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How corrupt is India? It's getting worse, index says

India dropped eight places on  Transparency International's annual corruption list by watchdog, worsening its reputation. 

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Placards showing pictures of India's social activist Anna Hazare are seen on a sidewalk during a campaign in support of a controversial anti-corruption bill in New Delhi on Nov. 28.

Parivartan Sharma/Reuters

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In a new blow to India's reputation, the rampant corruption that fueled a summer of protest has now shown up more substantially in the annual country-by-country rankings on corruption, with India sliding behind eight countries.

Transparency International’s annual index of Corruption Perception ranks 183 nations on a scale of 0 to a best score of 10. India’s score fell from 3.3 last year to 3.1 this year, bringing its international ranking down from 87th least corrupt to 95th. India’s score has been slowly eroding since 2007, with this year’s downgrade the most dramatic.

This past summer, anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare galvanized throngs of Indians to turn out in favor of strong legislation to clean up the government. A tense 12-day hunger strike by Mr. Hazare eventually forced the government to promise to bring a new bill. 

But the government is slowly drafting the legislation, and Hazare has given a new deadline of Dec. 22 before he starts a new fast.

India seems to be following a script. As noted in the Monitor this summer, rapidly growing countries such as India tend to see a spike in corruption followed by an anti-corruption backlash that ushers in greater transparency and regulation.

"There's not an economy in the world where you have had rapid economic growth and transformation of an economy without a rise – at least for a while – in corruption and inequality," Vivek Dehejia, an economics professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, told the Monitor at the time.

"You can say the growth caused the corruption, and in some sense the corruption leads to its own correction. And if you don't do that, you can get stuck and wind up in a middle-income trap," he added.

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