Numerous corruption scandals have exploded into public view over the past few weeks. Mind-boggling amounts and big names are involved. Many members of the national power elite have been compromised, including a few star journalists who have attached themselves to these elites. There is middle-class anger in the air.

Also See | The poor struggle against corruption (Graphic)

The poor live with corruption as a fact of life. Almost every transaction they have with the Indian state involves payment of a bribe. The Indian chapter of Transparency International published a study in 2008 on corruption faced by below poverty line (BPL) households across the country. Eleven government services were rated according to the prevalence of corruption (see table). Transparency International points out that the highest corruption is in need-based services that are monopolies (police) or involve asset creation (land records or housing). There is less corruption in basic services. One wonders whether the low ranking of banking and school education is the result of higher competition in these services. The daily struggle of poor households and entrepreneurs against corrupt government departments needs attention even as the national scams grab public attention. Police reforms and computerization of land records are an obvious place to start.

Graphic by Shyamal Banerjee/Mint

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