Rs 20 bribe for school form: Corruption tales from India

Karnataka has earned the ignominy of being the “most corrupt” state where in one incident, a person had to give a bribe of Rs 20 to get a school admission form, a survey by a private think-tank said on Monday.

Among the households surveyed, 77% claimed they had to pay bribes for availing public services, signalling increase of corruption in the state. It was 57% for Karnataka in a similar study in 2005 when Bihar was dubbed the most corrupt with a 74% score.

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To add more worries, the ‘CMS-India Corruption Study 2017: Perception and Experience with Public Services’ said, more than 33% of Kannadiga households believe that the state government is “not all committed” towards reducing graft.

The findings are part of the report prepared by Delhi-based Centre for Media Studies (CMS) after detailed surveys conducted in urban and rural areas of 20 states during October-November 2016 and January this year.

Overall, however the report said, there was a “definite decline” in both perception and experience of citizens about corruption in the country in availing public services. While 43% felt that the level of corruption in public services has increased during the last one year, it was 73% in 2005.

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** The more often paid bribe amount ranges between Rs 100 and Rs 500.
** In Jharkhand, a bribe of Rs 10 was paid for a loan application and Rs 20 in Karnataka for a school admission form
** Indians estimated to have paid bribes to the tune of Rs 6,350 crore last year as against Rs 20,500 crore in 2005.
** On an average, a household in India pays around Rs 1,840 as bribe a year.
** Perception about increase in level of corruption in highest in Police (32%) followed by PDS (29%), Electricity (27%) and Judicial services (26%).
** Government officials and politicians continue to be viewed as key players for the existence of corruption in public services.

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According to the report, the total amount of bribe paid by households across the country is estimated to be Rs 6,350 crore as against Rs 20,500 crore in 2005. However, “almost all households, across 20 states, who were asked to pay bribe by public servants, had no option but to pay bribe to avail the service”.

On an average, a household in India pays around Rs 1,840 as bribe in a year.

Karnataka has company in its neighbours on the top with Andhra Pradesh (74%), Tamil Nadu (68%) and Maharashtra (57%) finding a space there.

If Karnataka is listed the worst on “experiencing corruption in public services”, Himachal Pradesh has earned the laurels with just 3% households saying they had to bribe for services followed by Kerala (4%) and Chhattisgarh (13%).

In terms of perception about increase in corruption, Odisha (68%) followed by Karnataka (65%), Jharkhand (59%), Bihar (59%) and Chhattisgarh (56%) emerged on top.

MOST CORRUPT STATES

State 2017 Score 2005 Score
Karnataka 77% 57%
Andhra Pradesh 74% 54%
Tamil Nadu 68% 59%
Maharashtra 57% 39%
Jammu and Kashmir 44% 69%

LEAST CORRUPT STATES

State 2017 score 2005 Score
Himachal Pradesh 3% 53%
Kerala 4% 35%
Chhattisgarh 13% 51%

While talking about the extent of bribery, the report said the least amount paid was Rs 10 to take loan application form in Jharkhand and Rs 20 to get school admission form in Karnataka. The highest amount (Rs 50,000) among services paid in a school for admission was in Maharashtra.

The survey also sought to capture citizens’ perception about level of corruption during demonetisation period and found that more than half felt that it decreased during this period while 12% opined that it had rather increased.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Apr 28, 2017)

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AAP juggernaut halts, what next?

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) electoral juggernaut appears to have come to a halt within two years of its stunning victory in Delhi, results of which had then put the BJP to shame.

The dismal show has now been reversed by the BJP but the AAP dream has collapsed though it is yet to be seen whether this is the final nail in the coffin.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP has every reason to be worried as it lost half of the vote share compared to the 2015 Assembly polls when it netted 54.3% votes to take home 67 of the 70 seats.

The initial estimates on civic polls vote share is not music to AAP’s ears as they have clocked just 26.21%. It is also less than what it polled in the 2013 Assembly polls (29.49%) and in 2014 Lok Sabha polls (32.90%).

In the 2013 Assembly polls, AAP had won 28 seats. The AAP, which did not contest the 2012 civic polls, saw increase in all the three previous elections but this time, it witnessed a sharp decrease and that too by more than half.

