This is a lightly edited transcript of the speech I gave at Columbia University on April 14, 2012.
I would like to start with a story. A couple of months ago I was asked by the Gujarat government to take a look at the technology at the Checkposts that they have. They were trying to automate even further the checkposts, and wanted to see what recommendations I could make from a technology stand point.
So I visited a checkpost on the Gujarat-Rajasthan border. A checkpost is at an inter-state boundary, so vehicles which cross into a state have to pay appropriate taxes. The Gujarat side of the checkpost, at Shamraji, collects about 30,000 dollars (Rs 15 lakhs) a day from vehicles passing through. A kilometre down the same road is the Rajasthan checkpost. They collect 6,000 dollars (Rs 3 lakhs) from the same set of vehicles.
The Gujarat side, is completely automated and what the government was looking to do, was to fix a couple of places where there could be potential leakages, and hence pretty much eliminate any room for bribes or leakages. You drive down to the Rajasthan border, you have one person standing there, no automation and in front of us the person was basically taking bribes from truck owners to let them go through.
Rajasthan’s story is pretty much what you see replicated across the rest of India. The same checkpost story, the same thing happens even at the Gujarat- Maharashtra border.