed by any govt authorites to whom it is mainly addressed to, but it is also intended for people like you who merely accept the status quo and fail to see the big picture. I would love to hear your arguments.

  6. vicky Says:

    argument ennana argument..

    next when u work ur socks out be careful..mama kitta maatikadheenga

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