Posted in ramblings, society by stories of an authentic self on November 5, 2008

It’s easy to rant about the system and corruption and one’s integrity or the lack thereof. Until we realise we form the system. And in the smallest of ways, we’re doing the biggest of things to perpetuate this system.

By ‘we’, I mean the educated Indian. For instance, income-tax officials nation-wide are presumed to be exemplars of Indian corruption who deal in money under the table as a matter of routine. But what’s to be said of the man who dishes out that underhand money? It is surprising the extent to which the purportedly honest man may have also deviated from the standard norms of accounting, especially private entities with private accountants. That too, not driven by a motive to evade taxes, but merely because of the inherent setbacks in a private small-scale existence. So if, despite largely honest records, you’re taken to task for a minor aberration in your tax records, you have two ways out. Either you submit to the official’s tacit demands for money or you seek legal action. Which is where you face the music for the little flaws in accounting that were ironically, never driven by ulterior motives of tax evasion. And so, the easier way out for the apprehensive, uncertain but honest man of integrity is to forsake that integrity. Bribe.

This of course, is not always the case. What sort of explanation do you provide for a blatant appropriation of unaccounted money with the sole motive of tax evasion? It’s shocking how relatively large, famous companies ranging a variety of services (beauty salons, bakeries, confectioners and candy stores, stationers) so conveniently forget to bill sales. By ‘bill’, I refer to a typed or written record of the receipt of cash for the sale of a product, multiple copies of which must necessarily be made, one of which is used for the company’s accounting purposes (the original given to the customer). Obviously, such behaviour is the order of the day in franchises where, again, the franchisee looks to make a quick buck. Needless to say, a lot of sale takes place heavily unaccounted, no records, no taxes. Being educated, right-thinking people of ordinary prudence, customers are expected to demand a bill.

This is not a moral discourse on man’s avarice and that insatiable desire to see his returns. There’s a scoundrel in every man and that’s not the matter of debate.

Just trying to point out how we are the system that we condemn. But we are the way out as well – “we are the change we seek” in Obama-speak; just as long as we seek it.

The fact is, money is indispensable to the nation’s progress. We’re a country of over a billion people out of which a grand total of 31.5 million pay taxes, as of 2006. We could do with some more.

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4 Responses

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  1. Dan Waldron said, on November 5, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    You know, I have to tell you, I really enjoy this blog and the insight from everyone who participates. I find it to be refreshing and very informative. I wish there were more blogs like it. Anyway, I felt it was about time I posted, I’ve spent most of my time here just lurking and reading, but today for some reason I just felt compelled to say this.

  2. Ishita said, on November 6, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    I agree that articulating the problem is the first step in solving it,
    but often wonder, “what then”?
    If profit motive is natural to human beings, then is a system based on honesty inherently flawed?

  3. Mika said, on December 1, 2008 at 11:02 am

    Beats me, really.

    Honesty works where there exists no over-arching dire need, I suppose. Civil servants are paid a pittance; hardly enough for a family to survive comfortably in India Today.

    When everyone’s in on the loop, right from the top officials, what can change? India, in a way has become brazen enough to accept such corruption. People openly appraise honest officers and officials, in public. Case in point, close to home, Officer Y P Singh, IPS, renowned for his honesty. Which means, we’ve pretty much accepted that corruption is an inherent, inexorable, unavoidable element in our system.

  4. Jeevan Kishore said, on October 13, 2009 at 10:02 am

    Pretty much sums up what ur trying to say.

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