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Sep 16, 2005
More transparent, less international

Periodic release of its global corruption ranking by Transparency International [TI], is always attended by media animation in India. TI’s brand image and the totemic heads it chooses as country heads, automatically grants it uncritical acceptance. Using TI’s findings, social commentators, chat show hosts and parlour pundits proceed to maim the already demoralised section of upright Indians. The culpable sections of course take little notice.

In an article in Feb,2004 [ “Why be afraid of T!?” ] GoodNewsIndia had attacked TI’s loftiness and irrelevance. For example:

◊1-TI lumps town-sized populations like Finland, Norway and Iceland - which can conceivably be well-administered, so to speak, using a home PC and a team of ten- with sprawling populous countries like India, Brazil, Russia, China and the USA. Within these again, some are open societies and others are of varying degrees of opacity. TI then ranks these apples and oranges in one oracular list.

◊2-GoodNewsIndia’s greater wrath was due to TI’s approach to quantifying ‘corruption perception’: it polled itinerant global businessmen. Of course it is common to use lock-pickers to evaluate security, but the approach took no consideration of people’s daily experiences; it only gave an idea of corruption in high places.

◊3- GoodNewsIndia questioned if all countries can be treated alike without allowing for their location in development time line. For example, the US and Western Europe have waded out of muds of their own, and come clean in the last 5 or so decades. You can’t compare them with developing societies still in their quagmire. There ought to be sub-lists lists and rankings.

The Centre for Media Studies [CMS], New Delhi has been quietly addressing all these issues. Lauding CMS’s methodology, the GoodNewsIndia article suggested that we pay its findings greater attention and none to that of TI. CMS polled ordinary citizens in five cities for their experiences with day to day corruption. Surprisingly, CMS found that people’s perception of commonplace corruption was that it was lower than in the previous two years.

Since then CMS has published its latest report ["India Corruption Study 2005” downloadable as a PDF file from this link.]. In a delicious turn of events, TI has now backed CMS. Hopefully TI has given up polling visiting businessmen to pass judgment on India. While taking no credit for this welcome development, GoodNewsIndia hopes that in its time, TI will fine-tune its ranking system to correct the anomalies pointed out earlier.

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