Systemic rot

A ranking of corruption by global graft watchdog Transparency International has put India in the 84th position out of 180 countries that were surveyed. While India does not figure at the bottom of the heap and has not slipped much in its ranking over the past year, its score of 3.4 on a clean score of 10 indicates the severity of corruption in the country. Of course, India can take heart in the fact that its rank is better than most of its South Asian neighbours. But for Bhutan, the rest of South Asia figures pretty low on the corruption index. Transparency International’s ranking, however, is questionable. Not all countries that figure among the less corrupt deserve a pat on the back. Some of them are encouraging corruption in other countries. Switzerland for instance, which is the fifth most transparent country in Transparency’s listing, allows people to park illegal money in banks. No questions are asked and no information about the account holders is revealed. Several transparent countries act as tax havens too. Listing them as ‘not corrupt’ is absurd. The value of corruption index will remain limited if their role in corruption is ignored.

Transparency International has observed that the perception of India as highly corrupt has limited foreign investment flow. Indeed, investors often complain that they are tripped by bureaucratic red tape and corruption at every level.   India’s ambitions of attracting more investment will remain thwarted so long as it is perceived as a corrupt country. But it is not to ease the way for investors alone that India needs to address corruption. It is coming in the way of tackling poverty.
Billions of rupees are poured into various poverty alleviation projects and literacy and women’s empowerment programmes. If these are not ushering in the change they were expected to, this is because funds are being siphoned off into private pockets. People are having to pay bribes for services that are supposed to be free. The poor are not able to access free healthcare or purchase food grains at subsidised rates that they are entitled to because of rampant corruption.  Corruption is magnifying the impact of poverty on the poorest sections in this country. It must be rooted out.

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