Corruption-free Gujarat is still a dream, says DIT report

“Hu khato nathi ne koi ne khava deto nathi (I do not accept bribe and do not allow anyone to do that)” Chief Minister Narendra Modi emphasises in most of his public speeches while boasting about reduced corruption in Gujarat under his leadership. But is ‘bribe-free’ Gujarat for real?

It’s difficult to assess the true state of affairs in all government departments, but a Department of Information Technology (DIT) report prepared after assessment of e-governance projects, suggests people in Gujarat have to pay bribes — around Rs184 on average — to get services from government departments which have been computerised.

Interestingly, of the 11 surveyed states, Gujarat is the only one where bribes were paid in the department of transport by less than 10% of those aspiring for a driving licence, at the time of manual operations.

However, it has increased to around 15% after introduction of computerisation under the central government’s e-governance project.

In fact, Gujarat is the only state where bribery cases in this department have gone up after computerisation.

In Haryana, where bribery cases crossed the 50% mark, they have come down to around 30% after computerisation.

Similarly in Tamil Nadu, these cases have fallen from 50% to around 35%, says the report.

The DIT report — “Impact Assessment of e-governance Projects” — was prepared by Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA) after assessing three projects — computerisation of land records, computerisation of property registration and computerisation in the transport department.

The results are based on a survey of around 800 people from each of the 11 states for each project.

A chapter on “Impact of bribery and use of agents” states that impact of bribes is not uniform across projects or states, and in some projects reduction in number of people paying bribes is significant.

Among those who paid bribes, average amount paid in manual system was around Rs129 and in computerised system it was Rs89.

“However, in case of property registration and transport the impact on payment of bribes has been negligible.

In fact, there is a marginal increase in proportion of users paying bribes after computerisation in transport department in Gujarat and transport and land records in Odisha.

The average amount of bribes in transport is aroundRs184 and in the case of property registration it is about Rs1,082,” states the report.

Adjunct Prof at IIMA Prof Subhash Bhatnagar, who coordinated the project for DIT, told DNA that of the surveyed states, Gujarat is still doing better in departments like land records and property registration where 30% to 60% of citizens need to pay bribes.

“In fact, in issue of land records, Gujarat is one of the 5 states where bribery has been reduced significantly. The amount of bribes paid is small for transport –about Rs200 and a few thousand in case of registrar’s office,” states Bhatnagar.

He said they posed two questions to the sample size: “If they paid bribe, what was the amount? We repeated these questions for both manual and computer operations,” he said.

The assessment was important, as one of the objectives of the computerisation under the e-governance was to simplify the process to an extent that individuals could access the service themselves without seeking assistance from intermediaries.

Bhatnagar, however, is optimistic that the scenario might have changed in Gujarat as the data used for the report is around 2 to 3 years old.

The report, however, states that the case of Gujarat in processing is a solitary example where agents were eliminated after computerisation was introduced.

Other faculty members of IIMA for the study include Prof TP Rama Rao, Prof Ankur Sarin, Nupur Singh, in-charge, center for electronic governance (CEG), IIMA, Ranjan Vaidya, research associate, CEG, and Anuradha Parekh, research assistant, CEG.

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