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India is a weak democracy: Study

May 23, 2004 16:06 IST

India is a "weak democracy" due to corruption and lack of accountability in its public institutions, according to a study.

The Global Integrity Report, prepared by the US-based Centre for Public Integrity after a yearlong study of 25 countries, has put India in the "weak" category on a 'public integrity index', which is a measure of the existence and effectiveness of laws and institutions that promote accountability and limit corruption.

Giving a timeline of corruption over the past two decades in the country, the report stated, "The absence of any meaningful law to monitor the funding of political parties has been a glaring limitation in the Indian electoral/political system."

There is also a "clear lack of transparency" about the source of party funds and there is no provision for mandatory disclosure of accounts statements, it said.

The report further said a major bottleneck in the Indian democratic and legal framework is a lack of transparency about the functioning of the government.

"This lack of transparency empowered the bureaucracy in significant ways and paved the way for abuse of power," it said.

The study found that while powerful laws were in place in India to deal with corrupt practices, the challenge lay in their effective implementation. "The system as a whole does not seem to have effective checks in place to prevent or tackle corruption.

"The war against corruption is today largely waged by a few isolated individuals, select citizen groups, a sprinkling of committed officers and the judiciary."

On the Right to Information Act, 2002, the report said, "The bureaucracy entrusted with the responsibility of making the act operational has delayed the entire process and created more obstacles in the process in the name of ensuring fairness and justice for all."

The Global Integrity Report, prepared by a team of over 150 social scientists, journalists, researchers, writers and editors, in fact, found that not one out of the 25 surveyed countries could be given the top ranking of "very strong" for anticorruption practices.

"This study shows that no country -- regardless of wealth, size or population -- is immune from corruption," noted Charles Lewis, executive director of the Centre for Public Integrity, a non-profit organisation that conducts research on public policy issues in the US and around the world.

Of the five tiers -- very strong, strong, moderate, weak and very weak, just six countries ranked "strong."

The US finished first, followed by Portugal, Australia, Italy, Germany and South Africa.

Seven countries -- the Philippines, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela and Ghana received the "moderate" ranking, while India, Nigeria, Nicaragua, Ukraine, Indonesia, Namibia, Turkey and Russia ranked as "weak."

Guatemala and Zimbabwe finished in the "very weak" category.

"Corruption cannot thrive in an environment where the public is informed as to the true extent and nature of abuses of power -- sunshine is the best disinfectant, as the saying goes," Lewis said. "This new approach will enable the public to identify weaknesses in institutions and laws that could be strengthened."

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