Nepalese customs officers on the India border have turned to traditional betel nut shops and prepaid mobile cards to accept bribes from travellers. Border officers on both sides can be fastidious in collecting bribes. A few years ago, an Indian friend was travelling to Nepal, when their bus was stopped by border officials. Everyone on the bus paid a sum of money to the customs officer without flinching. My friend, knowing she had nothing to hide, refused to pay. The official refused to get off the bus without his bung. In the end, the other passengers told my friend to pay, because they either had something to hide, or just wanted to get on with their journey. Such is bribery.
Customs officials adopt new methods of bribery
Armed Police Force (APF) personnel and other officials mobilised at the Mechi Customs Office have come up with new and innovative ways of receiving bribes from service seekers. They receive bribes from traders and other service seekers indirectly either from nearby betel nut shops where the amount is collected or in the form of mobile top-up balance cards.
The office had recently installed a dozen closed circuit cameras to monitor the illegal activities of the security personnel and officials. However, the move has become ineffective in controlling such activities.
In a scene observed in the area, an Indian street vendor came up to the border with his cycle loaded with goodies. The security personnel and custom officials deputed came up to him and took a brief look at the goodies. The vendor then walked to a nearby betel nut shop, acted as if he wanted to buy something and left the shop after leaving IRs 50 there.
A local businessman said the amount of bribe collected throughout the day is shared among the officials later. Likewise, some street vendors buy pre-paid mobile balance top-up cards for the officials. According to a street vendor, the recharge card technique is popular among women officers. Instead of under-the-table deals in which the risk of being exposed remains high, the new techniques leave no trail of the officials’ unscrupulous activities.
Under the condition of anonymity, a businessman from Khoriwari in India said it was worthless to try and pass goods through the eastern border without bribing officials. Locals buying daily essentials from across the border are harassed the most, while the business men paying off the bribe are let scot-free. The customs office and the APF depute three separate teams at the border per day. Sources say each team collects approximately Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 as bribe every day.
Meanwhile, Mukti Pandey, chief of the Mechi Customs Office said he has received complaints that security personnel and other officials receive bribes and that he will initiate a probe into the matter soon. He also expressed hope that the CCTV cameras would help control bribery.
Posted on: 2014-03-05 12:18