AAP leaders try to put a brave face saying it was not fair to compare civic poll vote share with Assembly or Lok Sabha elections.

They admit that the AAP badly needs a change in approach and strategy but warns against rushing to write an obituary for AAP, saying politics is a different ball game.

Several questions – from whether AAP would tweak its go-alone strategy to will it bring back old AAP hands who left them – arise as the party stares at a possible challenge to the leadership, including Kejriwal.

The recent Rajouri Garden bypoll where its candidate lost his deposit in a sitting seat and the civic poll results indicate that the AAP has squandered its hard-earned political capital based on people-centric politics in less than five years of its formation. The latest drubbing comes two months after its ambition of winning Punjab and Goa Assembly elections took a beating.

The AAP leadership is putting up a brave face by singing the “EVM manipulation” tune for the humiliating defeat but the one question that is troubling the party is the strategy it should adopt to win back the confidence of Delhi voters, who have have already given ample indication to AAP to shed its confrontational politics.

Another demon the AAP, once a middle-class darling, has to fight is its image of leaving the Delhi battle field for greener pastures like Punjab where the party discreetly floated the idea of Kejriwal becoming Chief Minister or fielding Rajouri Garden MLA Jarnail Singh there after making him resign here.

It is also to be seen whether AAP is now willing to do business with other opposition parties. AAP may not be willing to work with Congress but may be ready for a fight alongside the third front parties like the Left, Janata Dal (United) or Trinamool Congress. Kejriwal has already hinted that he wants an alliance of “good people” to fight the BJP when he met CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan here last week.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Apr 27, 2017)

What next for Kejriwal and AAP?

After its humiliating defeat in Punjab, Goa and now in Delhi, the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) faces a tough challenge ahead to reclaim the lost glory.

Several questions – from whether AAP would tweak its go-alone strategy to will it bring back old AAP hands who left them – arise as the party stares at a possible challenge to the leadership, including Kejriwal.

Though one cannot write AAP’s obituary yet, the recent Rajouri Garden bypoll where its candidate lost his deposit in a sitting seat and the civic poll results indicate that the AAP has squandered its hard-earned political capital based on people-centric politics in less than five years of its formation. The latest drubbing comes two months after its ambition of winning Punjab and Goa Assembly elections took a beating.

The AAP leadership is putting up a brave face by singing the “EVM manipulation” tune for the humiliating defeat but the one question that is troubling the party is the strategy it should adopt to win back the confidence of Delhi voters, who have have already given ample indication to AAP to shed its confrontational politics.

Another demon the AAP, once a middle-class darling, has to fight is its image of leaving the Delhi battle field for greener pastures like Punjab where the party discreetly floated the idea of Kejriwal becoming Chief Minister or fielding Rajouri Garden MLA Jarnail Singh there after making him resign here.

It is also to be seen whether AAP is now willing to do business with other opposition parties. AAP may not be willing to work with Congress but may be ready for a fight alongside the third front parties like the Left, Janata Dal (United) or Trinamool Congress. Kejriwal has already hinted that he wants an alliance of “good people” to fight the BJP when he met CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan here last week.

The initial reactions from the AAP leadership appeared to be of stubbornness but the next step of Kejriwal and AAP is keenly watched. It would determine the course AAP, once a middle-class darling, would take to reinvent itself.

The poor show in civic polls in Delhi, where the party was born in November 26, 2012 following a more than one year stunning anti-corruption agitation, has ignited murmurs of dissent in the party already though top leadership is pinning the blame on “manipulation” of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

AAP’s Lok Sabha MP Bhagwant Singh Mann, the party’s Chief Ministerial candidate in Punjab, did not mince words when he questioned the poll strategy and blaming the EVMs for its defeat in Punjab. Others are silent now but it is to be seen how Kejriwal stems the dissent in the party amid AAP leaders claiming that BJP is trying to woo its MLAs. Already one of the MLAs have resigned and joined the party.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald’s website on Apr 26, 2017)

Naxal stats don’t paint a rosy pix

Security establishment may talk about last year’s victories in the fight against naxals but the statistics for 2017 show a different picture.

