So what are my thoughts on this ?
From our childhood we are taught that people in the world are either black or white. But as we grow up we understand that there are really very very few people in the world who are entirely black or white. For every dishonest thing any one does, those people have justifications of why it is right. And if you see from their side, it is not entirely trash too. I think there are ethical dilemnas and questions like till when will you be honest.
Consider this situation: Suppose you are going to a marriage and you have promised that you will bring one important thing to the marriage and the marriage might stop if you don't go. Suddenly you realize that you lost your purse. Suppose it is a remote place and the last bus for that place is leaving soon. You have no time to get more money. Let us make it more complex. Suppose nobody is giving you the money for ticket. And you find that one gentleman's purse falls down and you find sufficient money for the ticket. What would you do? Would you steal the money ? If the option of borrowing doesn't exist , will you steal the money? Let is make it more complex. Suppose you need some money for operation of a loved one and you are not able to get money ethically. And you have some ways of getting money unethically for the operation - Will you do it?
What I am trying to do is making the decision sufficiently white so that you take it. In the real world we are faced with these and many more situations where you will have to take such decisions. Sometimes, these are personal like the questions above or sometimes they may be systemic.
Take the passport question for example - How many of you have got the passport without paying a bribe ? Anyone. That was my first brush with bribery - The officer who asked me just casually asked me - pay 300 rs. I was shocked. How can he claim the money so easily. I dared to ask him - Why is it for? He said it is for something and took it. Will you risk not paying the bribe and getting your passport delayed ? How many pay claim the HRA allowance and medical allowance with fake bills ?
Generally, I try to avoid all such things. Once when my bike was towed for parking in a no parking zone (which I knew only after they towed - There was no notice there ), the police asked me to pay 100 bribe and take it or pay 200 rs fine and take it. I chose the latter route as I was very much against paying bribes. But the more I have seen life, the more I understood that it would take a lot to be honest always.
Now ignoring the money aspect of it, again, with the experiences I have, I am not sure if honesty is the best policy always. When there are dark secret about you and you have question, for which you have to let the truth in the open. Then you will be in the situation of damned if you tell and damned if you don't. While it was easy to hide the truth, telling the truth has had a very bad impact. Sometimes it seems as if not telling would have been better. But hiding the truth means being dishonest with them and with yourself. So I told but paid dearly. I would accept that we shouldn't do something which would hate to accept before 10 people, but what if you were foolish enough to do such things ?
I would say everything is relative. There are no absolute truths. Every rule can be broken if situations permit.But as much as possible we should strive to be honest as we all know that is the right thing to do. It is better to design systems which will make it easy to be honest than having systems which will make it easy to be dishonest.