By Kaushik Basu
This paper puts forward a new idea about the control of one kind of
corruption, namely, bribery. Bribery is rampant in India. It is a scourge that
deserves to be banished. Tackling this is a problem that has to be a joint effort of all wings of the government and also of all political parties and even civil society.
While it is not possible for a single person or even a single ministry to cure this malaise, one can think of small steps which, taken together, can add up to
something substantial. It is in this spirit that this paper is being written.
What the paper puts forward is a small but fairly radical idea of how we can
take one step towards cutting down the incidence of bribery. There are different kinds of bribes and what I am concerned with in this paper are bribes that people often have to give to get what they are legally entitled to. I shall call these harassment bribes.‖ Suppose an income tax refund is held back from a taxpayer till he pays some cash to the officer. Consider a case where to buy a regular train ticket you are told that you have to pay some money under the table. Suppose government allots subsidized land to a person but when the person goes to get her paperwork done and receive documents for this land, she is asked to pay a hefty bribe. Consider the case of an exporter who has fulfilled all formalities is asked to make an illegal payment before getting a customs clearance. These are all illustrations of harassment bribes. Harassment bribery is widespread in India and it plays a large role in breeding inefficiency and has a corrosive effect on civil society.