Access by Women to Public Services: Perception & Experience

The ninth round of the CMS-India Corruption Study (CMS-ICS 2013) specifically focussed on access of women to certain basic and essential public services. Women constitute around 49 percent of India’s population (Census 2011); play a greater role in managing the household affairs than their counterpart and therefore, directly or indirectly are subject to far more negative consequences of ineffective governance – not only individually, but at household level.

This 2013 study focused on eight public services namely, Drinking Water, Electricity, Public Distribution System (PDS), Public Health/Hospital care, Housing, Municipal, Police and Judiciary. The data collection for CMS-ICS 2013 was carried out between April and September 2013. The states covered are Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Rajasthan. From each state, a sample of around 300 households was covered. From each selected household, an adult female member was interviewed.


Usage of Public Services:
• Majority of women during the last one year had interacted with at least half of the eight public services covered in this round.
• On an average, she or any member of the family had interacted with around four services; with highest in Maharashtra (5 nos.) followed by Bihar, Karnataka and MP (4 each).
• In PDS and Public health/hospital services, in 60 percent cases, the women respondent herself has interacted with the service provider of these pubic services – at least once during the last twelve months.
• Among the most interacted services include, Electricity (77%) followed by PDS (60%), Water Supply (51%) and Public health/Hospital services (49%). Other public services, which are mainly Need-based services, had comparatively lesser interaction: Police (29%), Municipal (26%), Judiciary (22%) and Housing (18%).

Experienced Corruption at Household level

• In CMS-ICS 2013, more than half of the women (56%) shared that she or any member of the household experienced corruption at least once during the last 12 months. On a comparative note, in 2008 round, the percentage of women who reported experiencing corruption in public services was around 44 percent.

• Among those who were asked for a bribe, 66% women shared that either she or any member of the family experienced the demand for a bribe at least once during the last 12 months, while another 24% came across such situation twice.

• 8 out of every 10 households, who were asked to pay bribe, had no option and paid bribe to avail the desired public service.

• Women respondents shared that in five out of eight public services, between 20 and 25% of their families had to pay bribe or use influence to avail the services.

• In all the states, except Bihar and Delhi, nearly two-third or more of the women reported experiencing corruption either by them or any of their family members while interacting with the public services covered in CMS-ICS 2013.

• In Delhi and Rajasthan, compared to 2008, the percentage of women reporting ‘experienced’ corruption in public services was almost twice.
Could not Pay, Could Not Avail the Service at Household level
• Around 5 percent of the women informed that their families were denied services because they could not pay a bribe.
• Highest service denial rate was in Karnataka (8%) and Madhya Pradesh (7%) despite the Right to Public Services Act in place.
Bribe Amount Paid and Reasons for Paying Bribe at Household level
• State wise highest amount as bribe in any of the public services is Bihar (INR 10000-Housing); Chhattisgarh (INR 30000-Police verification for Job); Delhi (INR 10000- for Police Verification); Karnataka (INR 10000-Police for removal of name as accused); Madhya Pradesh (INR 5000 in Housing for Transfer of Ownership); Maharashtra (INR 400000 for Job in Police); Punjab (INR 5000 for House registration) and Rajasthan (INR 6000 –Electricity for restoring connection).
• On an average, the households have paid as low as INR 10 in PDS shops to get their ration or as OPD patient in public health facilities and as high as INR 400 thousand (4 lakh) for a job in Police department.

Women’s Perception about Corruption – in Public Services in General

• Similar to the study findings on experience of corruption, more than 67% of the women opined that level of corruption in general has ‘Increased’ in Public Services in the last 12 months.
• No significant difference in perception of women belonging to different socio-economic classification (SEC) was noticeable.
• In Delhi and Rajasthan, perception about increase in corruption level in public services could be one of the reasons for change of political party in power in the two states where elections were held after the survey for this round of CMS-ICS was conducted.
• Similarly in Chhattisgarh, the incumbent political party coming back to form government could be correlated with lesser percentage opining increase in corruption in public services in the state. In Madhya Pradesh, however, despite the opinion about increase in corruption in public services, the incumbent government was voted back to power.
• Two out of every three women perceive an ‘increase’ in the corruption level in the Police services. Electricity (56%) and PDS (50%) were the other two public services in which half or more of the women opined an increase in corruption level during the last twelve months prior to the survey.


CMS has been conducting regular studies on corruption capturing both experience and perception at household levels since 2001. The uniqueness of CMS-ICS is its methodology. It captures peoples’ Perception (P) and Experience (E) with Public Services and further Estimates (E) the amount paid as bribe by common citizens of India to avail basic and essential public services. It is pertinent to mention that CMS-ICS is a self-initiated initiative and not sponsored by any funding agency.