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Subecha Dahal was awarded a third prize (essays catagory) in a youth photography and writing competition, launched by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in partnership with Transparency International (TI) to mark the 20th anniversary of TI, one of one of the world’s leading anti-corruption organisations. We asked young people between the ages of 18 and 30 to depict corruption and how to combat it. The competition was judged by Thomson Reuters Foundation, Transparency International and professional journalists and photographers.
It was 2011. It was one of those days, hot and humid - a typical Indian summer. I was still a student at the time, living in the Indian city of Pune. During many such hazy student-life afternoons, Facebook was a place of respite where I aimlessly scrolled, thinking and ruminating about my repeated procrastination over essays and deadlines looming. Most of the updates were about friends who had got engaged, who had married and who was expecting. It was not very amusing but it had become a habit. And it was then that I stumbled across something that the Internet community would call Facebook Gold.
One of the friends had posted a video he took of an Indian policeman soliciting a bribe. Apparently my friend was driving a motorbike and because the bike had no mud guard, the traffic policeman stopped him and asked him to pay a 100 rupee fine. My friend complied and asked for a Challan (receipt). The policeman said that he wouldn’t be giving any. It was then that my friend realised that this was a bribe. Any other person trying to get out of a sticky situation would have just left after paying the money. But my friend didn’t. Rather he insisted that he get a receipt since it was his right. The policeman said that there would be no receipt and then moved on to seize his license and threatened that if he created a scene, he would charge him with more traffic violations. It was then that my friend took out his camera phone and told the policeman that he would be taping the whole incident. The policeman, probably used to bullying, didn’t even budge and kept on. Unbeknownst to the corrupt policeman, he gave my friend a weapon that would eventually get back to him. He had thought the camera phone could do him no harm.
He was wrong. A social-media enthusiast like most of us young people, my young friend then proceeded to post the event with a detailed description on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and wherever else he had an account! His driver’s license was seized. But instead of giving in, it was exemplary that a young individual had the courage to respond – and in India, where corruption is such a widely accepted part of everyday life. In my native country of Nepal, the problem of corruption is equally widespread, and his action showed that we can challenge the cultural norms.
Later, I read another update that the same policeman was asked to answer for the incident, and the incident was even covered by the Pune newspaper. Though a small incident, it was an example of what a determined young individual can do. He didn’t need much in the way of resources, he only had a phone like most young people have. But he used it to his best advantage. I saw and understood the impact of social media and of young people raising their voices and rising to the occasion.
It is more than two years now since I last saw that Facebook update. Many might no longer remember it. I don’t speak with that friend much as I live in a different country now. We have lost touch. But even now when I sit down to write about what young individuals can do to fight corruption in their countries, it is this inspiring incident that comes to my mind.
That is the power of setting an example.
Subecha Dahal, a health editor in Nepal, is the third-place winner of Transparency International's 20th Anniversary Youth Writing Competition on how to stop corruption.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Thomson Reuters Foundation or Transparency International.