Saturday, July 11, 2009

It Happens only in India: The Stampede for Stamp Paper

Perhaps 'stampede' is a rather impolite exaggeration of 'really long queue'.From the wee hours of the morning till the scorching hours of lunch time,frequent visitors to M.G. Road in Bangalore are treated to the sight of a line of people desperately queued up outside the State Bank of Mysore.It is one of the few banks that deals in foreign exchange and it is the only bank in Bangalore that sells stamp paper (the other is another branch of the same bank).I came to know,quite recently,that the fuss had nothing to do with foreign exchange and everything to do with stamp paper.

A bank employee hands out 'challans'(application slips) to the people lined up.Everyone in line has to,in a short time,become adept at the art of safeguarding one's position in the queue and filling in the form at the same time.Most people lean at dangerous angles against the wall of the building to achieve this feat. The challan has fields like 'denomination','amount' and many others; the most intriguing field being the one titled 'commission'. The 'commission' is usually a percentage of the amount and it varies with the nature of the stamp paper.There are a few veterans who know these figures by heart, irrespective of whether they know the mathematical calculation behind it or not.

Passers by throw curious and sympathetic glances at the people in line.The well informed mutter things like, 'This stamp paper thing is a pain'; the less informed claim in wonder, 'Such a long queue for foreign exchange!'. The average person standing in line checks his watch from time to time;getting more agitated as the hour nears 2:00 pm.

It is thus not surprising that there was a stamp paper scam. Just as every other annoying Indian phenomenon comes bundled with an associated scam.

1 comment:

ankita said...

There are actually people here who get paid to stand in a queue from 6 am onwards at the passport office. You warn the substitute that they won't be paid if they don't keep a 'good place'. Then at 9 am, you come to the office yourself, pay the person for keeping a place in the first half and await your turn.