I Paid A Bribe: An Endeavor in India

C=M+D-A. As Robert Klitgaard puts it, “Corruption equals Monopoly plus Discretion minus Accountability”.

Corruption, especially political, is rampant in India, where it is seen as commonplace and citizens come face to face with it in their daily lives. It leads to severe injustice in a society and can even effect people’s survival. In the recent New Tactics dialogue on corruption, Shaazka Beyerle, Senior Advisor of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, gives the example of a widow who cannot access food through the Public Distribution System because the government official demands a bribe to issue her a ration card. Citizens who cannot afford to pay up suffer due to their inability, and those who can have no option than to give in to corruption. There has been increasing anger and frustration against bribery, but at the same time there is a high level of tolerance too. Some citizens habitually offer bribes in exchange for services, further perpetuating corruption.

I Paid A Bribe tries to address this complex issue that mars the Indian society. It encourages people to not put up with official abuse of power and to report their stories of bribery to “uncover the market price of corruption.” People can report when they paid a bribe, when they didn’t and when they weren’t asked to pay one by submitting their story through a form, blogging about it or even posting a video.

This initiative, organized by Janaagraha, was launched on August 15 (India’s Independence Day), 2010.  T R Raghunandan, a former senior civil servant and now the coordinator of the initiative, says the goal is “to build a snapshot of the corruption scenario in India.” Janaagraha has developed an innovative tactic to deal with corruption. The idea is less focused on taking action with specific departments based on individual citizen reports, but rather to use a systematized process to identify the most serious areas of corruption. Raghunandan observes that “every society has a very good idea of the corruption that happens there”; what is needed, then, is a better understanding of how and why corruption happens. The reports posted on the website are aggregated and analyzed. These analyses expose the more corrupt departments, loopholes used by officials to demand bribes, situations in which bribes are demanded and so on, and after identifying situations and processes susceptible to corruption, Janaagraha approaches the departments and the government for action. The following illustration represents this.

The intent of I Paid a Bribe is also to encourage and empower more citizens so that they bring out their stories and experiences, which helps build more awareness. In addition to people’s reports on bribery, the homepage of the website has a slideshow giving some vital statistics. A map titled “Corruption Commons” lists out the number of complaints from different states of India. The seriousness of the issue is brought out in these various ways, helping corruption and bribery change from something people just talk about into an issue people can do something about. People can act through a simple, easy and non-threatening process, where they are not required to identify themselves or give an individual official’s name in their reports.

Other interesting and interactive features include the “Ask Raghu” section. Raghunandan answers specific questions that people ask, providing them with the information they need. He explains that people are usually very fearful of the government, something that is mainly due to lack of information. There should be more information available so that people are more confident to deal with officials and can put their foot down on following the laid procedures and not paying a bribe. There are plans to put out White papers, the first one being on Land and Property Registration in a month’s time along with a video feature, so that people are equipped with the right knowledge about the procedures, fees, time needed and the duties of the officials. The ‘Impact’ section mentions cases in which people have been able to stand against bribery through information Janaagraha had made available, and by simply raising their voice.

People can also give their suggestions and contribute to newer practical and tactical approaches to dealing with corruption on the website’s forum. Through this platform, citizens can share their experiences of corruption, be empowered to monitor the injustice against them and collaborate to fight against it.

So, “bribed? didn't bribe? powerless? victimised? angry? tell your story” and fight back!


  • A good idea to be recycled in Brazil!

  • The initiative is interesting but only time will tell if people are indeed willing to come forward with their stories, not the cases of simple bribes where one paid the peon Rs.50/- to get some small task done but the bigger stories involving deeper pockets.

  • Dear,

    Kindly also encourage people to write about ‘…and I did not pay a bribe’.

    That would be moving towards the solution, and balancing how easy/difficult is to survive when you don’t pay bribes, against when you pay.

    I am passionate about this because I have NOT paid bribes many many times.


    • You are right Swapnil. As I have mentioned in the blog the website encourages people to share stories when they did not pay a bribe as well. There is a separate section on the website where such stories are put together.

      It is definitely very important to learn and find a solution from such positive aspects and inspirational actions of others.

    • Hey Swapnil

      First of all I would like to congratulate you for resisting bribes. http://www.ipaidabribe.com> Tell us your story> I din’t pay a bribe is a platform for you to report all those instances when you resisted paying a bribe. See you there!

      I Paid A Bribe

  • @Swapnil, good idea!

  • […] By Samuel RubenfeldA new “I Paid A Bribe” endeavor in India seeks to find out the market price of corruption. (Global […]

  • […] de la iniciativa, T. R. Raghunandan, un ex alto funcionario harto del paisaje corrupto en su país, considera que la potencia de esta herramienta no es la de denunciar los casos concretos sino la de hacer un […]

  • Ipaidabribe.com

    IPAB as of today has 2957 ‘Paid a bribe’ reports, 321 ‘Didn’t pay a bribe reports’ and 135 ‘didn’t have to pay a bribe reports’.
    We also published our first Janamahithi (information for the people) report on the Transport Department of Bangalore based on the bribe reports which we received. The Transport Commissioner, Mr Bhaskar Rao invited our team to brief the RTO officials on the report. IPAB also gave recommendations on how to make the RTO offices. We have also come up with a ’10 commandments poster’ on how to avoid paying a bribe. Both, the Janamahiti as well as the poster are available for download on our website http://www.ipaidabribe.com/ Spread the word. Help fight corruption!

  • Swaroop Mordina

    I am applying for a passport.. My friends are saying that I have to bribe the police, otherwise I will not get the passport..I don’t want to give bribe.But I need the passport. What should I do?

  • […] In India, there is the I Paid A Bribe crowdsourcing initiative, which was launched in August 2010 to “[encourage] people to not put up with official abuse of power and to report their stories of bribery to ‘uncover the market price of corruption'” (GV text is here). […]

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