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Jun
13
2011

image via I Paid a Bribe

I still feel like there’s a shotput in stomach whenever I think back to one of the worst days of my life:  my husband and I had just moved to Bangalore from the US and we had to go to the Bangalore aiport to claim some items we had shipped over.  The nightmare began as soon as we entered customs – you can’t bring in this and this, actually you can’t bring in any of this.  We only had books and a high resolution computer monitor – but they were medical books that my husband needed for his work – so of course their eyes were bulging rupees.

I don’t remember the exact amount of the “facilitation fee” we ended up paying – I think around 50,000 rupees (gulp!).  But I do remember feeling utterly powerless and completely helpless.  I even cried from fear when I was seperated from my husband for a brief moment (these men were obviously “above the law” so you can imagine what I was thinking…).

Corruption in India is the single reason I never felt safe living there.  Because, apparently, you can even get away with murder (see the Jessica Lall Murder Case, as dramatized in this year’s critically-acclaimed film No One Killed Jessica).

But there seems to be a new wave of hope sweeping over India – a grassroots movement in favour of empowerment of the people.  The movement is fueled in part by the leadership of Anna Hazare and by social media.  Check out www.ipaidabribe.org – a website where people can anonymously report incidents of corruption and tell the world what department was involved, the circumstances and how much they were forced to pay.  Genius!

Wherever you are in the world, I urge you to take part in this movement:  Join the Facebook pages of India Against Corruption and of I Paid a Bribe and spread the word to your friends and family.  If you live or travel to India and are forced to “pay up” – report it on IPaB.  As members of the Indian diaspora, we can help India be free and independent from corruption.  The web and social media makes it easy for all of us to have our voices heard.  And the strength is in the numbers:  India (finally) ratified the UN Convention against Corruption last month.

Gandhi gave the world Satyagraha.  India is now on the brink of breaking free from another captor – in a novel way that could yet again set an example for the world (Chinese activists have already copied IPaB’s model).  So, please, join the Anti-Corruption Movement – it is real, it has a leader and it’s gaining speed fast.

We owe our children a corruption-free India!

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4 Responses to “India’s Next Independence Movement”

  1. T.R. Raghunandan Says:

    Thank you for your generous comments and appreciation. We believe that effectively curbing corruption requires three inter-related actions. In no particular order, first, we need to be part of Mass movements, whenever we find out elected governments dragging their feet. While there may be several opinions about the way that the Anna Hazare led campaign has been conducted, one appreciates that these movements have brought the issue of corruption in India into sharp focus. Second, we need to be determined not to pay bribes, ever, in our personal and business transactions, whatever might be the inconvenience or loss. Unless we are willing to fight the battle every day, we cannot exhort others to fight against corruption. For this purpose, we must be willing to do the homework, equip ourselves with the knowledge required to outwit, or intimidate a corrupt official. Third, we must understand how governmetn systems work and be willing to work with the government, to change processes and reduce the red-tape that generates a huge number of opportunities for corruption. Ipaidabribe.com supports civil society action and have been part of these mass movements in India. However, we believe our forte is in the other two aspects of reducing corruption – exhorting people and equipping them with advice on how not to pay bribes and working with the government to reduce corruption by reforming processes within it. Please see the ten commandments of how not to pay a bribe and our recent investigative report on registration of property sales, as these are examples of our work in this direction.
    Thanks once again for your support.
    T.R. Raghunandan,
    Spokesperson, ipaidabribe.com

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