Saturday, June 21, 2008

In white and black

One of the myths that we usually encounter is that corruption is domain of the political and bureaucratic class. Nothing else can be farther from the truth. All of "us" ("us" as in the indefinable "common man") are corrupt because we are the ones who pay bribes.

We are faced with corruption every day. To get a driving license, we pay bribe. To get the housing plan approved, we pay bribe. And, in the shining new private aviation industry, a year ago, an official of a private airline (now bought over by its competitor) demanded bribe to ensure extra luggage can be checked in. 

It is quite cumbersome to not pay a bribe and yet get things done. I flunked my learning license test twice and the driving license test once. I ran around the Jaynagar RTO buying up all sorts of forms to fill in - it was cumbersome, it was painful, but I got the license. On the other hand, as an uninvolved third-party, I've witnessed a real-estate negotiation where the broker said "why pay tax to the Government ?" !!!

Though talked widely about, I hadn't understood the meaning of "black money" and how it gets created. And, found out that we, the citizens create it ... Let us say I pay a part of my completely accounted for (and taxed) salary as a bribe to someone for some extra "service", whether he is a Government or Private employee. And, of course, this isn't declared or taxed, and hence becomes "black". Because the PAN number is needed for all most all transactions these days, it is very difficult to invest it anywhere. This unaccounted money can't be deposited in a bank or in stocks. Most ways of "enjoyment" of this wealth are thus ruled out out, narrowing the avenues to a very small band - real estate, bribing somebody else or buying jewels or valuable items. And that often isn't enough.

We need to pity the otherwise decent people who get into blackmoney business. Can't use, can't keep, can't spend. What to do with it ? How to "whiten" it ?

That is why I get pissed off when people crib that our infrastructure is so bad, our politicians are corrupt, and then, they try to join a signature-campaign to reduce corruption !! After all, aren't we the ones who evade taxes by claiming HRA for our own house, Vehicle allowance for our own vehicles and not disclosing the complete amount paid in real-estate transactions ...

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