India remains one of the most corrupt countries in the world, according to a recent report by Transparency International.
The prominent watchdog group issued its annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which scores and ranks nations based upon expert perceptions of public sector corruption. A score of 0 corresponds to a rating of “highly corrupt” while 100 means a country is “very clean.”
India garnered a score of 38, making it the 76th most corrupt country in the world out of the 168 nations surveyed. Brazil, Thailand, Tunisia, Zambia and Burkina Faso obtained the same score. More than two-thirds of all the nations examined earned a rating below 50, indicating a country’s serious problem with corruption, according to the report.
The global average was 43. Denmark topped the CPI, while North Korea and Somalia were the worst performers, earning the dubious distinction of being the most corrupt countries in the world. The United States earned a score of 76, while China fared slightly worse than India, receiving a 36.
India’s score remained unchanged from last year, but its overall position in the index improved notably compared to years past. Transparency International ranked the world’s largest democracy the 85th and 94th most corrupt country in the world in 2014 and 2013, respectively.
Some may see this as evidence of receding corruption in India. More likely, however, is that other nations have become comparatively more corrupt, improving India’s relative position in the rankings.
India’s rampant corruption remains a salient issue on the national agenda. It played a major role in deciding the country’s 2014 election for prime minister between the governing Congress Party and the opposition party’s candidate, Narendra Modi. Ending corruption represented a central theme of Modi’s campaign and his message resonated with the country’s hundreds of millions of voters who supported him.
Many attributed Modi’s overwhelming electoral victory over the Congress Party to the barrage of seemingly endless multi-billion dollar corruption scandals that came to define the incumbent party’s decade-long reign over India. Just years earlier, in 2011, public outrage over endemic corruption prompted hundreds of thousands of Indians to take to the streets in peaceful protests demanding greater accountability, more reform and substantive legislation to combat graft.
Transparency International noted the nexus between public outrage over corruption and Modi’s success at the polls, observing “the public desire for change is huge. In India…and elsewhere, we’ve seen a host of governments coming to power on anti-corruption platforms.”
At the same time, however, the report also asserts that leaders in India are “falling short of their bold promises” to fight graft. On the one hand, high-profile corruption scandals have been conspicuously absent from the Modi Administration since it took office nearly two years ago.
Low-level, everyday corruption, however, has persisted unabated, harming the country’s most vulnerable citizens.
Recent studies have demonstrated, for example, that it is India’s poorest men, women and children who are the most acutely affected by corruption because they are forced to pay bribes they cannot afford in order to obtain basic services like electricity, clean water and protection from law enforcement.
India’s CPI ranking leaves little doubt that Prime Minister Modi and his government have their work cut out for them in their campaign to eradicate the country’s pernicious corruption.
Photo by Al Jazeera English
Ronak D. Desai is a Washington D.C.-based attorney and an associate at the Belfer Center’s India and South Asia Program at Harvard. His scholarship focuses on US-India relations, international security, international law, governance and corruption. He earned joint public policy and law degrees from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Law School.