I was reading this article on Sunday Times of India. One gentleman, Venkat Iyer, had to visit Tehsildar’s office twenty six times to get a certificate declaring him to be a farmer. This certificate only entitles him to be a farmer. It is not a position of profit. Yet, he had to travel 26 times to meet local government officials to get his certificate. Every time he had spend 100 rupees of his own money. A total of 2600 rupees.
Question obviously comes, why does all the required documents, all counters at different stages of progress not mentioned in an idiot proof manner in the local office and on the net? Obvious answer is more the confusion, greater is the chance to make money. As Mr. Venkat Iyer says, most people do not visit 26 times, they simply pay up.
I had a similar experience a few years before, when I went to register my flat in Gurgaon. Fortunately, I had gone in a group with a representative of my builder. As I stood confused in the crowded chaotic room, I wondered how I would have fared if I went there on my own. May be I also would have been forced to pay a bribe to get my flat registered or keep on coming back till I had mastered the mystery of each counter. On paper everything was transparent, computerised and online. But no one knew, except of course our intrepid representative from builder, which counter to approach first with which document.
One gentleman, not related to our group, had raised a voice about confusion. He was immediately shut up by some people positioned in key locations about how good the system was. May be he would have been beaten up, if he persisted with his protest for long. All this in the middle of Gurgaon district court.
I this context, I recall my experience in nineties before cell phone became ubiquitous. Those days we had to pay a visit to all powerful MTNL line men to get our landline phones fixed. This local supervisor was all powerful. He could assign person A’s line to person B, for a price, so that person B would make a long distance call and bill person A had to foot the bill. Then came cell phone revolution. Initially everyone grumbled. How cell phones were meant only for the rich and elite. How cell phones owners showed their arrogance of money by flaunting their gadget. How a ringing cell phone disturbed an ongoing important meeting. Yet, today India has one of the highest density of cell phones. From my boss to my maid, all have cell phone. Cell phone companies have come up with a variety of plans to suit each and every budget and pocket. Today, my maid and the richest Indian Mukesh Ambani gets the same service, only their handsets differ. I do not have to beg a junior officer to have my landline fixed. Because I have alternative.
I think technology can make a lot of difference to improve life of common citizens. Only vested interest groups oppose access to technology, because it makes their nefarious business opportunities obsolete.