Tackling corruption and empowering local citizens in India through Public Information Centres
An AHRC-funded research collaboration contributed to the development of electronic Public Information Centres (PICs) in five locations in north India which allow economically deprived communities to access information on government projects in a systematic and widespread manner. The centres and related activities have greatly assisted in the fight against corruption and protecting the rights of underprivileged individuals.
From October 2007 to September 2010, the research collaboration between the History departments at the University of Leeds and Royal Holloway, led by Professor William Gould (University of Leeds) investigated practices and perceptions of corruption during and shortly following India’s independence.
Professor Gould worked in partnership with local organisation ‘Asha Parivar’ to create a series of PICs providing guidance and assistance for a range of applications and bureaucratic procedures. Around 2,000 Right to Information (RTI) applications have been submitted so far with the PIC providing an invaluable affordable service to an area with a population of around 18.7m people. In auditing applications and providing guidance, the centres give institutional support to disadvantaged communities, allowing them to successfully access support, for example from government Public Welfare schemes. One example saw more than 200 unemployed labourers use a PIC support to register for compensation or work under a government scheme. They had previously applied for this scheme without the administrative support from the PIC and had been refused assistance.
The creation of the PICs along with the anti-corruption research undertaken by Professor Gould had the wider effect of assisting in the creation of an inter-connected effort to tackle corruption. The PICs have resulted in applications being made publicly available and stored electronically which have combatted corruption; localised press coverage has also had the effect of showcasing corruption and helping to reduce it. Asha Parivar also acknowledged that Gould’s work helped to create a model for the way they could more effectively deal with RTI applications. As a result of these factors, Gould’s research had a clear impact on raising awareness about the problems of corruption, suggesting ways of mitigating it, and making local officers accountable.
The research project also led to an internship programme allowing postgraduates to visit, study and work at the PICs. This opportunity provides vital skills for interns as well as giving further support to the PICs. One case analysis by a University of Leeds intern showed that the Sandila centre, the only one run by a woman, was getting many more women users. As a result a ‘women’s day’ staffed by women was implemented at all centres. The project leaders received requests to set up new centres in three new locations in neighbouring states to the original PiCs.
Gateway to Research Project Links: From subjects to citizens: society and the everyday state in North India and Pakistan, 1947-1964, Oct 07 - Sep 10