Ranging from Re one to Rs 950, rural households in the country could have paid a whopping Rs 471.8 crore last year as bribe to avail basic facilities such as ration, health, education and water supply, says a study.
The 'India Corruption Study: 2010' report prepared by Centre for Media Studies (CMS), a survey of 9,960 households in 12 states, says on an average a rural household could have paid Rs 164 as bribe for availing these facilities in a year.
The study said the total amount of Rs 471.8 crore is "equal or less" than the total expenditure made under MNREGA during 2010-11 in states like Assam, Gujarat, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra.
"The estimation of bribe amount paid by the rural households brings out an amount of Rs 471.8 crore...The percentage of rural households that paid bribe during the last year was relatively higher in PDS (11.5 per cent), followed by hospitals (9), schools (5.8), water (4.3)," the study said.
It claimed that the socio-economically weaker sections were most affected by corrupt practices in public services.
More than 40 per cent of rural households belonging to OBC and SCs felt that the level of corruption has increased in public services during the last one year while 28 per cent each opined that the level of corruption has remained the same, it said.
An analysis by income level indicated that three out of four rural households which had to pay bribe in any of the public services have monthly household income of Rs 5,000 or less, indicating the high dependence of the economically poor households on these public services.
"As reported by rural households, they had to pay even Rs one-two to get a family member examined as an out-patient, mostly to get the registration or OPD card and as high as Rs 900 to avail diagnostic services such as X-ray, blood or urine tests at a public health facility," the study said.
A rural household had to pay Rs five as bribe to get an application form for ration card while they had to pay as high as Rs 800 for getting a BPL card without documents, it said, adding, for getting admission form, rural households had to shell out Rs ten as bribe while some paid Rs 700-800 to get scholarship or admission in schools.
"For proper water supply, the bribe paid by households for various services ranged between Rs 15 and Rs 950. The wide gap between minimum and maximum amount paid as bribe for the same purpose indicate that even submission of a request requires paying bribe apart from paying bribe to get water at the right time to irrigate the agricultural field," it said.
The study said Rs 156.8 crore might have been given as bribe in PDS while for water supply services, rural households could have paid Rs 83.3 crore. Another Rs 130 crore have been paid to avail hospital services.
In the foreward for the study, NAC member Aruna Roy said, "The poor fight against corruption and become victims of arbitrary use of power. The bribe paid by these households merely to survive, brings into sharp focus a set of concerns that should engage the interest of the media to fight the system on their behalf."
The study claimed that the perception about corruption in public services decreased last year compared to 2005. While in a 2005 survey 70 per cent of the surveyed felt that there was corruption in public services, the number decreased to 40 per cent in the latest study.
"However, a significant 19 (2010) and 23 (2005) per cent of rural households felt that the level of corruption has remained the same in public services," it said.
Bihar and Chhattisgarh rank top in the list of states where people felt the most that there was an increase in corruption in public services. Sixty-six per cent each in these two states felt that there was increase in corruption.
Interestingly, the perception of corruption in Bihar has come down this year compared to the figure of 87 per cent in 2005 of those who felt that the menace was on rise in the state.
In an interesting comparison of Left-ruled states, Tripura and West Bengal fared better than Kerala. Nineteen per cent in Tripura and 33 per cent in West Bengal thought there was increase in corruption but the figure was at a high of 59 per cent in Kerala.
"Overall, the percentage of rural households which paid bribe has come down exactly by half (28 per cent from 56 per cent). However, in states like Chhattisgarh (55), Bihar (52), Kerala (46) and Maharashtra (40), a high percentage of rural household paid bribe to avail the services of a public service during the last one year," the study said.
The major reasons for paying bribes included getting a new ration card, to take monthly ration, to get admission in school, to get scholarship, for issuance of different types of certificates, to get irrigation water, to get the water pipe repaired and for installation or maintenance of hand pumps.
In the health sector, the study said, one-fourth of those who paid bribes cited getting medicines from the hospital as the reason. The other key reason for paying bribe was to get examined as an out-patient and for diagnostic services.
An analysis done by CMS Media Lab noted that there was a four-time increase in coverage of news related to corruption in prime time since 2005.