Tired of all those demands for extra “speed money” to get things done? Rant about it on social media or on a website that keeps tabs on public services and officials. Twitter, Facebook and special-purpose websites like I Paid a Bribe provide platforms where citizens can report their experiences online.
Ramesh and Swati Ramanathan, Bangalore-based founders of nonprofit organization Janaagraha, decided to do something about bribery in India, where the problem is common. Getting work done efficiently — or at all — often depends on paying a bribe.
“Bribery is routinely expected in interactions with government officials,” Swati Ramanathan told the BBC, “to register your house, to get your driving license, domestic water connection, even a death certificate.”
To expose the culture of corruption, they started I Paid a Bribe in 2010. The website allows people to report bribes they have paid or refused to pay, or commend an honest officer. Downloadable mobile apps make it easy to chronicle corruption on the go. Reports have come in from every state in India; more than 110,000 reports have been made from 1,071 cities.
But exposing corruption is just one part of the Ramanathans’ work to improve civic life in India. Inspired by the effects of grass-roots advocacy in the United States, where they lived for several years, they started Janaagraha in 2001 as a way for citizens to participate in local government. “Be the change you want to see” is the Janaagraha motto. Ramesh Ramanathan, in a YouTube video, says two benefits of their outreach are “one, the civic knowledge to be informed as to why things are the way they are, and two, the tools and networks to then be engaged and effective.”
Read N.S. Ramnath’s article Swati & Ramesh Ramanathan: Making Your Cities Work in Forbes India for the full story. The pair received the Forbes India 2013 Crossover Leader award for their work.