Good Governance: Delivering Corruption-Free Public Services


N. Bhaskara Rao

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    To My Parents

    To my father, a freedom fighter and a true Gandhian by lifestyle, and my mother, a true secularist with unending urge to serve others. They brought me up in such a way that I know what societal concern is and what simplicity in living is all about.


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    • 1.1 An Overview of Public Services and Process of Citizens Seeking the Service 12
    • 2.1 Perceptions about Corruption and Actual Experience of Bribing—Servicewise 33
    • 2.2 Most Common Hurdles Faced by Citizens in Availing Public Services 42
    • 2.3 Most Common Purposes for Which Repeat Visits Are Made—Servicewise 43
    • 2.4 Poor Households Who Used a Contact and Those Who Could Not Avail because of Inability to Pay Bribe (Year 2007) 46
    • 2.5 Grievance Redressal Mechanism: Has It Deteriorated in the Last One Year? 49
    • 2.6 Awareness about Complaint Redressal System among Citizens 51
    • 2.7 Perceptions about Grievance Redressal 52
    • 2.8 The Decline in Perceptions and Experience 54
    • 2.9 Percentage of Citizens Who Feel That There Is Corruption in Public Service 55
    • 2.10 Percentage of Citizens Who Paid Bribe 56
    • 2.11 Have You, or Anyone Known, Ever Actually Given Bribe (in the Last One Year)—Statewise 57
    • 2.12 Perceptions about Corruption in Select Public Services 59
    • 2.13 Scope of CMS India Corruption Surveys on Corruption over the Years 61
    • 3.1 Who Is More Responsible for Corruption Today (2009) (between Politician, Officer, and Citizen) 82
    • 3.2 Popular Perceptions as to Who Is More Responsible for Corruption? (Trend between 2002 and 2007) 85
    • 3.3 Is the Citizen Responsible? 86
    • 3.4 Those Who Had Taken Money or Were Given Money for Casting Vote by Location and Gender (in the Last 10 Years) 97
    • 3.5 Those Who Had Taken Money or Were Given Money for Casting Vote—by Occupation and Social Group (in the Last 10 Years) 97
    • 4.1 Variance in the Percentage of the Poor from One Estimate to Another—Nationally (2009–10) 109
    • 4.2 The Percentage of BPL Households in the Total Number of Households 110
    • 4.3 ACB Raids on “Officials”: Status of Such Cases—Andhra Pradesh 113
    • 6.1 Corruption in PDS 150
    • 6.2 To Whom Bribe Is Paid 151
    • 6.3 Why Repeat Visits Required 152
    • 6.4 Reasons for Paying Bribe and Purpose for Multiple Visits 152
    • 6.5 Experience in Paying Bribe/Using a Contact 159
    • 6.6 Reasons for Paying Bribe 163
    • 6.7 Difficulty Factor in Availing the Scheme 163
    • 6.8 Experience 163
    • 6.9 Bribe Paid To 164
    • 6.10 A Decline in Corruption? 167
    • 6.11 Alternate Avenues Used 171
    • 6.12 Justice—2005 174
    • 6.13 Alternate Avenues 175
    • 6.14 Experience 176
    • 6.15 Money Paid To 177
    • 6.16 Purpose for Bribe 178
    • 6.17 Declining Trend: 2005–10 183
    • 6.18 Critical Functions 184
    • 6.19 Difficulties 186
    • 6.20 Experience with Corruption 186
    • 6.21 To Whom Bribe Is Paid 186
    • 6.22 Why Bribe Is Paid 187
    • 6.23 Why Do Parents Interact with Schools? 192
    • 6.24 Experience in the Previous Year 193
    • 6.25 Reasons for Paying Bribe 193
    • 6.26 To Whom the Bribe Was Paid 194
    • 6.27 Decline in the Trend of Corruption 197
    • 6.28 Route for Paying Bribe 198
    • 6.29 Reasons for Paying Bribe 198
    • 6.30 What Percentage of People Pay Bribe 199
    • 6.31 Experience 203
    • 6.32 Bribe Paid 203
    • 6.33 Reasons for Repeat Visits 213
    • 6.34 Difficulties Faced in Getting Registered/Transferred 214
    • 6.35 Alternate Route 215
    • AI.1 Summing Up Experiences with Corruption: Aggregate Scores (2003) 262
    • AI.2 Summing Up Experiences with Corruption (2000–03) 262
    • AI.3 Citizens Who Had Given Bribe Sometime or the Other (2000–03) 263
    • AI.4 Extent of Bribe-giving across Five Cities 264
    • AI.5 Brief Overview of India Corruption Study Series(2002–09) 269


    • 2.1 Perception Much Higher about Corruption than Actual Experience 28
    • 2.2 Trend in Corruption Coverage by News Channels 2005–10 30
    • 2.3 Trend in Corruption Coverage in the News Bulletins of AIR (2008–10) 31
    • 2.4 Trend in Corruption Coverage in Front Pages of News Dailies (2008–10) 31
    • 2.5 Five Levels of Corruption 38
    • 2.6 Percentage of Citizens Who Consider Corruption Has Increased in Public Services 58
    • 3.1 CVC's Newspaper Advertisement 72
    • 6.1 Hospitals: Perception and Experience 184
    • 6.2 Electricity: Perception and Experience 196
    • A.1 Perception about Corruption Is Much Higher Than Actual Experience 267


    ACBAnti Corruption Bureau
    AIADMKAll India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
    AIRAll India Radio
    APLAbove Poverty Line
    ARCAdministration Reforms Commission
    BJPBharatiya Janata Party
    BPLBelow Poverty Line
    BSPBahujan Samaj Party
    CAGComptroller and Auditor General
    CBICentral Bureau of Investigation
    CBOCommunity-based Organization
    CICCentral Information Commission
    CJARCampaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms
    CLRCommon Language Runtime
    CMSCenter for Media Studies
    CPI(M)Communist Party of India (Marxist)
    CPICorruption Perceptions Index
    CSOCivil Society Organization
    CVCCentral Vigilance Commission
    CWGCommonwealth Games
    DDADelhi Development Authority
    DMKDravida Munnetra Kazhagam
    FCCFederal Communication Commission
    FCIFood Corporation of India
    FIRFirst Information Report
    FPSFair Price Shop
    GISGeographic Information System
    GPSGlobal Positioning System
    HISHospital Information System
    HRCHuman Rights Commission
    I&BInformation and Broadcasting
    IASIndian Administrative Service
    ICTInformation and Communication Technologies
    IJSIndian Judicial Service
    IPCIndian Penal Code
    IPSIndian Police Service
    JSYJanani Suraksha Yojana
    MCDMunicipal Corporation of Delhi
    MDRAMarketing and Development Research Associates
    MISManagement Information System
    MKSSMazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan
    MLAMember of Legislative Assembly
    MLCMember of Legislative Council
    MoRDMinistry of Rural Development
    MPMember of Parliament
    NACNational Advisory Council
    NCAERNational Council for Applied Economic Research
    NCPNationalist Congress Party
    NDCNational Development Council
    NeGPNational e-Governance Plan
    NJCNational Judicial Commission
    NREGANational Rural Employment Guarantee Act
    NREGSNational Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme
    NRSNational Readership Survey
    NSSONational Sample Survey Organisation
    O&MOperation and Maintenance
    OBCOther Backward Classes
    OPDOutpatient Department
    ORGOperations Research Group
    PDSPublic Distribution System
    PEEPerception, Experience, Estimation
    PEOProgram Evaluation Office
    PHCPrimary Health Centre
    PILPublic Interest Litigation
    PIOPublic Information Officer
    PPPPrivate-Public Partnership
    PRPublic Relations
    PSUsPublic Sector Undertakings
    RBIReserve Bank of India
    RKSRogi Kalyan Samiti
    RORRecord of Rights
    RTERight to Education
    RTFRight to Food
    RTHRight to Health
    RTIRight to Information Act
    RWAResident Welfare Association
    SBIState Bank of India
    SCScheduled Castes
    SERCState Electricity Regulatory Commission
    SHGSelf-help Group
    SLAService Level Agreement
    SMSShort Message Service
    STScheduled Tribes
    SWANState Wide Area Network
    TDPTelugu Desam Party
    TITransparency International
    TIITransparency International India
    TRAITelecom Regulatory Authority of India
    TRPTelevision Rating Point
    TRSTelangana Rashtra Samithi
    UNDPUnited Nations Development Programme
    UNICEFUnited Nations International Children's Fund
    UPAUnited Progressive Alliance
    VDOVillage Development Officer
    VECVillage Education Committee
    VLWVillage Level Worker
    WUAWater Users' Association


