Habits die hard, more so when they can be pursued with impunity with the authorities wearing blinkers on their eyes.
Touts who claim they can arrange for key documents such as birth certificates continued to do brisk business on the Patna collectorate premises on Wednesday. The Telegraph reported on Wednesday how easy it was to procure such documents and had tracked the birth of a certificate, which turned out to be a fake one.
The reporter, who had obtained the certificate on Monday on the basis of false information provided to one such agent, went back to the collectorate, where business continued as usual in spite of district magistrate N. Saravana Kumar's assurance that the authorities would crack down on such agents who took people for a ride.
The reporter, however, could not spot the agent who had provided her the fake birth certificate on Monday for a sum of Rs 180. "Dar gaya hoga (He must have run scared)," explained another agent, who too had offered his services to the reporter on Monday. He fled the spot when asked if he too would have handed over a bogus certificate.
Entering the road leading to the collectorate, the reporter was again accosted by agents who were willing to get any affidavit/document made for a fee.
The reporter spotted a few new faces, one of whom said he would be able to procure an "original certificate" that would be duly registered.
"It all depends on the urgency, madam," he explained. "If you want a birth certificate quickly, you'll have to pay more, otherwise you take it after some days. Since you want it in a day or two, you pay me Rs 800, otherwise if you want it after a few days, you can give me Rs 600." Asked why he was quoting such a high figure, the agent sheepishly said, "Baki bahut ko dena parta hai (Others will have to be paid off as well)." He refused to elaborate though on who these "others" were.
But he insisted that the document provided by him would be an original one. "You want an original certificate and therefore you'll have to pay me more. You can get it verified, it will be original," the agent asserted.
District magistrate Saravana Kumar continued to insist on Wednesday that action would be taken. "Yes, I went through the report (in The Telegraph) today. I have taken the matter seriously and will initiate proper action against it. Before that, I want to understand a few things after getting the details. If you could come tomorrow, I'll get to know things better," he told The Telegraph.
The Opposition has found a new stick to beat the government with in the Assembly. Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Abdul Bari Siddiqui said: "Forgery is being encouraged in the name of good governance. The government is making tall claims about curbing corruption and irregularities. However, in this case, the district administration has remained a mute spectator. It is a sensitive matter and the district administration should have acted swiftly and caught the culprits."