As Indians with a first-hand view of the chaos, should we take the international narrative of a corrupt and flawed democracy at face value?
Corruption is the misuse of public power to benefit private interests. It has transcended and become part and parcel of every individual’s life in India. On the other side, corruption is also a by-product of an increasingly flawed democracy. Particularly, opaque political financing and corporate lobby joining hands to undermine the people’s voices and evanesce fundamental democratic ethics.
Recent international reports suggest that India may see a demise of its democracy through the corrupt practices in the circles of power. Moreover, people’s vehemence and government’s unyielding attitude has resulted in catastrophic events for India’s democracy. But as Indians with a first-hand view of the chaos, should we take the international narrative about our democracy at face value?
Heads Up! Corrupt And Flawed Democracy — Should Indians Trust The International Narrative?
- India’s slip in Corruption Perception Index 2019
- Comparing India’s corruption perception with China’s
- The types of governments where corruption is more pervasive
- Opaque electoral financing and corporate lobbying in India
- India’s domestic corruption survey 2019
- Is India a flawed democracy, as claimed by The Economist?
- The new trends in the Indian democracy
- Controversial events that give rise to the perception
There is no doubt that the strategically manoeuvered decisions and strategies by the central government have somewhere failed to provide the appropriate outcomes. Governments come, show willingness to change, fail, and then leave. That’s a recurring pattern. Then what’s the significance of the corruption and democracy index with respect to the incumbent government?
India slipped from 78th to 80th position in corruption index: CPI 2019 Report
Recently, Transparency International released the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2019 report during the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland. This year the report emphasized the relationships between politics, money, and corruption.
The average global score went down from 5.48 in 2018 to 5.44 in 2019, which is considered to be the worst since 2006.
CPI draws report on 13 surveys and expert assessments of public sector corruption. It has also taken notes where whether government leaders are held accountable or go unpunished for corruption charges. Other factors are the prevalence of bribery and also whether public institutions respond to its citizens’ needs.
Zero indicates highly corrupted countries, while ‘100’ indicates corruption-free. However, the Average score of Global Corruption Perception Index is 43. Two-thirds of the countries around the globe have a CPI of less than 50.
Comparing India with counterparts
Unfortunately, the majority of countries are witnessing no change in efforts tackling corruption. CPI 2019 has ranked India at 80th among 180 countries with a score of 41 out of 100. Consequently, India slipped two places from 78th in 2018. However, while corruption has increased it isn’t the worst on record. In fact, India’s ranking in the Corruption Perception Index saw its peak during the UPA government rule (2010 to 2013).
Meanwhile, China’s position has improved from 87th to 80th with a similar score of 41. It is an irony that China, considered a totalitarian government that restricts public affairs participations, suppresses dissent, and above all keeps decision-making out of public scrutiny has improved its ranking. India, in spite of being a much liberal state, is clubbed in the same bracket. So, what has changed that makes India stand shoulder to shoulder with totalitarian regimes on the corruption index?
Where corruption is more pervasive
According to Transparency International (TI), the analysis shows corruption is more pervasive in countries where big money can flow freely into electoral campaigns. So, it happens where governments listen only to the voices of the wealthy and well-connected. Hence, restricting big money out of the prevailing legislative landscape is imperative to ensure political decisions that serve the public interest.
“Countries, where campaign finance regulations are comprehensive and systematically enforced, have an average score of 70 on the CPI.” – Transparency International
Countries that perform well have a strong enforcement of campaign finance regulations, unlike India where electoral bonds that keep donors anonymous bring scepticism to political funding. A recent Huff Post scoop revealed how the incumbent BJP government bends rules for the purpose of political funding, a link that reaches the Prime Minister’s Office.
Opaque electoral financing and corporate lobbying
Furthermore, the TI report added that even in democracies such as Australia and India, unfair and opaque political financing and undue influence in decision-making and lobbying by powerful corporate interest groups, results in stagnation or decline in control of corruption.
Delia Ferreira Rubio (TI Chairman) said, “Frustration with government corruption and lack of trust in institutions speaks to a need for greater political integrity.”
Therefore, the Indian government needs to urgently address the corrupting role of big money in political party financing. That is the only way to curb the undue influence corporate lobbying it exerts on the political system.