    Dr N. Bhaskara Rao is a unique person. He has been a pioneer not only in the area of media studies but also in initiating action by the civil society in specific areas that need correction.

    I came to know Dr Bhaskara Rao in 1993 when I was appointed as the Chairman of the Telecom Commission of the Government of India and Secretary, Department of Telecommunication. He was heading the Social Audit panel for the Department of Telecommunication. The panel consisted of eminent people like Justice P.N. Bhagwati, Kushwant Singh, and others. It was an experiment in using Social Audit as an instrument to gauge how the telephone and other services provided by the Department of Telecommunication were perceived by the citizens. That was the era before economic liberalization. Teleco services were a century-old monopoly. The setting up of the Social Audit panel was in itself an innovation. This was part of the dramatic changes that have been introduced in the century-old Postal and Telegraph Department when that stormy petrel called Sam Pitroda, inspired by Rajiv Gandhi, was inducted in the government.

    Dr Bhaskara Rao's panel used to travel to different states, get the feedback from the users of the telephone services, and come up with valuable suggestions. I have no idea how much of these were acted upon.

    Dr Bhaskara Rao has continued with this initiative and activist approach to strive for better governance by mobilizing civil society forces ever since. The Centre for Media Studies (CMS), which he heads, has done a yeoman service especially in the area on which there is not much literature available today. This is the area of corruption in public life of our country. As Central Vigilance Commissioner, I requested him in 1998–99 to conduct exit polls in public offices and also rate the level of corruption among different organizations of the Government of India and, if possible, also come up with the ranking of states in terms of the corruption perception index. My inspiration for making that suggestion, of course, was the annual Corruption Perception Index (CPI) of countries brought out by the Transparency International (TI) which has emerged as a very authoritative voice so far as global-level policies relating to tackling corruption are concerned. Dr Rao acted on my suggestion and began with studies of corruption in different states with the focus on organizations interfacing with the common citizen on a day-to-day basis. Later on behalf of the TI (India) Chapter he undertook rating the CPI for different states.

    This book by Dr Bhaskara Rao is an important contribution to the ongoing debate on the issue of corruption in public life in our country.

    It is not just one more book on the subject on which many have written. But it brings its own unique contribution in terms of the appendices which reflect the highlights of the field studies conducted over the last three years by the CMS on behalf of the TI (India) Chapter.

    As Dr Bhaskara Rao points out in the preface, corruption has been an all-pervasive and long-standing problem in our country. We have been trying different approaches and solutions to tackle it. But there is no quick fix for this. As he says in the preface:

    Devolution of power to panchayats was expected to reverse that trend, later it was computerization and more recently RTI, public—private participation and now biometric and unique identification number—they were all expected to contain corruption too. Tomorrow it would be Lokpal and Grievance Redressal Acts. They all are important and long overdue initiatives. But they alone will not help demonstrate a reversal … This book is an effort for a focused strategy toward realizing such a trend. There have been a number of books over the years on corruption. It is doubtful whether they made any difference. And yet I went about with this book.

    Continuing in the same vein he adds:

    The phenomenon of corruption in the country cannot be eliminated without adopting a taking-the-bull-by-the-horns approach, that is, tackling corruption at the top, at the higher echelons of government, political leadership, and the industry, all involving big money and corruption of all kinds. While that should be the ultimate goal, should citizens wait for that accomplishment? Or should we first demonstrate the determination to curb corruption starting with basic public services that involve large section of citizens? This book is an attempt to initiate that process.

    In a way, this book has been timed perfectly coming as it does, after the country has witnessed two massive efforts at articulation of the feelings of the common citizens and the middle class against pervasive corruption in the country. Anna Hazare's initiative on the Lokpal Bill and Baba Ramdev's aborted attempt in unearthing the trillion dollars salted away in tax heavens have brought in to sharp focus the role of the civil society organizations in articulating corruption and attempting to influence policy by the government.

    This book, by an author who has had hands on experience not only in conducting field studies but also is a specialist in the study of the media, is indeed valuable.

    In the same preface, Dr Bhaskara Rao goes on to observe:

    I have been arguing that mass media (and now ICT) have the potential to achieve in a few years what and where the governments have failed over the decades. This includes corruption in public services affecting more than half of the population on a recurring basis. What is required by media is not hyping of corruption but covering with an intention and objective of curbing corruption as they do sometimes.

    The role of the civil society and the media in highlighting corruption and contributing to the country in tackling it can be debated from different angles.

    I have spent more than 42 years in the government as a public servant and naturally I may be biased in my view. I feel that an insider like me who is a bureaucrat and who knows how the system works has an advantage over the media and the civil society which do not have a detailed understanding of the dynamics and mechanics of how the bureaucratic machinery works. In my view, if honest public servants become fifth columnists in favor of bringing about good governance and checking corruption, they will be able to bring about much better check on corruption than what can be achieved by outside agencies.

    For example, even in the Anna Hazare agitation, the demand for an all-inclusive Lokpal covering the whole gamut of organizations from the lowest bureaucracy to the top most is prima facie is an impractical proposition. Any one with a basic understanding of how the government system works, the time taken in processing proposals to maintain records and objectivity, and the culture of bureaucracy will realize that larger the organization and larger the scope, slower is it bound to be in operation. Unless consciously, the organization itself is designed taking maximum advantage of the modern technologies like the information technology to speed up the process.

    Nevertheless, the Anna Hazare agitation has brought home the fact that the political will of the people is bound to find expression in some way or other forcing the government to go on to the back foot and take necessary corrective measures.

    In the ultimate analysis, it is not the laws, rules, and the systems of the organizations that can ensure that we get a corruption-free governance. It is the right people who occupy the right positions who can bring about a cleaner India. To ensure that all the time the right people occupy the right positions, we must be able to build into our system the 2T principle. The first T is transparency so far as the qualifications and selection procedures are concerned. The second T should be built into the procedure of selection itself. The selection process should have the TINA factor, that is, There Is No Alternative but to select the right person.

