In June 1975, a state of emergency was declared in India by the government headed by Mrs Indira Gandhi. In the following days, newspapers started reporting, how there was all round improvement in discipline in all govt. departments. It was repeatedly mentioned how govt. emloyees were reporting on time to their offices.
As the emergency dragged on, stories started circulating claiming that corruption in government departments had gone down or even stopped. The emergency was being hailed as a solution to all of India's ills. Lot many people even started supporting the imposition of emergency.
A growing number of citizens startedbelieving that things were indeed much better under emergency. I was also one of them. I had started my career, year and a half before emergency was imposed.
Both, during my study days and in my job thereafter, I used to travel frequently. Almost everytime, I had to pay a bribe to the sleeper coach conductor, to get a berth in the sleeper coach. As I looked a student and would always identify myself as one, and generally would be charged a couple of rupees, instead of Rs 5, which was the going rate for a berth.(Yes five rupees was the rate in the early seventies !!!).
A few months into the emergency and I was required to travel overnight, at very short notice to Delhi. I was worried that I would find it difficult to get a berth, as everyone was saying that corruption had considerably gone down and time was also too short to get a confirmed reservation ticket.
Anyway, I boarded into a sleeper coach of the train and started looking for the conductor. Soon enough I saw him checking the passengers. I kept a watch on him and stood at a distance from him. Like me there were 4-5 of us wanting a berth. All of us were somewhat unsure, whether we would succeed because we saw many policemen also taking rounds and the emergency mood was also there.
I noticed that the conductor would at frequent intervals look at us and seemed to sort of give us an assuring look. As soon as he finished with his checking he moved towards the exitwhere all of us in one voice asked him, if he has spare berths to allot us. He looked at us and said you all know emergency is on and vigilance staff are carrying out surprise checks. We again requested him to give us a berth. He kept walking and entered the next compartment. From my early experiences, I knew I had to follow him, especially because he had not denied, that he had no spare berths.
In the process he had lead us through a few compartments, when he suddenly turned back and started walking in the opposite direction. After crossing a couple of compartments he told us to stop following him and said, to now come to him one by one only. As luck would have it, I was the first one. I started in my usual style that I am s student going to attend my college and he should allot me a berth. He looked at me from top to bottom and said was I aware that there is an emergency in the country. I said yes. Then he said is it different for students and nonstudents. I kept quiet. He then said i should pay him Rs10. I protested that the usual rate was Rs 5. He then gave me a very wise manly look and said "young person, in emergency the risk has also doubled and therefore rate has also doubled" I took out a tenner gave it to him and got the berth.
That night I realised that corruption could never be eliminated in our country by passing laws. People including myself would always find a way to indulge in corrupt practices..It would only make it more riskier and correspondingly the rate would keep going up. It is more than three decades now and we are perhaps as corrupt as we were then. Only the rates have gone up.