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Feb 10, 2004
Why be afraid of TI?

The surveys on corruption in India by the Centre for Media Studies [CMS], are of greater relevance to our everyday life than the global ranking lists, that Transparency International [TI] publishes from time to time.

CMS’s method is to run an exit poll on citizens leaving government establishments. Those polled are typically close to the ground reality of India. TI on the hand, polls the ‘perceptions’ of businessmen visiting various countries in the course of their travels. We will study the significant differences in these approaches a little later.

CMS’s latest survey is based on a poll of 4500 people in five major cities of India. They were exiting departments and institutions of governments, like hospitals, ration shops, registrars, law courts, railways and so on.  Press Trust of India [PTI] quotes N Bhaskar Rao, Chairman of CMS, as saying, that compared with its similar poll in 2000, corruption has tended to decline. Based on responses to questions like, “did you get your work done the first time or did you have to revisit?”. “did you need a middleman?”, “did you bribe or use influence?”, “would you do something about corruption?”, “has corruption declined or increased?”, “who is responsible?” etc, CMS has drawn a picture of metropolitan India today. Rao says, “corruption is not as high as is often believed, and the reasons for this can be attributed to large-scale computerisation of services, reforms initiated by vigilance departments and the rise in awareness among the consumers.”

In the current survey, 28% admitted they have dealt through middlemen. That figure was 48% in 2000. 30% admitted to giving bribes, whereas in 2000, 51% had. In Hyderabad, the decline was from 63% in 2000, to 27% now. Chennai and Kolkata declined to 18% [-from 38%] and 19% [-from 51%]. In Delhi however, the figure grew from 40% to 49%.

The CMS surveys seem more relevant to our concerns. After all, TI tosses India, with its billion plus people, into one global heap, and then sifts and sorts the pile. As a result, Scandinavia, Australia and New Zealand hog the top in the rankings. Must not population, density and size of the economy be a factor in evaluating corruption? Studies like the CMS’s should be encouraged further, so that deeper state-wise surveys are conducted, and an intra-India list emerges. That would build a competitive mood between states.

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