- A view of the Dharavi slum in Mumbai, Nov. 9.
The poorest of the poor living in India’s slums are the most affected by corruption as they are often forced to pay bribes to get even the most basic of public services in the world’s largest democracy, says a recent study.
Corruption in India has become a major issue of debate in recent years, partly over scandals related to the 2010 Commonwealth Games and over the allocation of telecom spectrum in 2008.
This dented India’s image globally and angered its citizens, who last year rallied in support of anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare, staging mass protests across the country.
While India’s middle classes have been especially vocal in fighting corruption, working class citizens may have been worst affected by it, reveals a study conducted by the Centre for Media Studies, a New Delhi-based think tank.
Their research – the India Corruption Study – looked at how corruption affects slum residents as they try to avail of basic public services, like drinking water, electricity and law enforcement.
The report is based on interviews with 2533 people in nine Indian cities, focusing on seven essential public services.
The study, based on data collected in the year that ended March 31, 2012 found that three out of every four slum dwellers claimed they were asked to pay a bribe to receive at least one of the following three public services: distribution of food rations or free kerosene; healthcare; and municipal services like public sanitation and waste removal in the 12 months prior to the survey.
Most residents were of the opinion that corruption has increased over the past year, saying it is worse among police.
The research found that people living in slums on average avail of at least three public services. The number of those who felt corruption among police has jumped 61% from 2008, when the last survey took place. Of the people surveyed, 21% believed paying a bribe was necessary to get water supply; and 19% and 13% of them believed this was necessary to secure electricity connections and healthcare, respectively.
A spokesman for India’s home ministry was not immediately available for comment.
For Alok Srivastava, the project head of India Corruption Study, people in slums often have “no option” but to pay a bribe, since they may otherwise be denied public services.
“The magnitude of the problem is very high,” he told India Real Time.
About 35% of slum dwellers say they have been denied services at least once as they could not pay a bribe, the study found.
Since the average income of many of the these households is often as little as 2000 rupees ($37) per month for a family of five people, Mr. Srivastava says that in many cases they have to borrow money, accumulating debt.
About 8-10% of the country’s more than 1.2 billion population are estimated to live in slums, according to census figures.
The findings of this report, released last week, are consistent with a study published by Berlin-based anti-corruption group Transparency International a few days earlier. Both found suggest that people in India feel that corruption is rampant.
In Transparency International’s latest corruption perception index, India came way down, ranking 94th out 176 countries. This is only a tad better than last year, when India ranked 95th.
Legislation aimed at tackling corruption in the public sector is pending parliamentary approval. Indian lawmakers are expected to review a bill to set up an anticorruption ombudsman, or Lokpal, during the current session of Parliament.