The Great Indian Walmart Tamasha
Why "Walmart" is being blamed? Are we not to be blamed?
Over the last few days, we have been reading about the reports that Wal-Mart paid bribes in India. While, I unconditionally support the investigations and stand against the corruption, I am surprised to see the reaction, at large, in India. Walmart has been projected as a singular big villain while no one has questioned who received the bribe and for what.
As per reports, Walmart has paid bribes as low as $5 to $200 to excise officers for the custom clearances and real estate agents to run their businesses. Bribing comprised of thousands of small payments to low-level officials to help move goods through customs or obtain real estate permits. Reportedly, Wal-Mart has disclosed in December 2012 that it spent Rs 125 crore for lobbying activities since 2008 for “enhanced market access for investment in India”
Is it really surprising for any Indian?
On one side, Central Government as well as various State Governments are inviting foreign investment by promises such as “Single Window Clearance” to “Account Officer” and on the other side we are not able to reform our attitude, approach and working culture at the lower level. Where is the professionalism and pride for our jobs? Some (rather most) might argue that is it the problem at lower levels only and yes, they are right in raising such questions. I am also of the belief that there is huge corruption at the highest levels (Government as well as Bureaucrats) but does it give a birth right to every citizen to be corrupt.
We Indians want Government job as gives us an easy life, assured income and allows us to be authoritarian and play god by coercion. While, many Government employees may not take favours to do something wrong but most will demand favours to do what is right and what they are supposed to do. I may be going overboard but the truth is that corruption is deep rooted in India and if given opportunity majority of us would get corrupt. I would not be surprised if the shipments and clearances of Walmart may have been deliberately delayed at every level as general perception is that they are deep-pocketed and easily meet the expectations.
I have had extensive discussions with my friends on this issue and after long deliberations have come to the conclusion that MnCs are equally or more concerned with such low-level corruption. Such corrupt practices not only delays operations but also increases cost in the name of engaging middle-man and meeting expectations.
Ever wondered why no Indian company makes such disclosures? Are they squeaky clean? No, they are not but they all know the trick of the game. Well, no one likes to pay bribes but they are forced to. Do we not pay bribe to traffic police or in every small government office? Same is the situation here also. Who is gaining in this whole process? A certain section of the society is gaining by making the whole process long and expensive at the cost of the entire populace.
Let us be honest that half of the Indians are appointed as middle-men and not helping in creation / production / development of anything new. Can write pages about this but I put my pen down as the message is crisp and clear - We need to change this and consider this as a wake-up call !!