More than one in three south Asians say they were forced to bribe officials in the last year, mainly for services they were legally entitled to, an international anti-graft watchdog said on Thursday.
A survey released by Berlin-based Transparency International in Kathmandu showed bribery has become so endemic that the region is second only to sub-Saharan Africa as the corruption hotspot of the world.
The watchdog surveyed 7,800 people in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, finding 40% had paid backhanders over the last 12 months to public servants, with police being the largest recipients.
Two thirds of Indians, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis who dealt with the police last year said they had paid bribes to corrupt officers.
"With bribery such a big part of life for south Asians, you can see why so many people are angry at their governments for not tackling corruption," said Rukshana Nanayakkara, senior programme coordinator for the watchdog's south Asia region.
"People are sick of paying bribes to get on with their daily lives, and they are sick of the sleaze and undue influence of public servants."
The survey, entitled "Daily Lives and Corruption: Public Opinion in South Asia" found 62% of south Asians believed corruption had got worse over the past three years, with Indians and Pakistanis the most pessimistic.
More than 80%, however, said they were willing to take action to end corruption.
"Governments beware. People think corruption is on the rise and are willing to take action against it," said Nanayakkara.
"In 2011, popular protests have sent a strong message to governments. They must respect the voice of their people and encourage citizen engagement."
Some of the largest demonstrations were in India, where millions took to the streets of cities across the country in August in support of an anti-corruption campaign by veteran activist Anna Hazare.
The six countries lag between 86th and 154th in Transparency International's annual Corruption Perceptions Index of 186 nations, in which the least corrupt countries are ranked highest.