Patricia Moreira, Managing Director of Transparency International said, “To have any chance of ending corruption and improving peoples’ lives, we must tackle the relationship between politics and big money. All citizens must be represented in decision making.”
India Corruption Survey 2019
In November 2019, LocalCircles and Transparency International India published India Corruption Survey 2019 report. The report, however, suggested that the corruption rate in India fell by 10%.
51% of people had paid bribes. Rajasthan stood as the most corrupt state with 78% people paying bribes, followed by Bihar, UP, Jharkhand, Telangana, Punjab, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu with 75%, 74%, 74%, 67%, 63%, 63%, and 62% respectively. Majority of these are BJP-ruled states – UP and Karnataka have BJP governments, Jharkhand changed hands from BJP to JMM in 2019 while BJP also rules Bihar in coalition with Janata Dal (United).
India is a flawed democracy: The Economist Intelligence Unit
According to the latest Democracy Index’s global ranking prepared by The Economist Intelligence Unit, India slipped 10 places from 41st in 2018 to 51st in 2019. The primary cause cited for this downtrend is “erosion of civil liberties”.
As per the Index, India’s overall score saw a downfall from 7.23 out of 10 in 2018 to 6.90 in 2019. Countries classified under full democracy have scores above 8, flawed democracies score between 6 and 8, while hybrid regimes are under 6 and over 4. Finally, the authoritarian regimes of the world score less than or equal to 4.
The Index also provides the current state of democracy in 165 independent countries and 2 territories. The index examines 5 categories – the functioning of government, electoral process and pluralism, political culture, political participation and also civil liberties. Along with India, Singapore and Hong Kong have also slipped in the democracy ranking due to ongoing protests and erosion of civil liberties.
Reasons for the perception of India as a flawed democracy in 2019
Abrogation of Article 370 and 35A- It provided Jammu and Kashmir with a special status that was abrogated and followed by bifurcation of the state into two union territories. To curtail any violence, the government flooded the valley with armed forces and also shut down the internet. Furthermore, the central government also detained regional leaders of Kashmir. Ever since August 2019, the state has been under a forced lockdown which shows no signs of relaxation.
NRC (National Register of Citizens) in Assam-The controversial exercise which aimed to check infiltration in the border state led to the exclusion of 19 lakh people from the citizens’ list inflicting chaos among the people.
CAA-NRC-NPR – Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 and government’s plan to bring a pan-India NRC (National Register of Citizens) has enraged citizens. The country’s Muslim population was left anxious, unsure and inhibitive of the government.
Protests claiming the act as anti-constitutional were dealt undemocratically by the government (specifically in the state of Uttar Pradesh under the stewardship of BJP CM Yogi Adityanath). 27 Indians have lost their lives due to inefficient and apathetic management of dissent.
Instead of pacifying dissent and listening to protesters, the government has resorted to amplifying communal tensions by disinformation and media manipulation aiming to delegitimize the movement.
Attacks on Students – India stooped to an all-time low when it saw brutal police action against citizens and students in silence. Jamia Milia Islamia University, Aligarh Muslim University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Delhi University witnessed attacks by political goons. Serious questions have been raised against the integrity of law enforcement agencies.
Digital Surveillance – In 2019, a startling case of WhatsApp spying also surfaced in public where many political parties, analyst, and experts accused the Indian government of spying lawyers, social and human rights activist, journalists, academicians and others.
Internet Shutdown – As per many reports, the government is following a new trend. It is shutting down the internet in areas where people are raising voices and standing against the government. India now ranks at the top of the global list in terms of days of internet restrictions. In 2019, the total number of internet shutdown was 167.
Religious and Caste Intolerance- Cow Protectionism, fascist Hindu nationalist policies by the RSS-linked BJP government has led to unpunished lynching of minorities in India. Perpetuated crimes and harassment against Dalits, tribal population and other religious minorities have also increased in the recent years. Inaction on complaints has also raised questions on India’s secularism.
The new trend in Indian democracy
Recent times have seen a surge in Hindu extremist politics that is polarizing communities. Many mainstay politicians hegemonize diverse regional and cultural beliefs. In fact, the divisive politics and rise of the Hindu Rashtra ideology is claimed to dilute the very fundamental fabric of the Indian constitution which bases itself on secularism.