I Paid a Bribe

I Paid a Bribe


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Problems and Purpose

I Paid a Bribe is an initiative that was created to help combat retail corruption in India, allowing the general public to get an overview of all corruption-related crimes across any given area of the country.[1]

Corruption has been a recurrent problem in India for many years now, with Transparency International suggesting that India ranked 87th out of 178 countries in the year 2017 based upon transparency and integrity.[2] Long-term effects of corruption and bribery on the economy and standard of living in a particular country can be hazardous to many different demographics within a society. Studies show that Indians, relative to countries with a lower corruption rating on Transparency Internationals’ scale, suffer from three times as lower income, higher infant mortality rates and up to 25% lower literacy rates.[3]

Widespread bribery and corruption does not just leave its impact economically, but also threatens the socio-political fabric of a country. India has detected just over half a billion dollars’ worth of tax evasion during the period of August 2017-August 2018. With a surplus of tax money missing, political unrest has occurred, particularly amongst the lowest-earning demographic.[4] Where there is deceit and imbalance, discontent occurs; prevalent corruption in India has lead to distrust in the political and judicial system, with the knowledge of ­­corruption being held widespread throughout the country. Many citizens of India question the governments commitment to tackling this issue, and so an independent tool has been born out of this uncertainty.[5]


Corruption is felt across the globe in many different countries and territories – and India is no different. Occurring almost nationwide and costing the country a huge amount of money every year, it’s no surprise that tackling this issue is at the forefront of the citizens of India’s minds. I Paid a bribe is an independent sub-division of the wider Janaagraha organisation that is aiming to amend and build upon failing governmental policy. Recently the government has played a more proactive role in trying to combat corruption with varying degrees of success.

Although the government did enforce legislature to help battle corruption and bribery, it has shown to have failed to make a lasting impact. The main act passed to prevent petty bribery was The Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988. This is a long-standing legislature that aimed to eradicate corruption and bribery within India and was met with limited success. Loopholes within this act has caused offending criminals to not fear the law; insufficient punishments, lack of cover over cooperate or private bribery and the act only being applicable on public servants meant that the legislature did not have the desired effect.[6]

Conceptually, I Paid a Bribe is a new idea with no predecessors not only in India, but also globally.

Originating Entities and Funding

I Paid a Bribe is a branch of the Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy non-profit organisation that collaborates with many different types of donors such as foundations, corporates, and philanthropies through multi-year partnerships.[8] Janaagraha is owned by a husband and wife pairing, Ramesh Ramanathan and Swati Ramanathan.

According to Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy’s financial statements, the organisation earned around 150,000,000 Indian Rupees in March 2018 through the funding from international and domestic foundations.[8] For instance, I Paid a Bribe receives funding from the Omidyar Network[9], a nonprofit organisation (created by the founder of Ebay), also known as a “philanthropic investment firm” to help aid the organisations that aim to create social good.[10]

Participant Selection

Specifically, this website is designed for victims of corruption and bribery to be able to lodge a complaint on a public forum. Governmental policy renders it troublesome for a regular citizen to file a complaint against a public official through traditional means, and so, I Paid a Bribe bridges this gap.[11] Being a large-scale crowd-sourced tool, I Paid a Bribe relies upon a large number of participants in order to be successful. With a total of 169,276 independent reports filed on their website since 2011, alongside over 15,000,000 website visits, it is targeted towards anyone who has been the victim of corruption or bribery within India.[12]

Due to the tough nature of appeals against public servants being investigated by the Indian government and judicial system, many citizens who have been the victim of bribery in India have taken to this platform with success – of which I Paid a Bribe has a page dedicated to. One such story was that of Manik Taneja – who brought a kayak back to India from the USA. A customs officer demanded that Taneja paid Rs. 25,600 – which was a 184% increase on what the law states he should have paid. After researching similar cases to his own, he came across I Paid a Bribe, and using the tool to facilitate his claim, he was able to liaise with the Joint Commissioner of Customs to investigate the matter. Increasingly, this tool is proving popular with many victims of these crimes.[13]

