At least one in every two people in India have paid a bribe in the past year, according to a new national corruption report, which branded the practice “part and parcel of daily life.”
The survey, conducted by independent anti-corruption advocates Transparency International India (TII) and social media platform LocalCircles, found that bribery had actually reduced by 10% over the past year. But it remains rampant, with 51% of respondents admitting they had paid bribes.
Corruption remains “part and parcel of daily life in India,” said a press release from TII. It’s particularly widespread in local-level citizen services, which are “ridden with bribery and kickbacks.”
The survey, published Tuesday, gathered 190,000 responses across 20 of India’s 28 states. Some 24% of respondents said they had paid bribes several times in the past 12 months, while the remaining 27% said they had done so only once or twice.
Property registration and land issues were the biggest sectors of corruption, with more than a quarter of respondents having paid bribes to the relevant local departments. The police force was next; 19% of respondents said they had paid most of their bribes to police in the past year.
People also paid bribes to the tax department, transport office, municipal corporations, and other local authorities, the report found.
The Indian government has tried to crack down on bribery and corruption, amending an anti-corruption bill last year and setting up watchdog institutions. Under the amended bill, bribery is punishable by up to seven years in prison or a fine, or both, the report said.
The new deterrents and measures are “starting to show some effects,” the report said – but that change has not trickled down to the local level. Only 6% of people said that their state or local governments had taken steps to reduce corruption, and many reported that nothing had changed at all.
When the government does take action, sometimes the measures backfire. In 2016, India plunged into crisis after Prime Minister Narendra Modi suddenly banned high-value cash currency as a means to combat corruption and reduce tax evasion. Overnight, two of the biggest bank notes in the country became “worthless pieces of paper,” as Modi put it.
But the demonetization measure devastated small businesses and destabilized what remains primarily a cash-based economy. Modi’s plan ultimately failed “because through corrupt practices the ill-gotten money was legitimized ultimately, having a crippling effect on the Indian economy,” according to the TII report.
All the while, watchdog agencies are “failing to fulfill their respective roles” and have a public reputation for “inefficiency and manipulation in the commission,” the report said. It called for greater “political willingness on the part of the government,” suggesting that efforts against corruption had been blocked by “partisan politics.”
According to Transparency International, the parent organization of TII, India has a score of 41 on a scale of public sector corruption – 0 being highly corrupt and 100 being clean. Any score under 50 indicates “a serious corruption problem,” according to the organization’s website.