By Anuraag Srivastava
In the recent rankings of Transparency International’s Global Corruption Perception Index, India has been ranked 81st, making it one of the ‘worst offenders’ in the Asia-Pacific region. Transparency International releases this ranking every year to evaluate the level of political corruption as well as infringement of freedom of the press and democratic values the international businesses and country experts perceives of the country. In the latest report, India attained a cumulative score of 40, which is the same as given by last year’s index. However, India has slipped two positions from last year’s 79 to 81 in the list. This is on account of Lesotho, Trinidad, and Tobago raising their score and moving up by 1 position each, pushing India to 81. India is ranked 3rd among the BRICS nations; just behind South Africa (71) and China (77). Brazil secured 96th rank while Russia was placed at 135 on this year’s list.
How does Transparency International evaluate corruption perception?
Transparency International prepares the corruption perception index (CPI) by aggregating data from a number of different sources that provide perceptions of businesses as well as country experts about the public sector. For this year’s index, Transparency International evaluated 13 sources to determine the score of each country. A country has to be evaluated by three sources to find its name in the list. The data sources scores are standardised on the scale of 0-100, where 0 is the highest level of perceived corruption and 100 is the lowest level of perceived corruption. This standardised score is then converted into CPI’s own scale of 0-100 to reveal the actual value of the index.
CPI does not evaluate the perception of corruption independently; rather it uses multiple sources to create its index. Hence, the performance of any country in this index depends on the sources used for the evaluation. For this year’s evaluation, India was evaluated on the basis of nine sources. One of the sources, IMD World Competitiveness Ranking 2017, observed that bribery and corruption rose marginally in comparison to last year, while ethical practices in the public sector also showed a decline. The rankings noted that tax evasion is a major problem plaguing the country and needs immediate attention as Tax to GDP ratio falls.
Bertelsmann Foundation Transformation Index, another source, pointed out that although India has witnessed a significant transformation from the period of United Progressive Alliance (UPA) which saw a number of major scams being unearthed, Narendra Modi led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) still has a long way to go. It stated that despite many positive developments in economic front for the NDA government, the growth is still not inclusive and hasn’t been able to lift millions of people living out of poverty. The report also noted that there has been an increase in hardline Hindu nationalistic groups and many incidents of mob lynching across the country have disturbed the equilibrium of Indian society.
PERC Asia Risk Guide, which also contributed to one of the lower scores for India’s corruption perception, observed that current corruption perception of India led by NDA government is certainly better than what existed during the UPA reign. However, there has been deterioration of this perception in the last twelve months because the new government hasn’t been able to combat corruption in the way the country and the international community had hoped for. Graft remains a problem and has become virtually systematic at all levels of the society. Vyapam scandal and murders of journalists also did not help India’s perception in this case. The Liberal Democracy Index, as prepared by Varieties of Democracy, which also gave one of the lower scores in CPI, noted that the deliberation and decision-making process in India has been declining. India has fallen to a dismal 70 in this index and the report noted that it is a surprise as India has historically been known as a strong pluralistic democracy, which now seems to be threatened.
Another source, World Justice Report’s Rule of Law index, noted that there still exist a significant number of cases of corruption, misappropriation of public funds, and bribery in India. The World Justice Report also observed that India has been struggling to uphold the values as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of United Nations. The order and security situation in India is also precarious as many cases of atrocities against the religious minorities and infringement of their rights has been reported since the new government has come. This is responsible for the decline in the index. The cumulative effect of these sources resulted in India being named as one of the ‘worst offenders’.
The way ahead
The chances of India rising significantly in the rankings seem bleak. The methodology that CPI uses ensures that a country is not only evaluated on the basis of political corruption, infringement of human rights, and freedom of the press but it is evaluated also on the basis of how risky the economic environment is. The recent revelation of an 11,000 crore fraud involving Nirav Modi and Punjab National Bank does not bode well for the perception of transparency in public sector banks in India. This is especially true when Indian banking system continues to struggle with the rising non-performing assets that have adversely affected bank’s lending power. This, in turn, affects small businesses and micro enterprises as well as foreign investments that can only prosper in a healthy economic environment. This will certainly get reflected in next year’s ratings.
However, India should focus on long-term measures. Insolvency and Bankruptcy code and the Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill are the steps in the right direction. A swift passing of proposed Fugitive Economic Offender Bill would help to assuage any fears that may exist around this issue and would send a message to the international community that India is serious about fighting corruption in its public sector.
The story of Lokpal
Lokpal was created as an institution to keep a check on corruption that might plague the political system. The appointment committee of the Lokpal consisted of the Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, Leader of Opposition, Chief Justice of India and an eminent jurist, as per the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act. However, in 2014 elections, there was not a single opposition party that secured 10% of the votes which meant that there was no leader of the opposition to the Lok Sabha. The government thus delayed the appointment on the pretext that appointments can only be made after certain amendments were passed for the same act. However, the Supreme Court brushed aside government’s concerns and directed them to make the appointment promptly. Thus, finally, the Government announced that appointment meeting will be held on March 1, ending the delay to this process. This is a positive development as it would ensure effective monitoring of corruption in politics.
There have been increased incidents of violence, which is worrisome for India. The government needs to ensure that the fundamental rights of every citizen are protected and it takes strict action against any person involved in a communally motivated violent incident. Maintaining silence over such issues often create a misperception in the international community that could further affect the rankings. If the government does take gradual and concrete steps to make India corruption-free, then surely, in the long run, the rankings are bound to improve.
Featured Image Source: Pixabay
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