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Friday 19 December  

South Asia Wired - A market price on petty corruption

On air: 27 April 2011 15:00 (Photo by IPAB/)

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“We wanted to put a market price on corruption," chuckles Awanti Bele, "it was a kind of lighthearted endeavour in the beginning." Her story is featured on this week's edition of South Asia Wired.


Listen to South Asia Wired here: (or click here)


Ms Bele is the manager of a website called I Paid a Bribe that was launched from Bangalore in India last August.  The site asked people to tell of their encounters with the kind of small acts of corruption almost every Indian (and South Asian, and African and Latin American) comes across on an almost daily basis.
They were unprepared for the sheer volume of response that flooded in.

They paid bribes
Thousands of people wrote in. Someone wrote in to say they had to pay Rs 300 to get their marriage registration certificate; someone else had to pay Rs 50 to get their electricity turned back on though they’d paid their electric bill; another needed a birth certificate for their baby; someone else needed to slip in an unofficial Rs300 to get a loan for their mother’s medical expenses.

I Paid a Bribe had obviously touched a national nerve, and it was soon apparent to the tiny team of site managers that they were going to have to move from their lighthearted approach to one that actively fought corruption.

Naming and Shaming is out

Ms Bele is clear on one issue - that IPAB is not a sting operation.  There is to be no naming and shaming.  “Our site is based on anonymity – its illegal in India for people to pay a bribe, so we’re protecting those who write in.  But also, we want to highlight that sometimes the people who take bribes are themselves victims.” 

This refers to the fact that oftentimes the ordinary traffic cop or teacher or customs official will have paid a considerable sum of money to get that government job in the first place, or to get a transfer to the place where their family is.  They’re forced into a situation where they have to make that initial investment back.

IPAB provides a forum for people to share their stories or simply vent.  It also offers concrete advice on how a citizen can avoid having to pay a bribe by making them aware of how the system works. 
And it’s working. 

They’ve had chiefs from various public bureaus come to them, embarrassed at the number of complaints made against their department.  They’re asking for advice on how to make their section work, circumventing the opportunity for personal skimming. 

Long task
But its a long arduous task.  4% of the responses on I Paid a Bribe are about stories where people came across government officials who didn’t want a bribe. 

It’s both a sorry indictment on the system, and a ray of hope for the future.

This article was originally published on 27 April 2011.

  • I Paid a Bribe<br>&copy; Photo by IPAB/ -


MariaSmith 11 December 2012 - 3:43pm

ne of the biggest reasons for this maiaise in indian politics is because the 4th estate is sleeping at the switch. They have been co-opted by the corrupt parties and have become their lackeys. In light of that, not surprised by Prannoy Guha Thakurtha's self contradictory comments above, he can pontificate all he wants, while sipping on his coctail in his ivory tower, the nation has a cause to rally around. Whether it will be successful remains to be seen, but it is a great start. Good luck Arvind and AAP, just stay focused, stick to 3 or 4 issues, and execute!

Anonymous 28 April 2011 - 10:48am / Belgium

In a currpoted country, if you don't pay the bribe for your work,
they will slow it down, they wil do it at the end, but they will make you suffer first. in natural if the work takes 2 weeks time, they will do it with 2 months time because you didn't pay the bribe, and they will make you run to them with in 2 months time 20 times. so people had a tendency spit on their hand a little you are free from suffering, and the end your work is done quick becasue you make them happy, I have had many bad experice in India. hope things gets better for better tomorrow.

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