New Delhi: One out of every three people living below the poverty line in India paid bribes to access basic public services such as health care, education, and water, says a new study that also found that people believe these services to be more corrupt than they actually are.
The study, by Transparency International India, the Indian arm of the activist group that works against corruption, and non-profit research organization Centre for Media Studies (CMS) in 2007, will be released on Saturday evening by the country’s vice president Mohammed Hamid Ansari.
Conducted over the period of a year, the survey found that the perception of corruption in public services exceeds actual corruption. This is the first time that CMS, which has been conducting surveys on corruption since 2000, has studied the impact of corruption on poor people. “Our study estimates that about Rs9,000 million (Rs900 crore) have been paid as bribes by the poor. But claims of corruption are often exaggerated in India,” said Bhaskara Rao, chairman, CMS.
“Usually, there is talk of corruption only at higher places since that is more glamorous though it is the poor that suffer the most due to corrupt government activities,” said Arvind Kejriwal, a right to information activist.
However, Jairam Ramesh, minister of state for power, said he wasn’t sure the number of people affected by corruption was a third of those using public services. “I have not seen the study. Anyway, what can one say about such studies? We all know there is corruption at lower levels and we do not need studies to prove that. I am not denying that there must be some corruption at that level. However, whether the figure is one third or something else, is anybody’s guess,” said Ramesh.
Most poor people are dependant on public services because they cannot afford to pay for private services.
The basic services covered by the study are: public distribution system, hospitals, school education, electricity and water supply. It also covered need-based services: the national rural employment guarantee scheme which promises employment to poor, land records and registration, forests, housing, banking and police.
Corruption, recent studies show, could actually have a bigger impact than earlier thought. Another Transparency International study, Global Corruption Report 2008: Corruption in the Water Sector, released on Wednesday, said corruption in the water sector is the root cause and catalyst for the global water crisis.