One does not have much to say after hearing about India’s free fall from 72 to the 85 in the Corruption Perceptions Index conducted by the Transparency International. The reports about corruption in India have become so regular that they do not elicit any strong reaction any more. India is the world’s largest democracy and a rising power. We have a million strong army and an equally powerful navy, along with an air force that flies the supersonic Sukhoi, MiG, Mirage and Jaguars. We have mastered nuclear technology and our growth curve is on the rise, terrorism, communalism and corruption notwithstanding. So, why bother about insignificant pinpricks and the sedate annual rhetoric of the Transparency International?
Which nation is not corrupt? Even some of the toppers in the CPI list appear to be losing gloss as chinks appear in their armour. Thus, Denmark may continue to be the least corrupt country in 2008, with a score of 9.3, but this is 0.1 less than what the score was in 2007. Similarly other ‘good boys’ like New Zealand, Singapore and the Netherlands have also lost points, although they have retained their positions. And just look at Finland. From being one of the toppers in 2007 with a score of 9.4, Finland today lies in the lowly fifth position with a score of 9. Even a topnotch nation such as the United Kingdom has ceased to be within the first 15, as it slips from 12 in 2007, to 16 in 2008.
So we may stop feeling disheartened. We may not have improved but we have at least fared better than most of our neighbours. At the same time, there is no reason to feel too complacent. The situation will indeed become grave if India does not start combating corruption immediately.
A look at the CPI will prove that the poorest nations are the most corrupt. Understandably, countries like Afghanistan, Haiti, Myanmar and Somalia lie at the bottom of the index.The same connection between poverty and corruption can be made in the case of India as well.
However, India is richer than most its neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia. This puts India in an extremely vulnerable position. Since the human tendency is to shift to greener pastures, New Delhi, as the best among the worst destinations in Southeast Asia, will be the desired refuge of men from the poorer nations with higher corruption scores. Hundreds will cross the borders, get ration cards through deceit, enlist as voters by lying, and establish relations with Indians through matrimony and by other means. In other words, corruption in the Indian system is bound to be exploited by others in the country’s vicinity.
Little wonder then that one often gets to know of terrorists and criminals operating in all corners of India who have entered the country by crossing the borders. They have a good time ransacking a system already weakened by widespread corruption.
India certainly cannot afford to take corruption lightly since this grave malaise usually tends to make a system porous and rickety. With a phenomenal rise in global terrorism and fundamentalism, the geographical position of India makes it susceptible to all kinds of danger from its neighbours. India is sure to face worse days if corruption is not contained. Unchecked corruption will only ensure unchecked terrorism.
We will be only too glad if our fears are proved to be unfounded, and India stays safe. But if India’s slip in the CPI is to be taken as a warning, then the country needs to act, and act fast.