If you had paid a bribe for availing of any government service in Andhra Pradesh in the recent days, just dial 1100 and report the matter. Chance is that the corrupt government servant, who fleeced you, may possibly come knocking on your door to return the amount. That seems to be the new trend in the state, if claims of the Chandrababu Naidu government are to be believed. With a recent nation-wide survey report placing AP at the second place after Karnataka as the most corrupt state in the country, the Chandrababu regime has launched this exercise to showcase its fight against corruption.
“So far 12 persons had returned the bribe amounts to the citizens in the past few days. In one instance in Kurnool district, a panchayat secretary had returned (bribe) money to 10 citizens (in separate cases),” chief minister Chandrababu Naidu said the other day.
The ‘People First’ grievance redressal channel launched by the government on May 25 seems to be “working wonders” and “sending chill down the spines of (corrupt) public servants”, some government functionaries have claimed. “The 1100 call centre has been receiving tremendous response. It’s a good effort to cleanse the society. Scared government officials are returning the bribe amounts to citizens,” advisor (communications) to the government P Prabhakar said recently. The ‘People First’ is part of the government’s real-time governance initiative to build a “happy, healthy and sustainable society”.
However, a senior bureaucrat said the initiative is just a message to people that even if they have paid any bribe, they can expect it to be returned as the government is taking the calls to 1100 seriously. “Procedural inquiries are essential for any punitive action against public servants,” the bureaucrat said. Interestingly, the bribe amounts being returned are just about Rs 500 to Rs 1000 in individual cases and also there is no action taken as such on the identified corrupt. However, there is no assurance from the government that bribes (taken) will be returned in every case, except that the complainant or bribe-giver will be “protected”.
The 750 executives at the ‘1100’ call centre had telephoned 52,000 citizens to inquire about the ‘Chandranna Bima’ insurance scheme, 6.2 lakh persons on social welfare pensions and 9.5 lakh on public distribution system delivery. “About 3,000 citizens complained about corruption in implementation of these schemes. As soon as we receive a complaint, we are cross-verifying the details. We are making the corrupt officials to cough up the illegal gratification they received,” Prabhakar claimed.
In some of the instances cited by the chief minister, private individuals (brokers) indulged in corruption and they too were made to return the money. In Kadapa, a broker was made to return Rs 1000 he took from a beneficiary of the insurance scheme. In Krishna district, a broker who took Rs 1000 for arranging a ration card to a citizen was also made to return the amount, according to the CM.
The People First received a complaint the other day that a revenue official took Rs 50,000 as illegal gratification for issuing a pattadar passbook (land deed). “There will be instances where some people try to defame a particular official even if no bribe is paid. In such cases, we will initiate necessary action only after a proper inquiry,” the CM said.