Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal says that corruption has come down by 70-80% in last 3 months since he took over as CM. He says that when his own daughter offered bribe to an officer in the office of the Regional Transport Officer (RTO) for her learning licence, he refused to accept the bribe. Well. It appears that either Kejriwal does not understand the process and extent of corruption or he is telling a complete lie. There is no midway.
Firstly, it is a well-known fact that RTO officers will not accept bribe directly from some unknown person seeking a licence and that too a learning licence. RTO offices have a well-established system of accepting bribes through agents and touts. Secondly, RTO officers do not take bribes for the learning licence which is granted in one day without any tests on production of the requisite documents and filling up a form. In Delhi, a new system was introduced a few years back for grant of driving licences. If you visit an RTO office for a learning licence or even for a regular driving licence, you have to go to about 7-8 counters one after another, and at each counter a different process would be performed in a systematic manner. The mischief lies at the stage of getting a regular driving licence, where you may (or may not) be tested for your driving skills and for your knowledge of the traffic rules and certain other discretionary things. The mischief also lies in the matter of grant of permits, registration, etc., specially for the commercial vehicles, and at the RTO check-posts.
If you pay a certain sum of money to an agent or tout, who are part of an organised network outside RTO offices, a part thereof will go to the officers in the RTO. The process is speeded up. Moreover, in such a case, you can generally be sure of getting the licence or the permit or the registration, as the case may be. The agent will quote his fee for his services, which will include a part to be paid to the RTO officers. If you don’t go via an agent, well, you may have to face a lot of delaying tactics and you may not get the licence for one reason or another, though sometimes you may get it too.
Let me narrate a real example of one of my close relatives. We may call him “ABC” for the sake of convenience. He went to an RTO office recently (this is, of course, after Arvind Kejriwal became chief minister) for getting his regular driving licence. He had to go to that office as many as 13 times spread over one year or so. Every time, he would wait in the queue and his turn would never come. Reason? Only a limited number of persons would be taken up each day for conducting driving test (and other tests, such as knowledge of traffic rules / symbols, etc.) and every day a large number of agents would openly jump the queue with full connivance of the RTO officials. On the last occasion, ABC became restless since the same story was getting repeated this time too. He pointed out to one RTO officer as to why some people were being allowed to jump the queue. That officer did not bother. He then went to a senior RTO officer in that office and told the same thing. A heated argument followed. ABC told that officer that certain agents were being permitted by expediting the process for them while ordinary citizens were waiting in the queue. This infuriated the officer, but still he refused to check the CCTV to confirm this. So, when ultimately ABC’s turn came, he was deliberately failed in the knowledge of traffic signals’ symbols. Now, ABC is a very well-educated person with good intellect. I can understand if he is failed in the actual driving test. But, definitely, he is supposed to know much more about traffic symbols than many semi-literate persons getting driving licence everyday. Most people who were tested that day were not even asked about traffic symbols or only a ritual was done. But, in the case of ABC, they thoroughly tested him on a large number of symbols and failed him. When ABC was returning from the RTO office, the officers present there were mischievously smiling at him. ABC was naturally very upset. He made a complaint to the office of Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister. Nothing happened. The anti-corruption department people said it was not their job to handle his complaint. They gave him some phone number which was never available in spite of 40-50 attempts. Second attempt to contact anti-corruption department people failed to elicit any positive response. ABC made some RTI queries. Nothing happened. No reply. At this stage, ABC asked me whether he should also go via an agent and get his licence. I advised him not to do that and try to get the licence in an honest manner, even if it is very inconvenient for him to get leave every time to waste full day at RTO office. One more option was to simply forget getting the driving licence.
ABC was very frustrated since this was the second time he had taken the learning licence. First time, he could not pursue getting regular driving licence within 6 months of the learning licence, after a few efforts, since he could not get full day’s leave every time (from his place of duty) to remain in RTO office and also to manage to get the vehicle for the test. Now, even after his second learning licence, the 6 months’ period could expire again after a couple of months. So, now he appreciated how approaching through an agent could speed up the things and avoid the frustration. This is how corruption thrives. But, ABC agreed to try once more.
