Human Rights Diary - December 2012

Matter of shame

The fact that India is among the world’s 100 most corrupt countries will not cause surprise to those who live in the country, know that there is an illegal and immoral price to be paid for every service that one is legitimately entitled to and are flooded with news of scams and scandals every day.  The Transparency International’s annual index of corruption assigns the 94th rank to India among 176 countries surveyed by it.  It shares that position with countries like Greece and Colombia.  There is a slight improvement in its position relative to last year but this is because of a methodological change in the survey.  It may also be because other countries are becoming more corrupt.  The reality and extent of corruption in social life remains much the same. The TT’s index measures perceptions of graft rather than actual levels of corruption which should be worse.

The least corrupt are the small and rich countries like Denmark and Finland and the most corrupt are failed states like Sudan and Somalia.  Most developing countries are in the lower mid-ranking positions.  China and Sri Lanka are at 80 and 79, but Pakistan is worse than India.  China’s ranking is worse than last year.  It is poor comfort to realize from the rankings that corruption is a worldwide phenomenon.  The cost of corruption is high in moral, political and economic terms.  That some of the more corrupt countries enjoy a high economic growth is also no consolation.  In the longer term corruption can only weaken economies, polities and societies.  TI has noted that high levels of corruption have hindered global economic recovery.  It has also observed that those stuck at the low levels are those where the political elites are unwilling to address the problem of corruption seriously. This is very true about India.

One encouraging sign is that corruption has started unsettling people all over the world and there are protests in most places, even in authoritarian countries like China.  In India while the movements against corruption are gaining increasing recognition, there is also a worrying and contradictory trend of increasing resignation.  Those who are accused, an even found guilty of, corruption, are also more nonchalant and defiant.  These are not good signs because corruption has to be fought at personal, social and political levels without the least compromise.

Deccan Herald, December 13, 2012

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