Storified by The Stream · Wed, Oct 26 2011 21:59:46
Two Bangalore anti-corruption activists have founded a website that tracks bribes exchanged in India--the amount paid, reason for the bribe, and other details--as a way to shed light on the widespread practice of bribery and the system of corrupt local politics it supports. The bribe reports do not include the name or identifying information of the official who accepted the bribe.
Analysis of data collected from the site can help determine just how deeply the system of bribery is entrenched in the Indian political system and how much money changes hands in under-the-table dealings.
Users log on to share the details, including rupee amounts, of bribes they have paid to officials.
Anupam Sharma, an I Paid a Bribe user in Bangalore, told us about his experience with local officials' corruption when applying for a passport. Ultimately, he said, he had no choice but to pay 400 rupees to the official to get his passport application completed.
He adds that the site works well as a way to keep bribery in check but is limited to those Indians who have reliable Internet access.
Sharma also shared that he has often been able to avoid paying bribes, although it can slow down the process.
This video, from I Paid a Bribe's YouTube channel, provides activists with guidelines to help them avoid paying a bribe.
The site, founded by Ramesh Ramanathan and Swati Ramanathan in 2010, is just one in a fast-growing group of blogs, networks, and online groups organized to encourage citizens to take a stand against corruption in India.
While the vast majority of Indians, activist or otherwise, oppose corrupt bureaucracies in their government, there is a vocal minority of academics and government officials who argue that legalising certain parts of the bribery system is the best way to limit this kind of abuse of power, especially when used against the poor.
Rema Hanna, a Harvard economist who has studied bribery in India, argues that greased palms may actually bypasses an ineffective bureaucracy and boost economic growth.
But defenders of the bribery system are squarely in the minority in India, particularly after the corruption scandals that tarnished the Commonwealth Games in 2010. Public sentiment has come out in force against the kind of cronyism and corruption that many say now characterize the Indian government at all levels.
Activists involved in the online movement have recently started to spill over into the streets of Indian towns and cities to attend nonviolent sit-ins, marches, and fasts associated with social activist leaders such as Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare, both of whom boast massive "offline" followings.
Ironically, accusations of corruption, including money laundering, have been levied against the social activist leaders themselves, weakening their authority and driving impassioned Indians to organise for themselves.
Here, a well-known newspaper cartoonist makes light of these "yogi" social activists, accusing them of the same kind of corruption they claim to oppose.
In spite of perceived corruption of the movement's leaders, the ranks of their followers are growing online and anti-corruption groups continue to gain traction, and, possibly, some power to influence India's endemic corruption.
Activists and organisers took to Twitter with the hashtag #iamfastingonjune8 to spread the word of another wave of nationwide fasting in nonviolent protest. Participants blogged and tweeted about the June 8 fast from Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and other major cities across India and the diaspora.
As the movement continues to grow on the web and in the streets of India, the Indian Parliament is preparing to discuss and vote on an anti-corruption bill in this summer's legislative session. The Rajya Sabha, or upper house of India's Parliament, has been unable to pass an anti-corruption bill since it was first passed up from the Lok Sabha, or lower house, in 1969. If it fails again to pass this year, it will not be for lack of public and official support.
Wednesday: What would you like to ask "Humans of New York" photographer Brandon Stanton?
Tweet to @AJStream
Go to AJAMStream