Fill = 200 INR, Bill = 2000 INR

Let us talk about Integrity – by taking couple of recent examples that I came across.

Scene1: Fill = 200 INR, Bill = 2000 INR

After a long break, I have started driving my two-wheeler to work. One of the indirect benefits of driving motorcycle (apart from saving time in Bangalore traffic) is the opportunity I get to observe people and some interesting conversations among them.

Last evening I was pulling into fuel filling station as my vehicle was in reserve mode.  Unlike normal days, I need to wait in queue. The gentleman before me was getting little restless and I understood he works for one of the multinational companies (now let us call him Mr. MNC) by looking into the access card and laptop make (clue – both were having name).  The queue did move in few minutes, incidentally I happened to observe the conversation between Mr. MNC and pump worker who fills the fuel.  Mr. MNC filled petrol for 200 INR (for his Honda Activa) and started negotiating with the worker to provide him with a bill of INR 2000. He also requested him to provide a bill without mentioning date of sale and insisted to write it as “Diesel”, even though he was filling “Petrol”, that too for 1/10 of the bill amount.

After getting the “fake” bill from the worker, Mr.MNC gave him 100 INR as a tip and quickly drove out of the station. Initially I was little puzzled but understood what Mr. MNC was trying to do – produce fake bill and claim tax or perquisite benefit from the organization.

Scene2:  Core technical books for LKG kid

We have been purchasing lot of books for my little one in order to develop healthy reading habit. One fine day my dear wife asked me an interesting question “I heard from our neighborhood friend that her hubby’s company reimburses books purchased for kids. Not sure if your organization provides such facility. Since we are spending quite a lot for our little one, won’t it be cool if somebody reimburses that?” Again I was puzzled for a minute and gave her a simple answer “Let me check this and come back”. I was pretty sure there is no such benefits provided by my organization, but I wanted to be double sure as I don’t want miss on any benefits that I am entitled for J

After going thru the organizational tax claim policies, I couldn’t find anything related to books purchased for kids. However I was able to find a related item, where money spent against purchasing technical books and journals can be exempted from tax by producing bills to my organization.  I updated my wife back about tax claim policy and asked her to check again how our neighborhood friend is able to claim the money. Kicked by curiosity, my wife checked with her friend and the answer she gave me was really shocking. Her friend’s husband’s company also have the same policy (i.e. reimbursing technical books), however she has stuck a deal with nearby book store (as they are regular customer) that they will provide a fake bill with some technical books names, even though they purchase LKG books. Here you go – another form of Mr. MNC!

Even though these two cases might look small, they expose a huge underlying issue related to integrity. Given a smallest amount of opportunity even educated, well paid knowledge workers are ready to compromise their integrity even though the financial benefit (gained in form of tax exemption or perquisite) could be merely in thousands of INR. Of course, one can put a counter argument saying the whole country is corrupt (means billions of people with no integrity), what’s harm in me doing some small things like this? In my opinion somebody “else” is doing wrong is not a passport for “me” to do the same, when I have all the choice to do the right thing. When it comes to integrity there is no argument of “small or big”, rather it’s the matter of “exist or doesn’t exist”.

The objective of me writing this post is not to say somebody is doing something wrong, but to expose a new dimension of a well rooted problem. In most of the cases, every software professional gets an opportunity to travel abroad (to developed countries) and appreciate basic things working in a corruption free manner. However when it comes to our own country, we don’t seem to appreciate it and become the wrong example by doing activities mentioned in the above two stories.

Clearly the core issue neither money nor desperation. It is done consciously with 0% guilt associated with it. On multiple occasions I have seen people producing fake medical bills, house rent allowance receipts, resumes with fake experience, claiming the role that an individual actually not done etc. These things definitely provide short term benefit but how it can be sustained over a period of time? After globalization there are umpteen numbers of knowledge workers (who earn a lot in a comparative scale) but end up doing basic things incorrectly. In my opinion India has a long way to go to build world class professionals. Especially when such fundamental issues are there it is really hard to call ourselves as world class. What better way to bring in change than by setting the right example? Let us not worry about our corrupt politicians or bureaucrats. Let us do right things to have a better next generation professionals.