    Such a 2T principle has become a reality today so far as selecting a person to the post of the Central Vigilance Commissioner in the Government of India. Thanks to the judgment of Justice Verma in the Hawala case and Justice Kapadia in the P.J. Thomas case, only a person who has an excellent track record and who has got impeccable integrity can be considered for the post of CVC. He has to be selected by a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, Home Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition of the Lok Sabha. This means the person should have political neutrality and not be favoring any political party. In addition, once a person is selected as CVC, the condition of service is that he gets only one term and therefore can not maneuver for a second term. That is not all. After his term is over, he is permanently debarred from holding any office of profit under central or state governments. He is also disqualified for being considered for any constitutional post like Governor, Vice President, or President. This ensures that the selection process of CVC is transparent and other conditions bring the TINA factor. As a result, today, there is no alternative but to select the right person with the right qualities of competence and integrity to the post of CVC.

    My question as well as suggestion is, can we apply this principle right across the system of governance and bring about the changes? This is where each public servant in whatever position of power can apply his mind and to the extent his influence prevails bring about the change.

    Dr Bhaskara Rao has made a timely and valuable contribution to the ongoing national debate on tackling the phenomenon of corruption.

    This is a timely book and has to be widely read and appreciated. I congratulate Dr Bhaskara Rao on this noble effort.

    N.Vittal, IAS (Retd), Former Chief Vigilance Commissioner of India


    About a quarter century ago the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi raised the issue of corruption as a national problem. He said that hardly 20 paisa of a rupee spent by the government was reaching those for whom it was meant at the grassroots. That significant observation of Rajiv Gandhi continues to be quoted by leaders in power and outside. But has it provoked us as a nation to do something about it? What specific initiatives have been taken since by the agencies concerned like the Planning Commission? Devolution of power to panchayats was expected to reverse that trend, later it was computerization, and more recently RTI, public-private participation, and now biometric and unique identification number—they were all expected to contain corruption too. Tomorrow it would be Lokpal and Grievance Redressal Acts. They all are important and long overdue initiatives. But they alone will not help demonstrate a reversal. Each time we seem to come up and put our belts on, one or other such effort as in the case of CVC's more recent call to realize “dream of corruption free India.” Parallely, there should be serious efforts with a strategic approach for select public services, which are riddled with corruption and contribute to the overall “perceptions” of citizens. This book is an effort for a focused strategy toward realizing such a trend. There have been a number of books over the years on corruption. It is doubtful whether they made any difference. And yet I went about with this book.

    A Times of India editorial (November 11, 2010) summed up that

    corruption has come to be regarded as an inevitable and unavoidable part of daily life. We have learnt to accept, and expect, corruption every where and in everyone; among our political class, in our bureaucracy, among members of the judiciary, in educational and medical institutions, and even among our so-called “god men …”. We have accustomed ourselves to tolerating corruption every where.

    What do we do? Do we give up? Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh while speaking at the 150th anniversary of CAG (November 16, 2010) said that “big ticket items on which large sums of public money are expended” should be the ones that CAG should look into but he also said that “we might benefit more if big and systemic issues get due attention.” Speaking against the “cancer of corruption,” the Prime Minister described it as a result of a “tide of rising expectations,” whereas the president of the Congress party from the same platform lamented the phenomenon as a result of “increase in social conflict” and increase in “graft and greed” (November 19, 2010).

    The phenomenon of corruption in the country cannot be eliminated without adopting a taking-the-bull-by-the-horns approach, that is, tackling corruption at the top, at the higher echelons of government, political leadership, and the industry, all involving big money and corruption of all kinds. While that should be the ultimate goal, should citizens wait for that accomplishment? Or should we first demonstrate the determination to curb corruption starting with basic public services that involve large section of citizens? This book is an attempt to initiate that process. There are of course many who argue that corruption cannot be removed without first having honest leaders at the helm. Yes, we should have honest leaders, but should we wait for that day or should we take on what is possible and feasible? Then there are now new technologies. Their application has demonstrated the potential for change without having to wait for honest leaders. Also, because the behavioral-change model in vogue today is (by creating a) demand first. Sensitizing and activating citizens is part of such an approach, where citizens come first. Eventually it has to be citizens who have to ensure and sustain zero corruption in public services.

    This book is about that dilemma and that challenge. There is so much research, analysis, and insights on corruption that there is very little that we do not know about corruption in general or even in specific contexts. And yet we are not able to come up with a result-yielding framework. We need to demonstrate a reversal of the trend both with regard to perceptions and experience of citizens. I have been arguing that mass media (and now ICT) have the potential to achieve in a few years what and where the governments have failed over the decades. This includes corruption in public services affecting more than half of the population on a recurring basis. What is required by media is not hyping of corruption but covering with an intention and objective of curbing corruption as they do sometimes.

    The cost of doing nothing to combat corruption is high and consequences are even more significant if efforts are half-hearted. But, at the same time, chances of containing corruption are high if efforts are serious and strategic. It is proposed in the book that we should not give up the fight against corruption, as we seem to think more often sometimes. But the fight against corruption has to be strategic, focused and mutlipronged. For this it is suggested that we first focus on corruption in basic public services of concern to citizens. We should be conscious of the subtle role of perceptions in containing corruption.

    My concerns as a village-boy-turned-social-researcher is what made me pursue this research at CMS over the years. First, in developing an appropriate methodology to understand the phenomena and, then, gaining insights for proactive initiatives. This book has benefited from each of those rounds of CMS India Corruption surveys and several rounds of discussions with experts and experienced functionaries. In this process, several eminent personalities have shared their concerns and insights. I would like to mention in particular N. Vittal and Admiral (retd) R.H. Tahiliani. For the benefit of those who have not seen CMS reports for various rounds of surveys since 2000, highlights of each of those reports are provided in the book. They are given also since each report has certain pertinent and distinct aspects to add to the insights.

    As a nation we seem to approach the endemic problem of corruption without making much difference even when a large section of citizens are affected. Correctives have been too general and limited to a service or a period or a place. I have been arguing that as a phenomenon corruption has two sides, each sustaining the other and each reinventing itself, or reinvigorating the other, in that process—that is, perception and experience. Unless we understand and recognize the two aspects, we cannot approach the Frankenstein. Perception and experience are often two different aspects of the same phenomenon. Both require special but parallel and simultaneous efforts. Because of deeply held perceptions, corruption is taken as granted or a compulsion and an efficient way of going about.


    Many contributed in my writing this book. It was Shri N. Vittal, as Chief Vigilance Commissioner of India, who inducted me (2000) into this exploration posing a challenge of curbing corruption in specific situations. The Director of CMS, Ms P.N. Vasanti and her team, for going all out to take up annual surveys on corruption, unconcerned of financial implications and missing other opportunities as a premier research institution. Naveen Surapaneni, Alok Srivastava, and a host of other researchers of CMS over the decade who helped me in developing this PEE model. Admiral R.H. Tahiliani and Shri Arun Duggal, then of Transparency International India, came along to support what CMS was endeavoring and help scale up the concern.

    Then there were a host of scholars like Professor Pradip N. Khandwalla, former Dean of IIM-Ahmedabad, administrators like Shri B.G. Deshmukh, former Cabinet Secretary, activists like Dr Jayaprakash Narayan, Shri Harsh Mander, Shri Arvind Kejriwal, legal luminaries like Shri Prashant Bhushan, Shri Sanjay Parikh, and others. Finally, the credit goes to Regi V. John of CMS for putting together my notes of over the years.

  • Appendices

    Appendix I
    An Overview of Corruption in Urban Services (2000)

    Nearly half of those who avail the services of the most-often visited public departments of government in the country had the first-hand experience of giving bribe at one time or the other. In fact, as high as two-thirds of people think that corruption in these offices is real. However, one-third think that corruption is more often exaggerated. And yet, 80 percent of people are passive, as hardly 20 percent had ever complained about such corruption to anyone.

