Sunday, November 9, 2008

Democracy on Wheels, Corruption on Wheels

Democracy on Wheels, Corruption on Wheels

TTE corruption is rampant on IR. Train Ticket Examiners (TTEs) are stealing from the Indian riding public.

Yeah sure, going green on train toilets is fantastic provided they work.If they don't work (wanna bet?) they'll STINK worse than ever. Green toilets are a welcome, long overdue innovation that will be kind to the environment and generate savings to the public. It will contribute to the Greater Collective Good, my qualitative/quantitative measure of Ethical Democracy.

But what really stinks is flagrant bribe-taking by train ticket examiners and almost equally flagrant bribe-giving by the public.

When I am in India which is at least five months every year, I use ONLY PUBLIC MASS TRANSIT. Buses, trains. No, not even autorickshaws. No dumb SUVs and private cars for me. I ride our wonderful always-in-need-of-improvement Indian Railways all the time. From Kolkata to Kochi and all points in between. This is DEMOCRACY ON WHEELS.

But what is completely unacceptable and damaging is corruption by Train Ticket Examiners. TTEs collect cash payments on every shift, from everybody they can squeeze money out of. Remember, TTEs are already paid wages out of taxpayer money and have secure lifetime jobs and healthcare, with pensions and benefits upon retirement.

I have NEVER given TTE's a paisa, and never will. Many of my friends and relatives regularly offer bribes to TTE's. They complain they cannot 'get anything done' unless they proffer a bribe, whether to a TTE or a municipal bureaucrat or a constable who issues them a ticket for a traffic violation.

What distorted, undemocratic, unethical thinking and action.

Many Indians, especially middle and upper class Indians (of course they also belong to the privileged dominant castes) degrade democracy, abuse their civic rights as well as their privileges and responsibilities as lawful citizens in India -- an unprecedented democratic nation-state, the world's most populous democracy.

The TTE's "sell" berths to passengers who have not paid their full fare to the IR. In fact the TTEs run a PARALLEL ECONOMY. The TTE's run an underground illegal economy that drains money from the Indian Railways. The TTEs steal money from taxpayers and line their own pockets, to the detriment of a public sector service -- rail transport for everybody.

I have seen this happen right in front of my eyes whenever I ride the trains (second class of course, I am no elitist), of the Indian Railways.

The PEOPLE have the power to change business-as-usual in the IR, by NOT giving bribes to TTEs. But will they? Will they practice Ethical Democracy?

Dr. Chithra KarunaKaran
City University of New York (CUNY)