Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The futility of legislation

At a petrol bunk near my office, I found a very young boy (must be in his early teens) working to fill air. As I was getting my tyres inflated, I had a casual chat with him, which went this way:

Me: "How old are you, thambi?"
Him: "18"
Me: "Oh, have they told you to tell you are 18?"
Him: "I have my certificates to prove I'm 18"
Me: "Relax, young man, I am asking casually. I have no intention of complaining"

His supremely confident rejoinder: "Sir, even if you want to complain, you can't do anything. I have all relevant documents - school TC, birth certificate, etc which says I'm 18"

I was stumped by the confident with which he spoke. He was clearly lying, and he knew that I could see through that. The tone with which he gave the reply was sort of challenging me to try and disprove his claim.

It is instances like these which make me think that legislation to eradicate social evil may not be very effective. This boy clearly knew what he was doing was illegal, and (probably with help of others/relatives) found out means to get around these 'hurdles'. He probably would have paid at most a month's salary equivalent to get a fake certificate. People who really want to continue such 'illegal' activities will anyway find a way out - if someone takes it to the point of a bone marrow test, I'm sure he might still find a way out through bribing. In fact, with such kind of legislation, we are putting one more layer of rent seeking / scope for corruption. Such legislation is as effective as the "Pollution Under Control" certificates - better save the money for everyone concerned.

What's the alternative then? Better awareness creation, perhaps. Maybe make these children see 'whats-in-it-for-me-if-I-study-a-little-more', a promise of a better life.


  1. if you had talked on for a few more mins am sure he would have ended up calling you 'thambi' :)