Thursday, August 10, 2006

India 1: Switzerland 0 - or, Fighting corruption is possible, but how do you fight Swiss bureaucrats?

Moments after posting my previous blog on how to fight corruption in India, I hear a very interesting case in relation to Swiss bureaucracy.

Before I retail the story, I should mention that Switzerland is one of the cleanest and least corrupt countries in the world.

So what I am about to relate has nothing to do with corruption, only to do with irresponsible bureaucracy.

Here is the story.

An Indian friend of mine is married to a Swiss lady. They often have relatives and friends as their guests (as I do).

One relative applied to come for 3 months. Unusually, he was given a visa for only 2 weeks. (This has never happened to me, so I don't know why the visa was given for a shorter period than applied for. I don't even know if it is legal to give a visa for a shorter period than applied for).

At the end of the fortnight, this guest returned to India.

A year later, he applied to visit them again. This time, the visa was entirely denied, on the grounds that his documents were false!

The Swiss lady rang the consulate concerned, but was told that the decision was final and that there was nothing she could do.

Do note that the only documents concerned are: an Indian passport, a letter of invitation from a Swiss resident, and bank documents from the Swiss resident providing that he/she can support the invitee for the duration of the stay.

So the bureaucrats were either impugning the Indian passport or the letter of invitation from a Swiss national or the documents from a Swiss bank!

I don't know if the Indian relative can take the Swiss officials to court in India for maligning him. If he can, is it worth his while and his money to go to court?

I don't know if the Indian government can take the Swiss government to an international court for implying that its passport is not valid (if that is what was being implied, since I can't imagine that the Swiss Consulate would argue that the Swiss letter of invitation or Swiss bank documents were false - specially as the Swiss lady rang them and spoke to them in Swiss German!)

I don't know if the Swiss lady can take the officials to court for being incompetent (if the relatives documents were false, they should not have let the Indian relative into Switzerland the first time - so they were clearly incompetent in that case. And if his documents were not false the last time around, the officials are clearly being incompetent in denying the visa now).

Switzerland is not corrupt. No bribe would move the officials concerned.

But it is clearly possible for a clean but unaccountable bureaucracy to be even more oppressive than a corrupt Indian system: even if it were worth the Swiss lady's time and money to take the bureaucrats to court, she cannot do so (as far as I know).

My conclusion: the Indian system is now better than the Swiss system. Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

_ivan said...

Regardless of your following post, that refutes the score-sheet of this Swiss-Indian game of bureaucrats, I do find it somewhat amusing, that I am not the only one comparing the "systems" of different countries. Maybe my amusement largely hangs on your using the word, "system." I have often wondered if it was naïve of myself to employ this in an attempt to boil down so much bureaucracy with a single term.

However, I am surprised that you so readily gave India the lead so early on in the game! No doubt, due to frustrations on the part of the Indian-Swiss couple mentioned.