At the foothills of the Himalayas lies the rural district of Jhanjharpur. Located on the banks of the River Kamala, this is a fertile region for agriculture. Yet with little money for irrigation or equipment, life remains a daily struggle for the many small-scale farmers.
Take Murali* for example. He wanted to expand his business with new seeds and a pond, but lacked the funds to do it. Like many others, he saw no option but to apply for a government agricultural subsidy.
Yet instead of granting money, Murali says, the official demanded it – refusing to process the application unless Murali paid a bribe. Unable to pay, Murali left empty-handed. He returned many times, but nothing changed.
“It is common for villagers to be harassed when making applications for subsidies,” says Ashok Kumar Singh of Transparency International India. “Many are scared to speak out – we’ve heard of cases where those who threaten to expose the corrupt officials are then arrested on made-up charges.”
We met Murali at one of our community trainings. Visiting rural communities, we offer a space where people can share their experiences of corruption, and give them the skills they need to uphold their rights.
After Murali told his story, we advised him to take advantage of his right to information, and demand an official update on the status of his application.
When the first request remained unanswered, we helped him appeal, escalating the case to the Divisional Magistrate. Looking into the matter, the magistrate instructed the release of the entitled subsidies to the farmers with immediate effect.
Thanks to Murali, 50 other farmers received their full subsidies – all without having to pay any unofficial fees.
“The case has had a huge impact,” says Ashok. “Officials are now aware they’re under scruntiny, and villagers are ready to hold them to account if they abuse their position.”
As for Murali, he’s made it his personal mission to ensure the agricultural office remains clean. He now volunteers with Transparency International India and continues to share his story at workshops, inspiring others to take action against corruption.
*Name has been changed