One of the most regularly advanced arguments in favour of the BJP/NDA government at the Centre by its fervent supporters is that compared to the Congress-led UPA-I and UPA-II governments (2004-14), which were neck-deep in corruption, it is pristine pure.
However, the Berlin-based Transparency International (TI), an independent NGO which measures the incidence of public corruption in 180 countries based on the perceptions of experts and business people, says that official corruption has increased over the past year. TI’s latest Corrupton Perceptions Index (CPI) 2020, published on January 29, shows that with a score of 40/100 (0=absolutely clean and 100 absolutely corrupt), India is ranked #86, i.e, less corrupt than 94 countries but more corrupt than 85. In 2019, it was #80, i.e, public officials have become more corrupt. Rwanda (#49) South Africa (69), Argentina (78) and even China (78) are perceived as less corrupt. The only consolation is that Sri Lanka (94), Indonesia (102), Pakistan (124) and Bangladesh (142) are more corrupt.
Transparency International’s CPI should be read together with the Word Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index. In the latest EoDBI 2020 published in October 2019, India ranks #63 among 190 countries and has moved up by 14 spots this year. In 2015, India was ranked #130.
But before uncorking the champagne, please note that the EoDBI 2020 survey for India is restricted to Mumbai and Delhi where access of businessmen to the courts and media is relatively easy. In other cities and towns where itchy palm netas and babus are the rule than exception, the #130 ranking is probably more accurate. Consider this: EoDBI 2020 ranks India #136 for starting a business; #154 for registering a property; #115 for paying taxes; #68 for trading across borders and #163 for enforcing contracts. On the Human Development Index 2020 of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), India is ranked 131 out of 189 countries. Connect the dots!