    Offices in the driving license office and those in civil supplies were experienced and perceived by local users as most corrupt in five cities—Delhi, Lucknow, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Pune. The city government of Hyderabad is viewed by its citizens as more corrupt than that of other cities.

    Relatively more people among the businessmen and the self-employed admitted to giving bribe in all cities. Interestingly, even among the “government employees,” more than 40 percent admitted to giving bribe at one time or the other in all the cities covered.

    About 63 percent of people think that despite corruption in these offices being “real” and “big,” it is not being tackled seriously and that the judiciary has been ineffective. Most consider politicians and officers as responsible for corruption in the country. This is what S. P. Agrawal, Commissioner of Delhi Municipal Corporation, confessed before a Delhi court when he said that “there was rampant corruption in MCD and that corruption is there in any organization which has public dealings.” Exit polls, first used by CMS for customer satisfaction studies, bring out that it is so not only in Delhi but elsewhere too.

    The concerned official not being available and relevant clarifications not being known to the visitors are some of the reasons most often mentioned for sustaining corruption in these public offices.

    Experience About Corruption

    In the case of around one-third of visitors to offices of one or the other six key public service departments in the five cities covered in the poll, they need not revisit the office for the same purpose as the work has been done. In the case of 54 percent, however, they have to revisit the office as their job could not be completed on that day. Little over half of them in fact had been there earlier too for same purpose, while many of them had visited more than twice.

    In the case of one-fifth, they had to revisit because the concerned official was not available. Another a little over a quarter had to come back “with one or other clarification.”

    All the sampled visitors were asked whether they had ever used any “influence or favour” to get the work done in the said department where they were interviewed. Nearly 60 percent said that they never had to do anything to get their job attended to. However, one third had a different experience.

    To another question, whether anyone in “the close circle of friends and relatives” had the “experience of paying or using a contact” to get things done in the department, 41 percent replied in the affirmative. However, in the case of nearly half, they knew no one with such an experience. All those who had had such an experience said that they had to do so either to get the work done or to get it expedited.

    Menace of the Middlemen

    About 42 percent of all visitors covered in the exit poll said that there were “middle men” for the office/department. In fact, little over one-third had confirmed experience of dealing with such “middlemen” or some one close in the circle who had used middlemen. Nearly half of them, however, had no such experience.

    To a more direct question, 48 percent had said that they or someone close to them had, in fact, given “bribe, however small or big” at one time or the other.

    Hardly one-fifth of all visitors covered in the poll confirmed “ever complaining” about any problem encountered in availing the public services covered in the poll. However, 81 percent never did so, as most “passive citizens.”

    Only one-third of all visitors covered in the poll had heard about the Central Vigilance Commission's initiative for organizing Vigilance Awareness Week. Sixty-nine percent, however, had not heard of the week, although the offices/departments covered in the poll were supposed to publicize it.

    Perceptions About Corruption

    As high as two-thirds of people think corruption is “real” against only about a quarter who think corruption is more a “hearsay.” Nearly 40 percent think that corruption is often exaggerated, against about 40 percent who think otherwise.

    In fact, little over 60 percent of people think corruption is “large” against less than one-third who think it is only “petty corruption.”

    Recently, more than a couple of sitting ministers at the Center and in the states and many political leaders were named by various courts for their involvement in corruspt deeds. But that seems to have had no effect on the psyche of the people.

    Only one-third think that corruption is being seriously tackled in the country against about half who think that such efforts are “more symbolic.”

    Judiciary Ineffective

    In fact, a little over 40 percent of people think that judiciary in the country is not able to tackle corruption cases. About 26 percent, however, think that it is because of “other reasons” that we are not able to effectively tackle corruption in the country.

    Politicians Responsible

    Interestingly, as high as 48 percent people think that politicians are responsible for corruption in the country. Nearly one-third, however, think that bureaucrats/officers are responsible for corruption. Nearly 10 percent think so of “businessmen.” Near about 5 percent consider “media” as responsible.

    This poll confirms wider perceptions of what N. Vittal, Chief Vigilance Commissioner, has been saying that “neta, babu, lala, dada, and jola” (leader, bureaucrat, businessman, mafia, and social activist) constitute the crux of corruption in the country.

    Survey on Corruption—Key Findings (2002)

    Corruption in India is multifaceted and has different dimensions and meanings to different people. Quite often, petty corruption is passed off as bakshish or tea money and the transaction is never considered as corruption. To a certain extent, corruption has become a way of life. In a majority of areas, the tolerance level of corruption has reached such a high proportion that bribery and using influence are considered normal practice.

    This brings us to an important point of consideration—what is corruption to a common man and what level of tolerance has he or she assumed? The CMS research team probed citizens and asked their responses on their perception about what constitutes corruption and whether bribes are justified or unjustified to get their work done in the public services.

    An interesting finding of the survey was that more than half of the respondents feel that any kind of offering, whether cash or kind, leads to corrupt practices. Further, one-third of respondents acknowledged that this is normal practice in the departments surveyed.

    With difficulty in obtaining the bare minimum of services from government departments without using influence or paying money, the average citizen was probed on whether paying bribes is justified to obtain services. More than 90 percent maintained that bribe is unjustified under any circumstances, but agreed that citizens are forced to offer under the given circumstances.

    With repeated visits becoming a fact and relatively less time at their disposal for their personal lives, about 40 percent of respondents had used the alternative process, that is, paying bribe or using influence to get their work done. In fact, one can observe agents operating formally or informally in the departments surveyed; further, agents are well versed with the various rules and regulations of the department, which a common citizen lacks. About half of the respondents have admitted using or knowing someone who had used the services of a middleman during their interaction with the departments. Some respondents were hesitant in actually answering such a question and, therefore, the actual percentage of people who have used such alternative channel could be even higher.

    Increase in Corruption Over the Years

    More than two-thirds of the respondents surveyed in the five cities mentioned that there has been increase in corruption in the last two years. However, one in three persons mentioned that it has remained more or less the same. Only 5 percent mentioned that corruption has decreased over the years.

    Going by the public perception, it seems the anticorruption drive by different agencies did not act as a deterrent to the corrupt officials. More than two-thirds of the respondents felt that politicians and government officials are responsible for corruption in the government. In fact, nearly 90 percent of the respondents agreed that increase in corruption should be taken very seriously by politicians and officials, and genuine efforts needed to be made rather than any cosmetic actions.

    Judiciary Ineffective

    CMS asked the citizens whether, with the increase in corruption, the judiciary has been effective in curbing corrupt practices. To this, more than two-thirds acknowledged that the judiciary has been ineffective in dealing with corrupt practices in government departments due to outdated laws and regulations.

    Lack of Initiative by Citizens

    The awareness about vigilance commission has increased over the years; more than two-thirds of the respondents were aware about the vigilance commission. However, it is disappointing that large numbers of citizens still remain passive and make no effort in taking initiative to curb corrupt practices. In fact, as high as three quarters of respondents admitted that they never complained about corrupt practices, even though they were aware about the corruption in these departments. Further, government departments/public services are also not taking efforts to communicate and educate the citizens about various redressal mechanisms available in the department. Obviously, corruption in these offices is not being reported by citizens very frequently.

