When the authorities focused on big fish during the peak of social activist Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement in 2011, small fries slipped through the net.
The National Crime Records Bureau statistics released in June indicate that not much actually moved when Team Anna helped bring corruption back in focus.
The number of corruption cases registered during the year went down by 5% to 3,613 and arrests declined by 20% to 4,062, while the amount of slush funds seized fell by 25% to Rs. 26.39 crore in 2011. “It was probably just a bad year,” said the head of a state anti-corruption bureau, conceding that it was usually “the small fry that land in our net”.
NCRB figures back this contention. For instance, property worth only Rs. 61 crore seized across the country in 2009, while the India Corruption Study 2005 reported that about Rs. 21,068 crore had been paid in bribes to access a basket of 11 basic services during the year.
A CBI official indicated the figures could also have something to do with the political executive’s tight control over the state bureaus. “This is a point they make at every conference (organised biennially by the CBI) when they seek autonomy,” he said.