People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 18, 2007
IN the midst of India’s booming economy, corruption has flourished unabated to assume scandalous proportions with truckers paying bribes of over Rs 22,000 crore a year to various authorities, greatly undermining the trucking industry and fleecing consumers in the process.
“What is shocking is that this slush money is almost equal to the truck drivers remuneration,” said Transparency International (TI) India Chairman Admiral (retd) R H Tehiliani, while releasing a report called “Rampant Corruption in Trucking Operations.”
The study, jointly carried out by TI India and Shriram Group, Chennai, points out that a truck operator pays Rs 211 to 266 per day as bribe at toll places, check points, state borders or during en route stoppages on the pretext of checking documents.
“Based on this estimate, Rs 79,920 is paid annually by a single truck. With around 36 lakh trucks currently operating, total bribe amount works out to be more than Rs 22,000 crore a year, admiral Tahiliani told reporters.
According to the report, this practice is highly institutionalised as the truck drivers get some kind of ‘receipt’ in the form of stickers and token to insure their hassle-free movement.
The total share of regional transport office and police, the two key enforcement agencies, works out to be around 88 per cent (43 per cent and 45 per cent respectively) of the total bribe involved.
About 60 per cent of en route (forced) stoppages, consuming up to 11 hours in day, by concerned authorities like RTO, police and forest, sales and excise, octroi, weight and measurement departments are for extorting money.
The report says the number of trips performed by a truck could increase by 40 per cent, if forced delays are avoided.
--- National Herald, February 2, 2007
A BIG problem is the dreadful quality of public services, from education and health to the provision of water. Half of urban households lack drinking water within the home; one quarter have no access to a toilet, either public or private. Many public services in cities have worsened in recent years. In Bangalore water is now available for less than three hours a day, compared with 20 hours in the early 1980s.
Nor are young Indians equipped for more productive jobs in the towns. The quality of education and health care is dire. A survey in 2003 found that only half of paid teachers were actually teaching during school hours. Another survey found that government health centres in poor parts of Delhi had a more than 50 per cent chance of prescribing a harmful therapy for common ailments.
Bizarrely, India has one of the most privatised health systems in the world. Government spending accounts for only 21 per cent of total health spending. Likewise, in eight of 18 states studied more than half of all children in urban areas are in private schools. But this is not a model of free-market economics or the result of policy reform. People go private only because public services are so bad. Subir Gokarm, an economist at CRISIL, another credit-rating agency, worried that because the educated middle class do not use public services, there is less public outcry for reform than there should be.
The awkward truth is that although the economy is sprinting ahead, most people are only crawling. Although the educated middle class has enjoyed big salary increase and a surge in the value of their homes and shares, the 60 per cent of the population close to or below the poverty line have not yet seen a material gain.
Some 26om people still live on the equivalent of less than $1 a day. Half of all children under five are malnourished. India needs rapid growth. But by itself that is not sufficient to end poverty, warns Rajiv Kumar, the director of ICRIER, an economic research institute. Better infrastructure and education are needed to make the rural poor more mobile so they have an escape route.
--- The Economist, February 3