    An Overview

    Corruption is not hearsay; it is also not exaggerated; it is real. That is so even in the case of basic utilities which, as public services, are availed by citizens with one frequency or the other. Every third citizen availing the services of these departments has given (“extra”) bribe at one time or the other, and one in four personally know someone close who had given bribe sometime or the other to get the services from these urban public services. However, about half of the citizens neither ever had such an experience of giving bribe nor even know anyone close who did that ever. Nevertheless, citizens think that corruption is not seriously addressed. These are the highlights in nutshell of this study in the five metropolitan cities of India (Tables AI.1 and AI.2). This study for 2003 also brings out that, overall, there is some decline in the extent of such bribe-giving in the last couple of years (Table AI.3).

    TABLE AI.1 Summing Up Experiences with Corruption: Aggregate Scores (2003)
    TABLE AI.2 Summing Up Experiences with Corruption (2000—03)
    TABLE AI.3 citizens Who Had Given Bribe sometime or the Other (2000-03)

    More specifically, the percentage of users of public utilities who had ever given bribe for getting the services had come down in the last couple of years in the metropolitan cities. The decline is more marked in the case of Hyderabad, Chennai, and Kolkata. In the case of Delhi, however, such a decline is not evident across the public services. In Chennai and Kolkata, overall level of corruption is far less as compared with Delhi, Hyderabad, and Mumbai. Interestingly, in Chennai and Kolkata, a lot more women visit these public utilities.

    The fact that the extent of use of “middlemen” in the process of availing a public service also has come down is an indication that some transparency has come in the functioning of these basic services. However, there is no commensurate increase in the extent of activism on the part of citizens by way of making complaints about problems being faced in availing the civic services. Yet, to maintain the declining trend in corruption, citizen cooperation is as important as the government initiatives. Government, on its part, should go all out in restoring citizen confidence, taking citizen complaints seriously, and acting upon them promptly.

    Going by these findings for 2003, it could be observed that in Hyderabad, bribe-giving in these public utilities involving common citizens takes place directly rather than through middlemen, as in other metros. For, the prevalence of middlemen is much less in Hyderabad. A majority of citizens in Hyderabad also are passive, much more than in other cities; they hardly bother to complain about the problems faced in availing these services. The difference the “e-seva” initiative has made in providing municipal services online in Hyderabad is yet to be evident (Tables AI.1 and AI.2).

    In 2003, corruption at government hospitals in the five metropolitan cities covered has come down since last year (2002). This is true also in the case of municipal services and electricity services, except in the case of Chennai. Even in the case of civil supplies (ration cards), there has been some improvement, except in the case of Hyderabad.

    In fact, in the case of Chennai, where corruption level otherwise is lower compared with most other metros, the extent of bribe-giving has not come down in 2003. This is something which needs a closer look. This, nevertheless, gives an indication that no sustained effort to reduce corruption has been made in Chennai (Table AI.3).

    Services to do with (transport) driving licenses deserve special attention of authorities in all the metropolitan cities. For, the extent of corruption in these departments has gone up since 2002, more than marginally. The same is true in the case of railways, particularly in the nation's capital.

    Recent reforms process in electricity distribution in metropolitan cities seems to have helped to bring down corruption involving common citizens. The decline is significant in both Delhi and Hyderabad, where reforms are apparently being followed more vigorously.

    Since 2000, corruption level in these public services has significantly come down in Delhi, except in the case of railways and driving licenses. In Chennai, on the other hand, there was a marginal increase in the level of corruption involving common citizens across all the seven public utilities/services studied.

    Overall, Kolkata and Hyderabad have shown significant decline in corruption compared with previous years, except in the case of civil supplies. On a composite scale, Mumbai and Delhi are ahead in the extent of bribe-giving in public utilities as compared with Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Chennai (Table AI.4).

    TABLE AI.4 Extent of Bribe-giving across Five Cities
    An Overview

    CMS has been conducting periodic studies on petty corruption in public services since 2000. An analysis of these corruption studies shows a mismatch between perception that corruption is increasing and the actual experience. The analysis of perception shows that higher percentage of respondents in the 2005 study felt the need to pay bribe to avail public services when compared with a similar study in 2002. Increased and persistent media coverage of corruption could be one of the reasons for this. However, perceptions need not be the reality. In fact, lesser percentage of respondents had actually experienced corruption in 2005 while availing public services, as compared with 2002.

    Despite a reduction in the reporting of corruption in 2005, a large cross-section of households had to pay bribes to avail public services in 2005. In the case of the five public services (police, land administration, judiciary, electricity, and government hospitals) covered in the corruption study, more than 10 million households had paid bribes during the year for availing services.

    This study shows that there is negative correlation between corruption and usage of public services across departments/states. For instance, in government hospitals, one-unit drop in corruption index leads to 0.5 percent increase in percentage of people availing the service. Similarly, states with relatively high corruption have low usage of public services.

    Our analysis confirms that the poor households are much more dependent on the public services. Therefore, they are much more affected by poor quality of service and corruption in public services. Perhaps, this is one factor why people are going more and more to private services, as in the case of health, and spending increasing percentage of their earnings for such services.

    The service providers often cite shortage of manpower as a reason for poor service quality. However, this study indicates that there is no significant correlation between manpower and quality of service across various departments. Adequate manpower is a necessary condition, but not a sufficient one, for providing good service.

    Overall, across the country, the awareness about the grievance-redressal mechanism in various departments is quite low. Hardly 10—35 percent of the households interacting with various departments are aware of the existence of any grievance-redressal mechanism in the respective departments. The study shows that for every one-percent increase in awareness about complaint-redressal mechanism, the corruption index could drop by 0.17 units.

    The privatization of certain services is offered as a solution to reducing corruption and improving services. A case study of the power sector suggests that there is no appreciable difference in corruption between cities serviced by private distribution companies (DISCOMs) and cities serviced by public power distribution utilities.

    The 2005 study shows that a very large proportion of citizens visit respective departments for making payments or merely to register a compliant. Visits of this nature can be avoided by taking simple initiatives. This will reduce opportunities for corruption as well as bring down the pressure on infrastructure.

    IT can be used to improve transparency and reduce direct interaction with frontline staff of the various public-service departments. This will help in reducing corruption and improving quality of services, as has been noticed in the case of computerization of railway reservation system in the country. This study has prepared a list of IT initiatives that have the potential to be replicated across the country.

    The 2006 study indicated high expectations of the extent the RTI Act would go in reducing corruption.

    Corruption: Perception and Experience

    In 2000, when CMS first initiated these annual studies on corruption involving citizens, some people wondered why we were frittering away our resources, since corruption had become a “fact of life” in India and was beyond redemption. Even when CMS studies in 2003 and 2005 showed that corruption involving citizens had declined, however marginally, in certain public services, those who relied more on perception were skeptical. The Planning Commission had in its Tenth Plan Report noted, “Corruption is most endemic and entrenched manifestation of poor governance in Indian society, so much so it has almost become an accepted reality and a way of life.” In the Eleventh Five Year Plan too, it reiterated that “good governance” is not possible without addressing corruption in its various manifestations, especially in the context of basic services. The ultimate proof of “inclusive growth” for “bridging the divide” and equity goals is the extent of access to essential services by those “below the poverty line.” For, inadequate access means denying them an opportunity to share the benefits of national growth. Also, because the poor are disproportionately affected by corruption, since they depend more on public services.

    India Corruption Studies have been concerned precisely with this aspect, in the context of the basic and need-based public services that a citizen frequently avails. A unique feature of the CMS methodology has been to recognize that corruption has two sides, each sustaining the other and reinventing itself. One is perception, the dimension which is relatively easy to talk about. The second is the actual experience of corruption. Perception and experience are often two separate issues requiring separate, but parallel, efforts. That is what the “CMS PEE model” is all about. This model has brought out “the gap” between “Perception” and “Experience.” The other aspect is “Estimation” of total money involved in corruption. It is arguably, as yet, another tool to sensitize the nation about its seriousness so that corruption is not seen as “high-return-low-risk activity.”