After a month of the said incident, ABC again went to the RTO office. He went very early this time and was third in the queue. Some people still jumped the queue (of course, sponsored by agents) and his number in the queue became 12th, but it was sufficient for his turn to come during the course of the day. And, he somehow retained his cool and did not argue with the RTO officers. However, this time, a different type of incident happened. The first person in the queue was failed in the test. Perhaps, he did not pay through any agent. The father of that failed person was very furious. He was some Desk Officer or some Under Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs in Government of India. He started throwing his weight at the RTO officers and started fighting with them. The RTO officers initially did not bother for him. Then, that MHA officer started preparing a video film (with his mobile phone) of the test being conducted on all the subsequent candidates. He threatened the RTO officers to follow the same rule for the subsequent candidates also and to fail them, otherwise he would report the incident with video evidence to the higher authorities. This obviously had some impact. Next 7 candidates were also failed in the driving test. Are we in India or in USA? Eight candidates failed! Some of these candidates were sponsored by some agents who were also infuriated since in spite of having paid the “share” to the RTO officers, their candidates were failed! A lot of confusion took place and a lot of heated arguments took place for quite some time. Ultimately, a compromise was arrived at. All the first 8 candidates (or so) who were failed, were now declared passed, including the first candidate who was son of the MHA officer who had created the scene. Since this whole exercise took a lot of time and the concerned RTO officer had to complete his “quota” of the day, he then started quickly passing the subsequent candidates (who were witness to this whole drama) with either no test or a formal ritualistic type of test. In this whole process, ABC also got his regular driving licence.
Both these incidents took place during last about 2-3 months, and definitely within the tenure of Arvind Kejriwal as CM of Delhi. Complaints made to his office were of no consequence, though.
This is how RTO office functions, if Kejriwal cares to know. Same is the case with the offices of the Sub-Registrars where bribes are not taken directly but through the Registration Advocates / Clerks, who share a part of their “professional” fee, though they would openly tell you that “so-much” would go inside. Corruption in tax department will happen through the CA. These are 3 major departments where corruption takes place. In certain other departments, such as PWD, it is the government money that is misappropriated and/or bribes are taken from contractors and the public may not even come into the picture directly.
Let me now throw some light on how the complaints made to the Kejriwal’s 1031 Anti-corruption Helpline are handled. Have a look at this recent news report in Hindustan Times. In a press statement, the Delhi Government said that the 24-hour helpline number 1031 received a total of 1,25,065 calls in a month of its operation. Out of these, only 252 complaints were found fit enough to be marked to the anti-corruption branch (ACB) for investigation. Moreover, the news report says that over the last one month, the ACB had arrested 25 people (only?) in connection with various cases of corruption, though it does not mention how many cases have actually been registered. But, in any case, 25 arrests in corruption cases in Delhi, having a population of 2+ crore, is not a huge achievement that can eradicate corruption.
Let us now discuss the claim of Arvind Kejriwal that corruption had come down by 70% to 80% in Delhi after he became chief minister. I must salute this magician that he could change the corruption habits of Delhi Government servants in such a short period of time of about 3 months. I think he deserves to be made the Prime Minister of India due to this reason alone! So that he could repeat it with India as a whole. What the British could not do, what many Governments could not do in India for last 60-70 years, Kejriwal has done this magic of reducing corruption by 70-80% in just a period of 3 months!! If Kejriwal could reduce corruption by as much as 70-80 percent in as short a time period as 3 months is, then we can be sure to see that Delhi becomes 100% corruption free in next 3 months or so. That’s really great!
I don’t think I need to say anything more. I don’t think there is a need to disbelieve him and ask the people of Delhi about the reality on the ground. So, we can hope that not only will Kejriwal win next Delhi elections in 2020 (this time, it should be 70 out of 70 seats), but he also deserves to win the next general elections for the Lok Sabha by a similar majority (of say, 535 seats out of 542).
However, I have only two questions to ask him. Can he please say what he did in the corruption case that he got registered against former chief minister of Delhi Ms. Sheila Dixit? And, what did he do in the corruption case that he got registered against former Union Petroleum Ministers Murali Deora and Veerappa Moily and Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani? Both these cases were registered last year during the fist tenure of Kejriwal as CM of Delhi. I am more interested to know about the progress in the corruption case against Mukesh Ambani since earlier there were reports that he had heavily funded Kejriwal’s election campaign in 2015 Delhi elections.
Before I end, let me offer my unsolicited advice to Kejriwal. He should not involve his daughter (who is a very promising and bright student, having scored very well in her HSC examination as also in the IIT JEE examination) in his political campaign by asking her to offer bribe to RTO officers, since offering of a bribe is also an offence punishable under Section 12 of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. And, it appears that a retired chief secretary (retired IAS officer) of Delhi has already lodged a complaint for registering FIR against Kejriwal’s daughter for having offered bribe to an RTO officer.
[Note: The author has experience of having worked in CBI as also having worked twice in the Anti-Corruption Bureau of Maharashtra, looking after a total of 18 districts of Maharashtra and thus, has some experience of handling corruption cases. Moreover, he is also author of a comprehensive law book of 2250 pages on “Prevention of Corruption Act”, published by India’s leading law publishers LexisNexis Butterworths India, and at present this book is under revision for its 3rd edition. Due to these reasons, with all humility at his command, the author can claim that he has at least some knowledge about how corruption works in India.]