A decade ago this would not have been the case given that the monopoly status of the government telephone company gave its minions enormous power to seek a bribe every time a telephone user interacted with the operator. The railways used to be a den of corruption till computerization and improved working conditions for staff made them also an area of low corruption, according to this study. While the police have been declared the ‘most corrupt’ sector, in terms of public perception, the largest amount of money is, however, tucked away in the public health care system by doctors and nurses, with active involvement of chemists and pharmaceutical companies.
By charging patients extra for medicines that are supposed to be supplied free, by pushing them to purchase medicines from specific chemists and companies, by recommending unrequited diagnostic tests at preferred pathology laboratories, by simply seeking gratification for proper care, doctors and nurses in public sector hospitals were garnering a cool 28 per cent of all the bribe money transacted in India in a year. Next to health care comes the power sector where power utility staff cream off 22 per cent of the proceeds of corruption. Between the two, the public health care and power sectors account for as much as 50 per cent of all petty corruption flows in the country. What differentiates these two sectors from telecom and railways? Greater competition between service providers has reduced corruption in the telecom sector. In railways, computerization has helped.
Neither competition nor computerization can help reduce corruption in health care where a patient is willing to spend any amount of money to secure better care and where doctors have an exaggerated hold on the consumers of their service. That is why ethics has been such an important part of medical education. No amount of regulation or competition can reduce corruption if the doctor is not ethical.
However, the power sector can learn from railways. Computerization and transparency in operations can help reduce corruption in the power sector. Indeed, competition and privatisation have also helped reduce corruption. The regional pattern of corruption in the power sector is also instructive. There is much less corruption in western and southern India, where privatisation and computerisation have come earlier, than is reported in northern and eastern India.
The education sector comes third in ranking. Here, the main source of corruption are teachers, forcing private tuition on students as a way of seeking extra income and | 192 | Middle School Essays: A Perfect Guide
helping students pass. The only solution to this problem is what many of the better schools practice, that is to insist that no teacher can offer private tuition to a student without prior clearance from the school authorities. This keeps a tab on teachers offering such services at home.
Finally comes the tax administration. It secures a surprisingly low score in this survey with bribes taken by taxmen accounting for a mere 5 per cent of all bribes. But this counter-intuitive result could be the product of a respondent bias. While we may feel free to report to a surveyor that we had to offer a bribe to get better medical attention, 2 reduced electricity bill or a complaint registered in a police station, since in such cases we may feel that the real offence has been committed by the other guy, in reporting corruption in the tax administration we also confess to tax evasion This may account for this low share of bribes given to taxmen in the total bribe kitty.
The TII-ORG-Marg survey is an important addition to our understanding of corruption in India and should help policy makers deal with the menace.