    Perceptions are accumulated impressions, based on one's own immediate and past experiences and those of neighbors/friends. More important, perceptions these days to a large extent are also molded on the way corruption is portrayed and hyped, particularly in the visual media. Experience, on the other hand, is where a citizen or household.

    The CMS Model

    The uniqueness of the CMS PEE model is that it is not limited to quantifying “perception” in general terms, but goes much beyond and quantifies perceptions and experience in specific contexts and in a specific time context. And then, based on both, the model estimates in monetary terms the extent of corruption in the process of citizens availing public services.

    FIGURE A.1 Perception about Corruption Is Much Higher Than Actual Experience

    Most other indices, including the global index by Transparency International, are based only on perception. Also, a second feature of the CMS PEE model is that it involves a large sample of specific users of public services in context.

    The Virus Hits BPL Families

    This TII-CMS India Corruption Study (ICS) 2007 is unique. Unlike earlier annual surveys of CMS, this focused on BPL households, mostly in rural India. The coverage of this study included all parts of the country. The study, like the earlier ones, is based on the CMS PEE model, where the scope is not limited only to perceptions about corruption in general, but also to perceptions in the specific context of a service and, more important, actual experience of paying bribe by BPL households in availing one or more of the 11 selected public services. Depending on the frequency of interaction, the 11 services are divided broadly into “basic services” (PDS, hospital, school education [up to 12th], electricity, and water supply) and “need based services” (land records/registration, housing, forest, National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme [NREGS], banking, and police [traffic and crime]). The study does not include operational irregularities in the system and even corruption that does not involve citizens directly. This round of ICS 2007 is designed and conducted by CMS in collaboration with the TII.


    The 6th round of ICS of CMS in 2009 has reaffirmed how rampant and omnipresent corruption in the country is. No state or even a village could claim to be corruption-free. And the worst sufferer is the common man—aam admi. The ICS 2007 conducted among BPL households had brought out that every third household either paid bribe or used a contact to avail the services of government departments in the country. The earlier rounds of ICS too had shown that a high percentage of households felt that the level of corruption has increased (reference being the preceding year). Although the percentage of those who felt that the “level of corruption is decreasing” has shown an upward trend, yet it was not substantial—only one out of five households felt so.

    CMS carried out its 1st round of ICS in 2000 and was limited to six cities and six public services. With each round it not only expanded its coverage but also refined its research methodology (Table AI.5). CMS strongly believes that it is important to have views and opinions of households who had “experienced” corruption. World over, most of the studies undertaken to measure the extent of corruption has been based on perception (opinion) of experts or a network of their local correspondents. However, in India, CMS developed a methodology that captured both perception and experience of the households. Since 2005, CMS is using a model known as the P+E+E model, where it presents the findings based on perception and experience. Based on this, it estimates the monetary value of bribe being paid as well as the estimated number of households in the country which pay bribe during the year.

    In each round, the coverage and target population varied; while 2002 and 2003 rounds covered only urban households, in the 2005 round, it was a mix of urban and rural households, but proportion of households from urban locations was more. In 2007, the study focused on BPL households and more than three-fourths of the households were from rural areas. As far as number of services is concerned, it too increased with every round. While in 2002 it was seven, in 2007, the number of services covered increased to 11. The number of services to be covered in each round was arrived at after a lot of consultations and deliberations with a panel of experts and eminent persons of different fields and, in particular, of the services covered (Table AI.5).

    TABLE AI.5 Brief Overview of India Corruption Study Series (2002—09)

    In the 2009 round, although the focus of the study was corruption in political elections, yet it did capture perception and experience of households about two public services, namely PDS and hospital services. The two services were selected on the basis of earlier rounds, where it was noticed that the percentage of households interacting with these two services was more than that for other public services.

    Appendix II
    Origins of Corruption in Public Services
    The Case of Mudunuru—My Village

    I have been going to my native village, Mudunuru, at least once a year for the last 50 years, except for five years in between, when I was out of the country. During the few hours I spend in the village when I visit it, a number of villagers from different walks of life and communities come and talk to me. Some seek financial help; others explain one or the other problem being faced by the village; a few seek guidance about their children; and a few others also narrate how they were harassed by one or the other government department or deprived of a service meant for the poor those with some disability, and so on. I saw a change in the concerns of villagers over these decades. Initially, more were concerned about the village getting benefited from one or the other scheme of the government or on how a village problem could be attended to. Later, in more recent years, it is about discrimination or about a problem in availing one or the other public service.

    In the beginning, between 1960 and 1975, more people were talking about common problems of the village such as getting a road, electricity, a telephone connection, a bus service to the village, a bridge on a canal, a water tank, a primary health center, milk depot, and such similar facilities for the village. One reason for this was that the villagers were “thinking together” and the political parties were “attracting” members by taking to “common causes.” With the decline of the political parties as mediating agencies addressing larger issues of the villagers, and the government coming up with more and more dole-out-based “beneficiary schemes,” villagers started thinking about themselves, individually or about their own caste.

    The population of Mudunuru remained between 3,000 and 4,000 in these 60 years. Most belong to lower-middle class households and depend primarily on agriculture. Although dominated by the Kamma caste, it has many other castes too. It has a high school since 1953 (and an elementary school from 10 years before). As a teacher from the same village, my father played a vital role in establishing and getting government approval for these schools. He played an active role in getting other institutions established, such as a cooperative society, a public library, and so on. In the initial years, political parties too supported such initiatives. My father worked in tandem with local political leaders who found him facilitating their grip on the villagers as he was providing support services by way of writing applications, preparing appeals and review reports, and maintaining contact with various government agencies by going to Madras initially, then to the district headquarter at Masulipatnam, and to Hyderabad in later years, getting village students admitted in far-off places such as Varanasi or Selam for higher studies.

    Mahatma Gandhi visited this village for a few hours in 1940 and made symbolic Harijan entry into the local Sivalaya temple. The temple had been there for perhaps 100 years or more, along with a Ramalaya temple. Children used to play more on a daily basis inside and outside the premises of these temples. The village had hard-core party workers for both the Congress and the Communist Party until 1980, and then for the Telugu Desam Party (TDP). The Atheist movement took its origins in this part of the state from this village. The well-known atheist—Sarvodaya leader, Gora—questioned blind beliefs and rituals meant for exploiting people and, in the process, provided voice and representation to the poor, illiterate, and otherwise helpless villagers. This movement, however, was short-lived (1940–55). My father too was a part of that movement.

    To get services from the government departments or agencies, a villager had to be either a political activist locally or/and recommended by a political leader. That was how it was mostly until 1967. Things started changing with political parties getting split and then parties themselves getting identified for loyalties to one or the other individual leader within a party. It is at this point that a certain “extra” payment got built into the procedure to get a certificate required for eligibility for starting a PDS shop or getting a sewing machine or a buffalo at a subsidized price or, later, a house site allotted. In a parallel manner, teachers taking to “private tuition” at home for certain fees had become common, although it initially started as an exception and as courtsey to children of the local rich and the influential.

