Fighting graft with ten commandments

Janaagraha's www.ipaidabribe.com becomes the newest weapon in the anti-graft arsenal

danish

Danish Raza | July 26, 2011


Raghunandan T, IPAB coordinator
Raghunandan T, IPAB coordinator

Last year in December, Indira Eisenberg had to renew her passport so that she could visit in her in-laws in Germany. After she submitted all the necessary documents, a police man came to her house in Lukhnow to verify her antecedents. He asked for ‘chai paani’or bribe. Indira refused saying that it was a crime to pay or accept bribe. The cop enlightened her. “Madam, it is culture, not crime,” Indira recalls. The primary school teacher didn’t budge. In the next one month, she and her husband brought the matter to the notice of senior police officers. They all acknowledged the problem, but never lodged a formal complaint. In two months, Indira got her passport without paying a penny in addition to Rs 1,000 - the fees to get a passport renewed.

Dr Ravi Shankar Shukla, 55, was serving in Gorakhpur district hospital till March. In the hospital, Dr Shukla says, it is regular for doctors to bribe the chief medical officer (CMO) to get excluded from the duty in the post-mortem ward. And those who do not grease the palms of the CMO pay the price. “Two months back, they shifted me to Kaasganj, 700 km from Gorakhpur. I am a level four employee here. This post does not exist in that hospital,” says Dr Shukla, an anesthetist, who has not taken up his new assignment and has been sitting home for the last two months. Like Indira, Dr Shukla, too, didn’t pay bribe.

These are two of 11,000 plus stories posted on Www.ipaidabribe.com -- a website launched by Bangalore based NGO Janaagraha on August 15 last.
The website is an open forum where you can report your experience of paying or refusing to pay bribe.

I Paid A Bribe (IPAB) staff classifies the bribe reports into various departments, analyses the problem areas and then approaches concerned department with recommendations on how to wipe out corruption from the system.

In January, IPAB team made a presentation before 60 officials of the Bangalore transport department including the principal secretary, transport and the then transport commissioner Bhaskar Rao.

“We compared the transport department website to other similar websites abroad on lines of visual aspect, interactivity, navigation and content. We have devised ‘Ten Commandments’- a poster highlighting ten rules that citizens can follow to not pay bribe in a government office. That was also discussed at the meeting,” said Raghunandan T, IPAB coordinator and a former joint secretary with the ministry of panchayati raj.

Recommendations given to the transport department included getting the anti-corruption message across, streamlining processes and replacement of manual driving tests with simulator tests.

Officials of the transport department assured Raghunandan and his team that they would display ‘Ten Commandments’ on the walls of the departments.

The department has taken into consideration IPAB’s suggestions on making its website more interactive.

Then transport commissioner Bhaskar Rao asked IPAB team for specific details on bribe reports in his office and on the basis of the reports, he issued show-cause notices to 20 senior officers.

The IPAB team is currently working on a presentation for the Bangalore registration department - the most corrupt department in Bangalore in terms of the amount paid in bribes - Rs 92,59,210.

In terms of number of bribe reports, the police department is the most corrupt with 1,004 reports.

If IPAB data is anything to go by, more than Rs 26 crore has been exchanged as bribe in five states (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Hyderabad) in the last one year.

There are three categories on the website- I didn’t pay bribe (for those who refused to pay), I paid a bribe (for those who paid) and I didn’t have to pay a bribe (if the officials in the department didn’t ask for bribe).

67 percent reports on the website are from people who had to pay bribe.

To make sure that the person reporting his or her experience does not face trouble, IPAB has put in place some checks and balances. You do not have to give your name or the name of the official who asked for bribe. Plus, there is an inbuilt filter on the website which ensures that no such material which can go against the person is uploaded on the website. “The website is successful because of the anonymity we guarantee. We do not want to get into defamation cases. Our appeal to the citizens is simple. If you report, your data will contribute to systematic change,” says Awanti Bele, product manager, Janaagraha.

Besides bribe reports, ipaidabribe.com hosts ‘Ask Raghu’- a section where you can post your queries regarding bribe. Raghunandan or Raghu has answered more than 800 queries online.  By the time you read this, he might have answered 1,000 given the rate at which teh website receives queries.

Since the beginning of June, he has had enquiries from non government organisations/ institutions spread across five countries viz Pakistan, Kenya, Egypt, Nigeria and China on how to fight corruption.

In June, China National Radio interviewed Awanti. The focus of 30 minute interaction was how to clean up the rot in the system. Awanti says that the day after the interview was aired China had seven website on the lines of ipaidabribe.com.

As the next logical step, Awanti says, IPAB team is devising a system where citizens can report bribe experiences through sms. “It is easier said than done. We are working on the modalities of this model. We should be announcing something soon,” says she.

ipaidabribe.com's ten commandments to fight corruption:

Do it yourself - Do not engage commission agents or touts in hopes of minimising time taken for delivery of service.

Seek reasons - If you are asked to wait, or there is a delay or you are told the service is not available, seek reasons.

Do your homework - Come prepared to a government office so that your ignorance of the rules is not exploited.

File RTI - Use the information law.

Be confident.

Get receipts - demand one for all transactions.

Refuse to pay a bribe if one is solicited.

File complaints.

Record evidence.

Try Gandhigiri.

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