The Financial Express

No way to defy the regime of bribery 

No way to defy the regime of bribery 

Why only less than 30 per cent Bangladeshi households don't need to bribe their public servants to secure various services, may have been otherwise puzzling but is well understood. 

More than 70 per cent people who used to bribe in recent years, as finds a TIB survey, are the helpless, neglected Awam (masses) who can be exploited. 

These are the people who pay taxes, be it income tax, sales tax (value added tax) or any other duties levied upon them. As taxpayers and, theoretically, the owners of the republic, they deserve some respect from the khadems (servants). 

Instead, many of the individuals responsible for providing services act like masters and blackmail the citizens who actually pay the former their salaries and other benefits. Additionally they charge more money for delivering 'service' they were duty-bound to do. Any extra cash taken from the people isn't recorded in any receipt nor do the recipients ever admit such earnings unless they are caught red-handed. 

The aggregate amount grabbed in such a manner every year is at least Tk 108 billion, reveals the survey on corruption in services sectors conducted by the Transparency International Bangladesh between December 2020 and November 2021. 

The practice of giving and taking bribes has been such a rule that hardly anyone questions why the majority do not protest against the practice of unearned income. 

Then how do the 30 per cent of the households avoid being a party to bribery in a system so plagued by corruption? 

In other words, who are these people, who can defy the unwritten but unavoidable demand for upri (extra money) or what late finance minister AMA Muhith euphemistically called speed money? 

The ones who receive bribe may not need to pay it for they maintain a corrupt nexus of their own. For enjoying immunity from bribery whatsoever, you need to be powerful in the first place. Family members, friends, beneficiaries and followers of the powerful people and the entire privileged class may be the lucky minority in a corrupt rule. 

Ghush khor (bribe taker) men and women informally justify their acts by arguing that they take money in exchange for the service they mean they sell. They forget their position in the public office isn't their forefathers' property. 

We've no knowledge of whether all people who bribe do so voluntarily, out of their love for the government officers. Only those who attempt to acquire undue benefit are ready to share it with none but the ones who have the power and authority to deliver it. 

Apart from their role as collaborators of corruption, the relevant section of the powerful elements compels the service-seeking commoners to get involved in a corrupt practice the later would normally refused to give in to. 

The service sectors that are termed the most corrupt in the TIB report, include law enforcement, passport, road transport, judiciary, healthcare, local government, and land registration and management. 

When the innocent masses are compelled to pay the authorities the money they have no right to demand, the latter commit double crimes; first by disgracing their official position; and second by corrupting innocent people. The one who extorts money and the one who is intrigued to pay are not the same culprits. 

Thus, people in position who extract bribe money from the public who find no other means to avoid payment of speed money create a bribery regime.  Even people sometimes have to 'bribe' to save life. 

The majority, too, can be blamed for not mounting protests against the evil practice of bribery. They also have the answer to why they can't but live with the corrupt culture they never admire. 

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