Between November 2007 and January 2008, 22,728 randomly selected BPL households were interviewed across the country, using the PEE Model (Perception, Experience & Estimation) and the results, compiled in the form of India Corruption Report 2007, were released in June 2008 by Transparency International India and Center for Media Studies.
Out of 11 Services which were assessed, 5 were regarded as Basic, i.e. everyone needed them (PDS, Hospitals, School Education, Electricity and Water Supply), while 6 were regarded as Need Based (Police, National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Land Records and Registration, Forest, Housing & Banking).
Not surprisingly the Police came out to be the most corrupt, with the poorest households of our country paying Rs 214.8 Crores as bribes to the men in uniform. About 48% had to pay a bribe to get their complaints registered and sadly 4.5% could not even afford the bribe and so their complaints went unregistered.
Following the Police closely on the Corruption Scale was the Land Records and Registration Service. With 36% of families paying bribes to get their work done, the total bribe paid in this sector was a whooping Rs 123.4 Crore. Most of the bribe was for obtaining land records. Significantly, more than half of these families visited the Office more than 3 times for obtaining the records. About 4% families could not get their work done as they could not pay the bribes asked.
Similar is the story with all other departments. 7.5 million BPL households paid Rs 23.9 Crores to the Water Supply department last year, mostly for installation or maintenance of hand pumps. 28.4 million BPL households paid 104 Crore rupees to the Electricity department, about a third for a new connection and a fourth for getting their faulty meter corrected.
Rs 12 Crore were paid to persons in the Education department, mostly for school admissions, passing of students in examinations or for obtaining certificates. About 7% BPL families had to pay a bribe to simply register for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and a whooping 4.4% could not even avail the Scheme as they could not afford the bribe. Similarly 2% BPL families could not access the Public Distribution System, School Education and Electricity Services because of their inability to pay bribes. Ironically the NREGS and PDS are primarily designed for BPL families.
Corruption is endemic in our country with not one State coming in the Low Corruption Zone and interestingly the extent of corruption that BPL households experience is the same in Urban and Rural area. Compared to previous years a higher percentage of BPL households who tried to avail these services, found that corruption had increased in the last one year, especially in Police, Land Record Registration and Housing Services. Corruption was significantly more in Need based Services than in Basic Services.
One of the striking features of the report is the failure of recent initiatives like e-governance, RTI, Social Audit or Citizens Charters, to benefit the BPL households. Lack of awareness of these initiatives and the “Digital Divide” could be the main reasons of this failure. In Uttarakhand, for example, less than 0.1% of BPL families were aware of RTI.
Despite claims and some initiatives for the redressal of complaints in services like Police, they have not helped either in reducing perception nor experiences of BPL households. However, in School and Banking services, some dent appears to have been made.
Another interesting observation which has come out with the report is that across the whole of India, perception of corruption is much more than actual corruption, in all services assessed. This perception gap has actually increased in the last year; in spite of actual decline in corruption in some services. This has been attributed in part to the portrayal of corruption in general and in the electronic media, in particular. Repetitive coverage and hyping of corruption stories leads the public to accept corruption as a part of life. This also implies that local TV and FM can sensitize people about corruption and the need and ways to fight the menace. Enlightening people about RTI and Social Audits can be achieved with the help of media.
This report also leads one to think about that recent race among political parties to include more and more sections of society in “BPL households” category by widening the criterion of BPL. This will increase the risk of the “poorest of poor” or “hardcore BPL” families being deprived of benefit of schemes, which are supposed to have been designed for them.
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