Confessions of a Bribe Taker
I am a government employee in a department which comes under the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The money that I take is not a bribe. I call it a service charge for people who want to jump the queue. If someone wants to give me money as a gesture of appreciation, why should I refuse? Khud Lakshmi chalke aarahe hai toh hum kaun hote hai usse mana karneke liye (When Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, herself comes, who am I to refuse her)?
I never demand a bribe, I just verbally quote my price. If they give me something less, I take it without complaining. People get caught when they negotiate. I have worked out a system to collect the bribe. I never accept it directly, nor does someone collect it for me. I ask them to leave the money somewhere and I never touch it for months.
I cannot tell anyone about the money I make on the side. It’s a substantial amount but I am not lavish with it. I haven’t bought any opulent bungalows or cars or the usual stuff that bribe takers do.
But when neighbours, relatives or friends have functions, I tell my wife to buy something in gold or silver for them. It’s a subtle way of increasing social standing. My wife and daughter have lots of jewellery but since it looks elegant, no one gives a second glance. I have told my wife that if we spend wisely the money will remain with us for much longer.
I have hidden my wealth well. When we wanted to slim down, we did not choose a highly expensive gym though we could afford it. Instead, we went to a reasonably priced ayurvedic centre.
The government pays us good salaries now, but earlier, it was a pittance. However, for a long time, I have had health problems. My wife thought it was due to the money I made on the side. She urged me to look for a posting to a department where there was no chance of getting bribes. I have shifted out but I do not want to disclose the department.
(He’s a second rung government official who’s been in service for over a decade)
As told to Haima Deshpande.