|Corruption is the
one subject on which a national consensus has finally emerged. While
everybody agrees India is a corrupt land, it was to identify the nuances
in the public's perception of corruption that INDIA TODAY and ORG-MARG
conducted this opinion poll. The corruption poll covered 16 major state
capitals and 1,743 respondents. In the cases of Punjab and Haryana, the
common capital of Chandigarh was replaced by the biggest cities,
respectively, Ludhiana and Faridabad.
The respondents were asked to rate the
three most corrupt states in India in that order. They were then asked to
do likewise for the three least corrupt states. They were also asked
questions on corruption in the particular state administration and at the Center.
This was aimed at examining whether corruption is seen as percolating
downwards from Delhi; or whether the roots of the phenomenon appear to lie
in the states. Finally, interviewees were queried on personalities and
public service areas considered most conducive to corruption.
The story that emerged was by and large
predictable. Yet, there were a few surprises. For instance, Assam's
ranking as the fourth most corrupt province of the Union could, in part,
be attributed to the negative publicity it has received of late due to the
Tata Tea-ULFA extortion issue. Also, politicians dominated the list of
individuals seen as dishonest. On the whole, however, Bihar led the way: most
corrupt state, single most corrupt Indian -- it was an undisputed (and
presumably embarrassed) winner.
IS THE MOST CORRUPT INDIAN OF ALL?
Laloo Prasad Yadav and P.V. Narasimha Rao:
Nationally, nobody else came even close to them. In Bihar, Laloo was named
the most corrupt Indian by 53 per cent. Mulayam Singh Yadav found favour
with 15 per cent of Uttar Pradesh's voters, Mayawati with 11. Jyoti Basu
polled 11 per cent in West Bengal. Two chief ministers, Prafulla Mahanta
(Assam) and N. Chandrababu Naidu (Andhra Pradesh), got 10 per cent in
their states. Harshad Mehta was the leading non-politician, with 5 per
cent in Maharashtra.
public service agencies are the most corrupt?
The responses were a damning indictment
of the Indian state. Despite almost a half century of democracy,
governmental agencies emerged as prolific breeding grounds for corruption.
Ministers, the elected representatives of the people, topped the list of
groups seen to be prone to non-transparent functioning.
The police came a dishonorable second; in
Punjab, in fact, it even surpassed ministers. It is also noteworthy that
on a scale of one to 10 not one public service agency suggested to
respondents scored less than five.
For all its problems within the ruling
United Front, the Left can take heart from this opinion poll. The two
states which India sees as the least tainted are both ruled by CPI(M)-led
coalitions. The BJP can be allowed a smile as well as the two states next
in terms of honesty -- Rajasthan and Punjab -- are governed by it, either
singly or in coalition. While corruption cuts across regional divides, the
Hindi belt finds disproportionate representation at the pyramid's upper
end, with Bihar a runaway winner.
Equally significant is the comparison
between perceptions of corruption at the Centre and in the state
administration. Only four of 16 states feel that the Union Government is
more inclined towards bribery and swindle than the regime in the
particular state. Interestingly, Delhi -- which is the seat of the
Government of India and a state in its own right -- trusts national rulers
less than it does local ones. The most charitable view of the Centre would
seem to come from Bihar, where the state administration scores 2.5 points
higher on the corruption scale.
Given a state system synonymous with
thievery, is India destined to remain in kleptocracy's thraldom? Curbing
discretionary powers, rewarding honest civil servants -- the solutions are
all there in theory. What is missing is the action. India needs to clean
up; starting yesterday.