Senior Shakes Up Politics in India By Conducting Summer Research on Corruption

Senior Srikar Gullapalli spent his summer trying to enact change in his hometown of Ban-galore, India by researching corruption in the local government. After surveying people at sub-registrars, government hospitals, police stations and at their homes in Bangalore, Gullapalli’s data found that of the 2,580 people surveyed, 33.8 percent were not satisfied with service, 37.98 percent were asked to pay a bribe, 38.61 percent used a middleman to get work done and 15 percent felt threatened.

Because of his report, the Department for Personnel and Administrative Reforms in India will be organizing a workshop with the top gov-ernment officials of each of the agencies Gulla-palli covered in his research to highlight issues and discuss reforms.

“I’ve always thought government, if done properly, has the potential to be the greatest force of good in the world. Innovative systems of ac-countability between the ones in power and the rest of us can help solve [its] inefficiencies,” Gulla-palli said. Gullapalli’s research was funded by the British Council, Global Youth Anti-Corruption Network at the World Bank Institute and the Lampert Endownment of the Institute for Phi-losophy, Politics and Economics at Colgate.

“The summary statistics provide an overview of the prevalence of corruption and the quality of government agencies on [different] levels,” Gullapalli said.

“By providing accurate location-based data on the administrative functioning of the government and the functioning of the political aspects, it increases the accountability of the government.”

Gullapalli worked closely with Charles A. Dana Professor of Political Science Michael Johnston, who mentored the project. Professor Johnston was the 2009 winner of the Grawmeyer Award for Ideas Improving the World Order for his book, “Syndromes of Corruption: Wealth, Power and Democracy” and is the former direc-tor of Transparency International USA.

“Working with Professor Johnston was fan-tastic. He really gives you room to do your own project and make your own mistakes. I literally felt myself getting smarter every time I talked to him,” Gullapalli said. “It’s very humbling, because he is one of the people who fundamen-tally shaped the way the world thinks about corruption.”Gullapalli, who is concentrating in Mathematical Economics and Political Science, said that his experiences at Colgate influenced his research.

“My Econometrics class with Professor Scrimgeour and Political Corruption class with Professor Johnston gave me the tools to do the research. Debate also played a big role. I’ve rep-resented Colgate at multiple international debat-ing tournaments, and when one debates the big complex issues facing the world today while try-ing to come up with nuanced solutions, it’s im-possible to not have that bleed into real life and inspire you,” Gullapalli said.

Gullapalli was also invited to present at Ban-galore’s seventh annual international conference on public policy from August 16 – 18. He was the youngest researcher to attend.

“Not one person made me aware of the fact that I was just an undergraduate student and ev-eryone present, both in my panel and through-out the conference, treated me as an equal,” Gullapalli said. “I was a little awed by the scale of the issues people were studying and trying to solve at the conference.”

Gullapalli has entered an accord with a nation-al media channel to expand his project nationally and is currently looking for sponsors. Gullapalli has also been invited to present his work at the Global Youth Anti-Corruption Network Forum and the International Anti-Corruption Confer-ence organized by Transparency International in Brazil this November and through a connection that Professor Johnston facilitated, U4 in Egypt is already discussing his location-based demand-side methodology with the Prime Minister’s advisory body to see if it can be implemented.

“For long-term reform, a bottom-up change in the behavior of the citizen and government official at the margin is a necessary component. Indeed, due to the unique nature of the demand-side, micro-level, location-based data collection, the methodology lends itself to analyses that will matter to the individual at the margin,” Gullapalli said.

Gullapalli has already begun organizing a youth movement called Youngify to impact the assembly elections and parliamentary elections that are coming up in the next two years partly using his results from this research.

Contact Sarah Chandler at [email protected].