The number of security personnel killed in naxal attacks rose this year while that of Maoists decreased, official statistics showed. This happened at a time the number of gunbattles between the forces and Maoists decreased.

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), there is a decline in the number of naxal incidents this year till March 31 – 250 incidents in the first three months of 2017 as against 321 reported during the same period last year.

The number of encounters also came down from 103 to 61. Similarly, the number of civilians killed have come down to 48 from 70. So is the case of Maoists – 44 this year as against 70 in the first three months of 2016.

However, the killing of security personnel have gone up from 25 to 32 during the same period.

At the same time, the number of attacks on police, including those in which landmines were used rose by one – from 30 to 31.

Another low point is the number of naxals arrested (421 in 2017 and 505 in 2016) and the surrenders (327 and 397).

Intelligence inputs also suggest that the number of training camps held by naxals rose more than double from three in the first three months of 2016 to eight this year. The number of jan adalats, which the authorities call the kangaroo courts, also rose from four to six.

Chhattisgarh has emerged as the theatre of naxal violence this year, displacing Jharkhand, if one goes by the figures. This year, Chhattisgarh reported 40 deaths in 105 incidents this year till March, up from 38 and 106 respectively.

Last year same period, Jharkhand had reported 109 incidents and 33 deaths. In 2017, it had 70 incidents and just 16 deaths.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh himself had talked about the “unprecedented” loss faced by the naxals in Parliament in mid-March but he did not forget to remind the forces that Maoists would look for opportunity to hit.

He had repeatedly talked about not taking the naxals lightly before they are fully crushed citing their ability to launch “spectacular” attacks to attract attention and boost the morale of the forces.

However, officials in private admit that some of the casualties in attacks could have been avoided if the Standard Operating Procedure are followed properly.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Apr 26, 2017)

Oppn fear: Will BJP run away with Prez poll victory?

The Presidential race is slowly heating up with the Opposition creating a buzz about a common candidate but CPI(M) fears that the ruling BJP will run away with the cake if it manages to align with a non-NDA party.

Though they are ready for a fight on the President’s seat, the opposition however harbours no hopes for the election to Vice President’s post as the BJP-led NDA has a clear majority in the electoral college.

The calculations in the opposition camp is that the BJP-led NDA would need another 2% votes to cross the Presidential hurdle and that is why it wants all non-NDA parties to be together.

If one goes by the past experience, there is no guarantee that the opposition remain on a single string. In 2002 election, opposition was divided and CPI(M) fielded INA veteran Captain Laxmi against the eventual winner A P J Abdul Kalam. In 2012, Shiv Sena broke ranks with the then opposition leader BJP to support Pranab Mukherjee against P A Sangma.

This fear was expressed candidly by CPI(M) top leadership during the Central Committee (CC) meeting here last week when it pointed out the BJP-led NDA needs just 2% more votes to emerge winner.

“Currently, in the electoral college that elects the President of India, the BJP with its NDA allies is marginally short of around 2% of the votes. Any understanding with any non-NDA regional party by the BJP will easily ensure the victory of its candidate as the President,” the Report on Political Developments adopted by the CC meeting held on April 18 and 19.

It points to the fear of a Sangh Parivar nominee entering the Rashtrapati Bhavan and the report said, “we should make all efforts to try and forge unity of all secular parties in this effort to ensure a non-RSS President of the Indian Republic.”

The prescription by the CPI(M) is that the united opposition find a non-political figure for the post. “The forthcoming elections to the post of President of India should be utilized by us to try and find a common candidate preferably belonging to no political party around whom the opposition parties can rally around,” the report said.

However, sources said, the party is open to support a political heavyweight like Sharad Yadav or Sharad Pawar in case the opposition rallies around such names. CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury already had first round of deliberations with Congress President Sonia Gandhi last week.

The electoral college for the Presidential polls include MPs of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and MLAs of state Assemblies. At present, BJP-led NDA has around 48% of the votes.

However, the Left party has left the Vice Presidential polls out of its ambit, saying, the electoral college for the Vice President of India is limited to only members of both houses of parliament where NDA allies has a “clear” advantage. “There is thus little scope for seeking to find a consensus candidate for the post of Vice President,” the report said.