Methods and Tools Used

Featuring one over-arching method used, I Paid a Bribe enables citizens to file a complaint to a database that can be viewed and reacted to by various users from around the world. The process is extremely easy and accessible to the average person. [14]

As part of a wider program, which includes education on corruption and bribery, the parent organisation Janaagraha promises to promote civic learning and engagement in neighbourhoods and educate citizens on how crucial their role in governance is to the democracy of the country. Spreading the message of I Paid a Bribe is crucial in its success as many Indians, particularly in the middle-aged or older demographic, are not yet tech-savvy and so civil engagement is integral to the initiative.[16] Not only does this campaign cater to citizens who have fallen prey to offhand practices, it also facilitates individuals’ who have refused to cater to these demands. Providing visitors to their webpage with specific information on how to avoid paying bribes, I Paid a Bribe hopes to embolden citizens to stand up against corrupt government officials. [17]

Conducting workshops in colleges throughout India has been an important step for I Paid a Bribe in heightening awareness of corruption throughout India. In 2017, I Paid a Bribe led an informative seminar in four institutions on retail bribery, utilising methods such as; lectures, interactive discussions and audio-visual presentations. These workshops had the aims of disrupting the bribery culture surrounding India, and to also inform the participants of how to avoid paying bribes wherever possible. [18]

Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction

For the initiative to be successful, it requires widespread participation from citizens who have fallen victim to corruption related crimes. Participants recording and reporting incidents is an integral part of the application process in order to analyse where the problem lies. Organisers’ main duty in I Paid a Bribe is that they must ensure that they present the data collected from participants to inflict change upon government officials, guaranteeing that citizens are compensated for their efforts.[19]

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

From the beginning, I Paid a Bribe has shown success in expanding their ideologies of more transparency in India. During the first few weeks of operating, they received 86,000 hits on their website from 160 countries – this is also coupled with having over 1,000 complaints filed.[20] Fast forward to the present day, and these numbers have expanded to 169,298 reports with 15,443,366 visitors.[21] This volume of visitors and complaints would inevitably attract the attention of government officials, with one prime example being the I Paid a Bribe officials being invited by transport official Bhaksar Rao to present their findings to his staff. As a result of this invitation and the information provided by I Paid a Bribe, twenty officials were cautioned.[22]

An impact assessment was conducted among 754 students across the four institutions before and after these sessions. According to the survey; the non-acceptance of bribe culture rose from 39% to 71%, the number of respondents who would now refuse to pay a bribe rose from 22% to 47%, and the percentage of those willing to file a non-anonymous complaint on corruption rose from 19% to 23%. Detractors would argue that awareness programs only hold short-term benefits, however, a follow up survey showed that 87% of polled students said the programme helped them stand up against bribe culture, with 33% believing that citizens should collaborate against corruption.[23]


Analysis and Lessons Learned

Overall, the I Paid a Bribe initiative has proven to be a successful programme in educating the citizens of India on how to best combat and avoid paying bribes. As mentioned, several civic learning and engagement outreach schemes have provided the general public with a specific set of regulations to follow should they be confronted first-hand with corruption. Providing a service to the average citizen in which they can report, and share, their experiences is integral when existing in a society that does not support citizens’ legal claims against corruption.

Participants of the numerous outreach efforts made by this organisation have given positive feedback, showing that they are on the right tracks. Ultimately, more could be done in terms of putting greater pressure on the government to make stricter changes to legislature so that offending parties can be prosecuted in a judicial setting.

Expansion of this initiative to reach more citizens could involve conducting workshops and programmes to target different demographics, who may not have the means to find the website, such as the older population or more rural members of society.

