Graft index revelation worrying

India has scored marginally better than last year on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI). But it is hardly comforting though the country scored 40 in 2016, two points more than it did in 2015. On a scale of 0-100, zero indicates a high level corruption and 100, a transparent government. India’s score is shameful as it indicates worrying levels of corruption.  The CPI is an assessment of public sector corruption - it includes only perceptions of the level of corruption in the country’s political and administrative systems. Had the CPI reflected private sector and corporate corruption too, India’s score would have probably been worse. India has performed poorly in Transparency International’s ranking of countries for corruption levels too. Of the 176 countries and territories assessed, India’s ranking was 79th in 2016, down from 76th the previous year. The drop is distressing since the country’s ranking had improved the previous year, rising nine rungs from the 85th rank in 2014. The global anti-graft watchdog’s report reveals that South Asia is struggling with serious levels of corruption.

The report draws attention to links between corruption and economic inequality and raps the Indian state for “its inability to effectively deal with petty corruption as well as large-scale corruption scandals.” Fighting corruption was an important election campaign plank of the BJP-led NDA and while Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation of high value currency late last year was aimed at tackling corruption and black money in the country, the efficacy of the move as a counter-corruption tool is unclear still. Activists campaigning for greater transparency argue that dramatic measures such as note ban are not the best way to fight corruption in the long-run and that it is steady building up of anti-corruption structures that are likely to be more effective.

When India enacted the Right to Information Act, it took an important step forward towards tackling corruption by empowering citizens to demand information. Many whistleblowers used this legislation to unearth corruption and even paid with their lives for their efforts. However, the government has not been as diligent or committed to tackling corruption. For all its grand talk on fighting corruption, the Modi government has dragged its feet when it comes to action. Although the Whistleblowers Act has the President’s nod, it is yet to be notified as law. The government is now understood to be planning to amend it in a way that its provisions will be diluted. This was evident in the amendments made to the Lokpal and Lokayutkas Act too. For a government that speaks day in and day out about rooting out corruption, this is hardly the way it should be acting.
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