    Why do some villagers pay extra for a public service or to avail a scheme which they are entitled to in the normal course? To get these services, some villagers need either a contact or recommendation, or have to make more than a couple of visits to the concerned government office. A villager who is engaged otherwise in a daily-wage work prefers paying a small portion of what he or she earns as bribe than making the rounds of the offices located a few kilometers away from the village, without being sure of the outcome even after going there. Decentralization of the government has not made much difference in this regard. In fact, some villagers feel that corruption has been decentralized with the government taking to more schemes, targeted and others, as part of “populistic measures.”

    This is how with the decline in political parties, the rise of individuals started by the mid-1970s. It was a race to grab a service even by paying a bribe. The temples which were looked after by villagers had become a part of a government department, with it “nominating trustees” to manage temples and their resources. With it a tussle to get nominated had started sometime in the 1970s. Temples had become revenue generators.

    After 1985, villagers came up with individual problems to do with “how to avail” or “how to get selected for” a government service or benefit. This was because information about various government schemes was scanty or was only trickling in bits and pieces and hardly a few in the village knew about them.

    There were three power centers in the village until 1962–67. One was that of the Municiff (the head of the village) who looked after law-and-order issues and was a local conflict-resolution institution without involving the police, located at a nearby town at some seven to eight kilometers. The second was an elected president of the village panchayat who was responsible for the development of the village. The third was a Karnam, a village clerk to maintain village records—particularly of land—and collect revenue and submit to the higher authorities. With the rise of political factions, the role of the three functionaries somewhat declined, and further after the fourth general election in 1967, with the arrival of the village level worker (VLW) (later changed as village development officer [VDO]—the “worker” has become an “officer”). Political leaders had become the contract points as they were more in contact with the power centers outside the village and at the district level, and also knew of the government schemes and policies.

    Mudunuru was one of the few villages in the district during 1920–25 to have a book library and to get a newspaper in a specially built library building. Until the first general elections (1952–53), only one or two households had radio sets. A battery-operated community radio was added in the library grounds, which used to be operated for two hours a day from 6 p.m. The old and the young used to meet, interact, and occasionally discourse on issues of concern of the day after reading the newspaper and after hearing the news on the radio. That has helped differentiate “good” from “bad,” and gave an opportunity for the young and the old to interact. Television came to the village 20 years later. Until then only a couple of houses used to get the daily newspaper by post. I used to read a newspaper from top to bottom loudly for a rich old person (1954–55).” Today more than 40 households get newspapers on a regular basis early in the morning itself, and there are twice as many radio and television sets in the village. With more people coming to know of schemes and policies of the government, there are more villagers who want to avail or benefit from government schemes, irrespective of the eligibility criteria.

    What started as gratitude or a gesture of goodwill has become a desirable affair first and then a demanded practice for expediting a work which is otherwise obligatory. And then what was a demanded price has become an essential condition. With increase in the number of villagers trying to avail the services, such payment has become a privilege, but only for those who can afford it in the village. Affordability of the individual to pay such extra money has become a precondition, even though the scheme is designed to benefit the poor.

    At that time there were no active and organized civil society groups in the village. I know of Harijan Sevak Sangh and Kasturba Gandhi Literacy Center, which operated on their own from our house. My mother used to clean lanterns every evening and fill them with kerosene for voluntary adult education centers until 1958. A cooperative credit society was formed around 1955–57, and later it acquired its own building. The services of this society were initially available to the privileged few in the village. But a decade later, far more people were availing services with political parties making inroads into its functioning. Elected positions in cooperative societies have become more about “power” and “control” points rather than service centers.

    Political parties used to be active; they even elected their officebearers by voting within the party at the village, taluq, and district levels. Village panchayat election was not on party lines (until 1970). But soon after 1970, there were never any election in any of the parties at any level in the district.

    I recall a poor Harijan who got a PDS shop in the village as he was helped by the village Congress leader. No sooner, another villager went and got a PDS shop for the hamlet by paying “extra money” to the concerned officer(s)—more as a “show off” of “power—connection.” (Several times more of what was paid as extra was realized later by creating shortage of ration locally for selling at higher price.)

    As regards eligibility, an identity card was sufficient for ration (which later became the BPL card), for which villagers had to pay extra money directly or through a local political worker. Then came house sites, bank loans, telephone connections, fertilizer subsidy, scholarships, and so on, for which too another card for some extra money had to be paid, however eligible one may be to avail them as entitlements, if no political connection or contact was available.

    As a part of the Five Year Plans, first the community-development blocks headed by a BDO and four or five offices were set up. It was expected to be the nucleus for the delivery of welfare services to villages and extension services to farmers. In that process, those in the bureaucracy become patronizing, either on their own or in collusion with a politician or some middlemen from the village. A functionary called the VLW (later changed to VDO) was created to “work” among villagers and help ensure that the deserving or the needy get the services.

    Initially, in the case of each of these welfare and new development schemes, for every three or four villagers who got the service in the normal course or with the recommendation of a political functionary, there was one or more in the village who got the same service by paying “extra” to someone somewhere. But a decade later (after the 1970s), their number has gone up, not declined.

    During this span of 60 years, citizens in the village who had come to consider “courtesy” and then “gratitude” by way of kind (milk or vegetables, and so on) or “service” initially, saw the phenomenon getting converted later into monetary terms. A teacher who used to get daily milk or fresh vegetables started getting monthly “fees.” With teachers getting frequent transfers, personal relationships with parents of students in the villge declined. Similar is the relationship of villagers with other government functionaries (who were involved in giving one or the other service). Transfer of teacher, or another functionary, was possible with a “contact,” political or otherwise, or paying some money to the concerned government officer or political functionary. Transfer was one of the early functions which attracted or involved and promoted “bribe.” Earlier such things happened with political party functionaries or elected representatives of the village taking interest.

    Rise of the Middlemen

    Until early 1970s, there were someone or the other in the village—a teacher, a freedom fighter, an educated unemployed or an elderly person, or a political activist—to help or guide those in need of a service or wanting to avail a government scheme. This help was by way of guiding a villager where to go, what documents to take, how to get those documents, and how to actually write the application or an appeal. My father did all that for three decades. But with no such help forthcoming in the village after 1970, needy villagers had to find someone or some other way of getting such services from a middleman in the village or operating in the concerned government office. This was by paying extra money as a matter of routine service charge. That was the time when only those who could afford were seeking the service, and not all the needy and not all those who were eligible to avail.

    With the decline of political parties and parties becoming individual centric, service-delivery agencies and functionaries, which mushroomed and proliferated, had become lethargic and functioned only on being provoked with a political contact or on being provided with extra money. And there was no active civil society agency in the village to fill the vacuum or check such a trend.

    Frequent transfer of teachers, VLW, or other such government employees in the village has caused the rise of the middlemen in the villages and in and around government offices. A middleman is someone who charges certain money for guiding or helping by going to a government office on behalf of a needy villager, which started as an informal and isolated case, but has become an organized practice, even when the person seeking the service is eligible or entitled to get the service. In the process, even the ineligible, but who can afford to pay, also started seeking the service.

    Election, Mother of All Corruption

    In the first general election in independent India, in 1952, bullocks and bullock-cart processions were the mode of campaigning. The second general election (1957) saw cycle rallies, which by the third election (1962) became motorcycle rallies, along with autorikshaws or campaigns with mike-fitted cars. Until around 1972, the candidate was mostly local, known to most villagers as such, and campaigned personally. The first election saw mostly one public meeting for a group of villagers by the candidate himself or herself. Then came political speakers from the party or entertainers from outside, and folk media were brought in to attract voters. The prominent candidate was busy contacting one or two important leaders and relying on their canvass. This slowly meant giving some money to those local leaders and/or other personally known community leaders for canvassing, and feeding volunteers (which meant country liquor). The candidate himself or herself was paying such money. I could not believe that in the 1972 assembly election, a landlord had a camp in his cattle shed behind his palatial house, where voters, mostly agriculture laborers, were camped with food and liquor. The scene at late night was that of drunken bodies crawling all over the ground.

