Corruption is a problem that rears it’s ugly head every once a while. I have 2 stories to re-count abut corruption at schools and colleges that I have experienced first hand:
Bribing for Marks
One day, as I just left the examination hall after appearing for a rather challenging paper in Economics, a friend accosted me. I had seen him slip out nonchalantly half-way through the paper. He had obviously not bothered to either study for or to attempt the paper.
Over a steaming cup of coffee in the canteen I was informed about the secret underground Marks Mafia. I also got to see a top secret ‘Rate Card’.
The Mafia worked through a few administrators and staff-members. The process was simple. There were 2 categories.
Category A: Increasing Marks (mainly towards Distinctions) – Mildly Popular
Category B: Converting Fail to Pass – Hugely Popular
The path of an answer script, once you gave the exam was like this: Paper Reaches Examing Teacher, Paper corrected by Examining Teacher, Marks and Paper sent to Office clerk for entry onto the college computer, Marks and Paper sent to Overall Examinations Coordinator and Finally, Marks sent to Principal.
The further along this assembly line your paper was, the more you paid. The mafia has clear logic: It was easier to ‘manage’ the clerk who took the papers to the Examining Teacher than it was to ‘manage’ the Examining Teacher herself; & so on…
Bribing for Admissions
Bribing for admissions is more common than it seems. Just one week ago, I heard a proud parent declaring how he had infiltrated the admissions office of a old and respected residential school in the country.
In India, at several colleges, even where there is a centralized admissions process regulated by a university, there are some seats reserved under “management quota” – it means that the administrators have a discretionary authority over who to admit. Quite obviously, there is a quasi bidding-war for places under the management quota (illegal of course) and the bids (bribes or donations, depending on whose view you take) can be larger than the annual fees of the institutions by a factor of 5, 10 or even 50.
If one were to believe (I Do) Transparency International, a global watchdog, it would seem that in this country this pattern repeats itself in all walks of life. India is at the top of the Global Bribery Index where they are regularly joined by the Chinese and Russians. People like you and me pay upto $5 billion a year in bribes for public services.
If you are a righteous parent accosted by a school or college administrator (or even a motorist stopped by a policeman wanting a little grease), here’s a cool way to send a message.
Presenting the Zero Rupee Note
I just learnt about this through Ramesh’s blog.
The 5th Pillar (please visit their website!), a Chennai based non-profit has released these notes. The organisation believes that we, the people are the 5th Pillar (after the Legislature, Executive, Judiciary and the Press) and is focussed on mobilising everyone of us to make a difference.
They distribute these notes that can be handed to the next official who asks for a bribe (I have already written for a pack to distribute amongst students). The note is reproduced exactly like the original on the obverse, with changes that reflect intent.
Above the Reserve Bank Governor’s Signature, it carries the claim “I promise not to accept or pay Bribe” – a take on “I promise to pay the bearer a sum of 50 rupees” that can be found on the mint notes.
The reverse carries information about the 5th Pillar concept and an appeal to empower every citizen to eliminate corruption.
Does it work? Here’s an excerpt from an article in the Times, London.
Vijay Anand, the president of 5th Pillar, said: “People have already started using them and it is working. One autorick-shaw driver was pulled over by a policeman in the middle of the night who said he could go if he was ‘taken care of’. The driver gave him the note instead. The policeman was shocked but smiled and let him go. The purpose of this is to instill confidence in people to say no to bribery. It is just a representation.”
It’s a clever idea, but one that could potentially back-fire if you run across a petulant policeman (school administrator?).
The 5th Pillar will always do its best, but it is really up to the 1st 2 pillars (The Executive and Legislature) to take steps (wielding the carrot and the stick) to get corruption and the country in order.
In any event, it’s still a cool idea that’ll have me ‘bribing’ regularly!
As Aside: You have got to read this
Keeping with the admissions bribery examples above, I thought I’d write about a very strange, even comical, line of business finds its genesis in school and college admission season.
Outside many schools and colleges, at the start of the admissions season, touts proliferate (even if the institution in question has no history of underhand dealings). They are not your everyday petty criminals, but can be smart, even suave dealers. Some even go by the moniker ‘Sir‘. They have a clear proposition.
“We have contacts in the system and can get your child into this institute in return for a few thousand/hundred thousand rupees. If that doesn’t happen, your money back.“
Anxious fathers and jittery mothers pay up (these operations work on an upfront-deposit- you pay before they take up the noble cause of getting your child an education).
Here is the Tricky (fun!) part: These egregious Sirs and Ma’ams have no contacts in the schools at all.
They work on the simple law of probability. Out of the 100 students they accost, twenty may get admission on their own accord. The touts claim these as their ‘victories’ and pocket the money. The other parents are informed about the effort that was made and the palms that were greased for their child’s admission. There money is returned (some may keep a small processing fee).
A nifty little game!
Here’s an excerpt from the Mumbai Mirror