Asked about the deliberations on Presidential polls in July, Yechury had told reporters after the CC meeting that his party was for a common Opposition candidate for the post. “Secular supervision is very important for Rashtrapati Bhavan as opposed to communal supervision. We are for a consensual candidate acceptable to all,” he had said.

(Apr 25, 2017)

Coastal Security: MHA misses deadline

After failing to complete second phase of Coastal Security Scheme, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) got a four year extension till 2020 but a Parliamentary panel suspects it may miss that deadline too.

The slow pace of procurement of boats and other security gadgets have led the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs led by Rajya Sabha MP and former Home Minister P Chidambaram to believe so.

The 2015-16 budget allocation and expenditure would give a picture of the state of coastal security preparedness. While Rs 710 crore was initially allocated, it was reduced to Rs 160 crore during revised estimates but at the end only Rs 48.89 crore were utilised. The reason cited was non-finalisation of procurement of boats.

The same reason recur in 2016-17 for reduction of Rs 770.89 crore in budget allocation while the MHA itself admit that the lower allocation in 2017-18 is due to lesser estimate of boat price.

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** Phase I of Coastal Security Scheme was started in 2005-06 and ended in March 2011.

** During Phase I, 73 Coastal Police Stations, 97 check posts, 58 outposts and 30 barracks were set up besides procurement of 204 boats, 153 jeeps, 312 motor cycles and 10 rigid inflatable boats.

** Second phase was to end in March 2016. Now extended to March 2020.

** 131 more coastal police stations, 60 jetties and 10 Marine Operation Centres to be set up besides buying 225 boats among others.

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The memories of the Mumbai attacks, when terrorists used the vulnerabilities in coastal security to enter, appears to have prompted the committee to “caution” the Ministry that foolproof security on 7,516 km coastline is “sine quo non (indispensable action)” for the country.

While the Phase I of Coastal Security Scheme ended in March 2011, the second phase started in April 2011 and was extended for four years in March 2016 following non completion.

Pointing out that the time has now been extended till March 2020, the panel said, “this is total failure on the part of the Ministry” and this is compounded by the under utilisation of funds again this year.

If the Ministry keeps procrastinating on the implementation of security related projects and does not procure items on time, it may not be able to complete this phase of CSS even within extended timeline,” the panel said, fixing September as the deadline for completing the pending procurement.

Earlier also, Parliamentary panel had highlighted problems in coastal security. In one of the reports in 2015, it quoted an Intelligence Bureau report to say that several ports in India are sitting ducks on security front and that 75 out of 203 smaller ports have no security force even for namesake to guard them.

Another report had said that the country still does not have adequate training facilities for marine policing.

(Apr 10, 2017)

Why not appeal in Grieavance Redressal system? asks Par Panel

Citizens should have an opportunity to file an appeal within the official grievance redressal system before rushing to courts if the responses to their complaints are unsatisfactory, a Parliamentary panel has said.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice believe that such a move would make the grievance redressal system more effective.

The committee, headed by senior Congress MP Anand Sharma, said the spirit of the Public Grievances Redressal Mechanism is primarily to resolve the complaints in a “professional and satisfactory manner”.

The panel also advocated the need for relief and redressal system fixing accountability on the decision making authorities.

“As in the event of unsatisfactory redressal of their grievances, the public usually approach courts for redressal of their grievances which increases burden of courts, every endeavour should be made that grievances are resolved in a professional and satisfactory manner,” the panel said.

“In order to make grievance redressal system more effective, it is recommended that government may also consider making a provision for appeal in the existing system,” the report added.

The government had come up with an online system Çentralised Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (CPGRAMS) in 2007, which interlinks 139 ministries, departments, states and other apex organisations. Around 10.23 lakh grievances were received in 2016, out of which 7.53 lakh were redressed.

The panel has informed the committee that a project for complete revamp of CPGRAMS with new features like lateral transfer of grievances, downward transfer from ministries to states, provision of local language interface and dashboards are also under consideration.

The panel, however, felt that the rural folk and those in far-flung areas are not aware of the existence of such a system.
The CPGRAMs should be publicised in mass media in vernacular languages, so that common people become aware of the availability of such an avenue for redressal of their grievances.

(Apr 4, 2017)

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