    Elections held between 1957 and 1967 saw parties reimbursing voters for their basic expenses to come and vote. The other expenses included food, liquor, and small gifts for women. Cash was given to a particular community of voters, starting with ₹ 2 (which I witnessed a Congress candidate giving in 1962 and 1967 assembly elections). The amount later, by 1967, became ₹ 10 per vote. In 2009, ₹ 500 per vote was given by more than one party candidate, including the incumbent. The decline of the domination of political parties from the days of the freedom movement and the shift to a new set of leaders, for whom taking and giving money as well as sycophancy has become the shortcut for success, was evident. Taking and giving money and sycophancy had thus become requisites for success rather than any societal values, long-term concerns, or a development perspective. In the process, sacrifice and selfless service lost out to selfish pursuits.

    Corruption involving citizens started increasing with the decline of political parties and the rise of individual leaders. The increase in the number of government welfare schemes has further added to this phenomenon. In Mudunuru, initially, politics was more on ideological lines between the Congress and Communist parties. But with the decline of parties, and the simultaneous proliferation of parties, patronage has become a way of wooing voters and nurturing divisions of all kinds in the village which was earlier a cohesive unit. By 1967–72, election after election, be it for the village panchayat or the assembly or the Lok Sabha, certain promises to the village or a certain section of villagers or leaders of communities has become a lure by itself. The promise in some cases was by way of cash or/and kind.

    Favoritism or gratitude has yielded to cash transaction as more and more government services and works become certificate-based or involve certain processing by a government functionary. First it was for getting a ration card, and for that an income certificate, and later with cooperative societies and banks lending loans, the need was the land-ownership certificate. For most of these, it is the revenue department and its representatives who are responsible. A second reason prompting corruption is lack of information, correct or full information about procedures to avail and about the eligibility criteria, even among those at whom the scheme was aimed in the village. In Mudunuru, the VLW (now VDO) was the source to know and avail service from the block development office (now mandal office). Such functional information essential to avail a service was limited to a few individuals who became middlemen for villagers to get the service.

    Then, of course, most of those for whom the scheme was meant—who could avail the schemes or services—cannot themselves go about applying for or approaching the concerned department, as they do not know-how to write or talk, do not have or cannot afford the time. They have to approach someone for help and/or visit more than one source and more than once for the same purpose. Political leaders in the village were too busy in other activities.

    There was no provision for redressal of complaints of villagers that they could make avail of in the village. Nor do they know whom to approach if the lineman asks for money for the telephone connection, or if a higher amount is being charged for PDS supplies. There was no scope or arrangement for villagers to appeal. Political cadres or local activists did that to some extent sometimes, but mostly confining their activism to their supporters. The local political functionaries themselves started doing this from around the 1970s. The other families had no choice but to go to someone who has an approach, even if they had to spend money, which initially was by way of “expense” and later as a “cost” for getting things done. Origins of corruption involving citizens has been gradual and, interestingly, has increased and institutionalized with the availability of more mass media and the proliferation and multiplicity of government offices (in the name of decentralization) instead of declining, as was expected theoretically. Another reason for increase in corruption initially was the multiplicity of government schemes with no awareness or local involvement. These schemes operated as if they intended to make citizens dependent on the government. With no parallel civil society preparedness and the decline of political parties in their representative or service character, villagers became individualistic and competitive in grabbing or availing the government services by paying bribe. Also, there is no one in the village who is talking or acting against corruption in public services.

    In the process, there were eligible individuals or families who were entitled to get the service but were deprived because they had no political contact or clout, and no one to guide and help them locally on how to go about it. And some of them had no money to afford the bribe or time to make repeat visits to the concerned offices. Over the years, however, the number of such families in the village who could not afford to pay bribe has come down. But I do not remember more than a couple of people in the village who would rather deprive themselves than pay a bribe.

    When the electricity came to the village (1962), while those who “applied” for household connection did not pay, those who applied later were made to pay some extra money on one pretext or the other. This was because the department itself needed certain minimum number of connections. To get electricity connectivity to the village, of course the political leaders and local activists such as my father had to make some effort at the ministry level for including the village under one or the other scheme, and had to make several visits to various government offices at the district level, over a period of more than a year. Then came the problem to do with billing disconnection or reconnection.

    When the telephone facility came to the village (1985), better-off villagers who wanted a phone connection had to make a few rounds to the concerned department a few kilometers away from the village, and then the linemen would keep delaying the connection on one pretext or the other until the villagers ended up paying some extra money. Of some 20 phone connections in the village, one-third or more would have paid the extra money, however petty that amount may be. Unlike as in the case of electricity connection to the village, telephone connectivity came little easily as the department had its own targets for network expansion. The billing problem (requiring personal visits) was much higher in the case of telephone (until 2005) than in the case of electricity. Similar incidents were witnessed as the scheme (1965–75) to give house plots to BPL families in the village and later (2005) houses to BPL families, and then the old-age pension scheme came. The difference is while some are at the village level, several others are at the mandal level, and a few are at the district and state levels. One significant difference is that while earlier income or community certificate was given at the mandal level, now it could be given at the village level by the panchayat—of course, the extra payment remains as it was. The justification given by the sarpanch is that he/she had to spend money in the election campaign.

    Has development increased corruption at the micro level? Going by my first-hand understanding of my village between 1950 and 2010, I could say that village today has every institution that is viewed as symbolic of development and, for sure, people from all communities are better off (in terms of education, health facilities, cash income, mobility, work opportunities, government schemes available locally, and so on). All this theoretically meant decline in corruption as to what an ordinary family has to pay as extra to avail or draw upon “development services” or schemes. But it was not the case. On the contrary, such corruption has increased and it has become an accepted or normal course. It is a fact that political parties and their elected representatives have not only failed in this regard but have also expedited and internalized corruption in no uncertain terms. Instead of only the revenue-department official and the police earlier, corruption has proliferated and spread its tentacles. Schemes have not become entitlements to avail on the basis of any eligibility criteria. They are available instead at someone's discretion or and at some extra effort. More recently (after 2000), a shift is evident in the trend of corruption. Earlier it was for basic need-based services and the money involved was small or petty; now it is shifting to “big deals” involving higher amounts, directly or indirectly.

    About the Author

    N. Bhaskara Rao is Founder-Chairman of Centre for Media Studies (CMS) and also Founder-Chairman of Marketing and Development Research Associates (MDRA), a prestigious market research and forecasting outfit. He is a pioneer in social research in India and an eminent mass communication expert with over 40 years of distinguished background. Earlier, he had built up Operations Research Group (ORG) as its CEO. Dr Rao was also an expert member of government's high-level committee to draft National Population Policy with Dr M. S. Swaminathan and an expert-member of the committee to reorganize media units of Information and Broadcasting Ministry under the chairmanship of late G. Parthsarthy. Earlier, he was also involved as a member of a high-level Standing Advisory Committee of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.

    Some of his works include Controlled Mass Communication in Interstate Conflicts (1970), India 2021 (1985), Marketing Communication: Perspectives into 2020 (1995), and Social Impact of Mass Media (1996).

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