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Mr CM, try and fix it

V Raghunathan, Jun 13 2017, 23:18 IST

KARNATAKA, THE MOST CORRUPT : If Siddaramaiah wants a reality check, rather than be livid at the rankings, he needs to be livid at his babudom.

Not only have Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra or Punjab emerged at the top of the pile of corruption as perceived by households in the latest study of Centre for Media Studies (School of Social Sciences, JNU), they are also well ahead of some of the states which used to be somewhat snobbishly referred to as Bimaru (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) states.

The methodology employed by CMS captures citizen’s perception, experience and estimation of corruption in public services and amounts paid as bribe for availing some 10 public services, of which a household is expected to avail at least one in a year. The study, covering a statistically large sample size of households, essentially compared the corruption perception in 2005 versus 2017.

A pity though, about Karnataka being ranked the most corrupt state. Even though the state has long ranked among the more corrupt of the lot in the country, in reality, there is probably little to choose between say, Karnataka or Tamil Nadu or AP.

For instance, in 2009, at the Programme for International student Assessment (PISA), India (represented by Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh — supposedly the better of the states in terms of education quality) finished at the bottom of the heap, with China expectedly at the top.

So what did the Government of India do? It chose to avoid all participation in PISA, alleging linguistic challenges, while we are supposedly an English-proficient nation! By the same token, what did the Karnataka chief minister have to say about the corruption ranking? He was livid, yes livid at the ranking because in his view, “it was politically motivated!”

What political motivation could the JNU — itself hardly on great terms with the Centre — have against the Congress-run state of Karnataka, the chief minister did not think it necessary to elaborate. But consider this: the all-states average of percentage of households experiencing corruption in at least one public service dropped from 53% in 2005 to 31% in 2017 – implying a broad-spectrum reduction in experience of corruption across the states.

And yet, during the same period, using the same methodology, the same CMS found the percentage for Karnataka go up from 57% to 77%! One is not aware much of the statistical literacy of Siddaramaiah; but someone should tell him that even the most “politically biased” cannot pull that kind of bias out of their hats.

Incidentally, during the same period, 2005-17, the percentage for AP went up from 54% to 74% and for Tamil Nadu from 59% to 68%. You want to know about Bimaru states? Well, the percentages went down for Bihar from 74% to 26%; for MP from 55% to 23%; Rajasthan from 59% to 14% and UP from 50% to 19%.

Perhaps, one can read political conspiracy only if somehow CMS is a paid agent of these states. Kerala managed to pull down its corruption experience from 34% to 4%. Even Haryana registered a fall from 50% to 19% and West Bengal from 46% to 21%.

Of course when a state is hailed as the “the most corrupt,” it grates. At the same time, it is worth noting that Bihar was the most corrupt state in the 2005 survey. Clearly, they did something about it, and today, the state is among the lower half of the list. Even Jammu & Kashmir, which was the second most corrupt in the 2005 survey at 69%, is at 44% today.

If Siddaramaiah wants a reality check, rather than be livid at the rankings, he needs to be livid at his babudom. As an unbiased Indian, let me tell him why. And why should I be particularly unbiased? Judge for yourself.

I am born a Tamilian, but have never lived in Tamil Nadu, and cannot read or write the ‘mother tongue.’ I was born in Punjab and did all my schooling and bachelor’s degree in Punjab, J&K, and Haryana. My undergraduate degree was from Chandigarh (I can speak, read and write Punjabi), post-graduate from Jodhpur (Rajasthan) and doctorate from Kolkata (West Bengal).

In between, I worked for two years in Nagpur (Maharashtra). I lived for nearly two decades in Ahmedabad (Gujarat), before spending my next six years in Bengaluru (Karnataka), and then eight years in Hyderabad (erstwhile combined AP) and for the last three years have been in Bengaluru again.

Uniform mess

You could say, I am impartially biased against politicians of all hues, for the uniform mess they have made of our nation, and have always voted independents. Having done my doctorate from one IIM and having taught at another — the capitalist institutions of excellence — I cannot even be accused of a bias in favour of the JNU — a reputed left-leaning institution.

So Mr Siddaramaiah, while Karnataka may or may not be the most corrupt state — it could well have been Tamil Nadu or AP (as in combined AP) — it should be sufficient cause for concern for a caring CM that unfortunately his is a very corrupt state.

In the last 12 months alone, I wrote about a constable accompanying a couple of youngsters for parking violation from ATM to ATM in the wake of the demonetisation to collect the ‘fine’ without a receipt. I wrote about two bright young local constables with post-graduate qualification confessing to their inability to be absorbed as ASIs because of the steep graft involved in police recruitment. I have witnessed closely the corruption involved with virtually every government department in obtaining sundry clearances as one builds one’s own house.

But if I still carry the whiff of some bias, the good chief minister should perhaps speak to the anti-corruption site, Ipaidbribe.com, set up by a respected NGO like Janaagraha which has named Bengaluru as the most corrupt city in the country based on their primary data on corruption.

But if the CM refuses to see that anything is wrong with the state machinery and wishes to shoot the messenger rather than try and fix the state like so many other states have done, well, one sees little hope for the good citizens of this wonderful state.

(The writer is an academic and author)

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