Secondary Sources

[1] Janaagraha ‘I Paid a Bribe’ Available at: http://www.janaagraha.org/i-paid-a-bribe/

[2] Transparency International ‘Corruption Perception Index 2011’Available at: https://www.transparency.org/cpi2011/results

[3] Radhakrishnan, S. (03 March 2018) ‘How Corruption Ruined India’s Economy’ Available at: https://intpolicydigest.org/2018/03/03/how-corruption-ruined-india-s-economy/

[4] Jajo, L. (December 2015) ‘Corruption and its Impact in Indian Society: Causes and Remedies’ Available at: https://www.onlinejournal.in/IJIRV2I12/365.pdf

[5] The Asia Foundation (21 September 2011) ‘Q&A with Founder of ‘I Paid a Bribe,’ India’s Anti-Corruption Online Movement’ Available at: https://asiafoundation.org/2011/09/21/qa-with-founder-of-i-paid-a-bribe-indias-anti-corruption-online-movement/

[6] Chhoker, R. (September 2016) ‘Limitations of the Prevention of Corruption Act’ Available at: http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/150005/13/13_chapter%205.pdf

[7] Janaagraha ‘Donors’ Available at: http://www.janaagraha.org/donors

[8] Janaagraha ‘Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy Balance Sheet’ Available at: http://janaagraha.org/files/JCCD-Financials-31-March-2018.pdf

[9] Storm, S. (2012, March 6). Web Sites Shine Light on Petty Bribery Worldwide. The New York Times. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/07/business/web-sites-shine-light-on-petty-bribery-worldwide.html

[10] Omidyar Network (2016). Who we are. Available at: https://www.omidyar.com/who-we-are

[11] Kannaiah, V. (2016, May 16). I Paid a Bribe: Using technology to help fight bribery in India. Available at: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/southasia/2016/05/16/i-paid-a-bribe-using-technology-to-fight-corruption-in-india/

[12] IPaidABribe Home Page Available at: http://www.ipaidabribe.com/#gsc.tab=0

[13] IPaidABribe ‘Meet the bribe fighting Software Engineer’ Available at: http://ipaidabribe.com/champions/meet-bribe-fighting-software-engineer#gsc.tab=0

[14] IPaidABribe ‘Add a report’ Available at: http://ipaidabribe.com/add-report?report-type=paid-bribe-type#gsc.tab=0

[15] Janaagraha ‘About Janaagraha’ Available at: http://www.janaagraha.org/about-us/

[16] Ghosh, D. (2018, January 31) ‘Systems view of fighting corruption - IPaidABribe as a successful model for the future’ Available at: http://ipaidabribe.com/add-report?report-type=paid-bribe-type#gsc.tab=0

[17] The Asia Foundation (21 September 2011) ‘Q&A with Founder of ‘I Paid a Bribe,’ India’s Anti-Corruption Online Movement’ Available at: https://asiafoundation.org/2011/09/21/qa-with-founder-of-i-paid-a-bribe-indias-anti-corruption-online-movement/

[18] Ghosh, D. (2017, May 08) ‘Corruption survey among college students throws up interesting results’ Available at: http://ipaidabribe.com/comment-pieces/corruption-survey-among-college-st...

 [19] IPaidABribe ‘About I Paid a Bribe’ Available at: http://www.ipaidabribe.com/about-us#gsc.tab=0

[20] Buncombe, A. (2010, October 30). IPaidabribe.com – India’s front line in the war on corruption. The Independent. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/ipaidabribecom-ndash-indias-front-line-in-the-war-on-corruption-2120527.html

[21] IPaidABribe Home Page Available at: http://www.ipaidabribe.com/#gsc.tab=0

[22] Campion, J M. (2011, June 6). Bribery in India: A website for whistleblowers. BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13616123

[23] Ghosh, D. (2017, May 08) ‘Corruption survey among college students throws up interesting results’ Available at: http://ipaidabribe.com/comment-pieces/corruption-survey-among-college-st...

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