India finds itself bracketed with countries like Philippines and Cambodia, rated as the fourth most corrupt nation among 16 countries of the Asia Pacific region surveyed by leading Hong Kong-based business consultancy firm PERC.
The Political & Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd (PERC) rated India at 8.67 on a scale of zero to 10 with the high end being the worst case of corruption scenario and ahead of the Philippines (8.9 points), Indonesia (9.25 points) and Cambodia (9.27 points).
Among the 16 countries reviewed in its latest report, Thailand was rated at 11 with a scale of 7.55, followed by China (7.93) and Vietnam (8.3).
Comparatively, Singapore was given a clean sheet with a score of 0.37, followed by Hong Kong (1.10), Australia (1.39), Japan (1.90) and USA (2.39), putting them in the top five.
In India, according to the report, civil and other local-level political leaders were found more corrupt than the national-level political leaders, with the former given a score of 9.25 and the latter slightly better at 8.97.
Indian civil servants at the city level too were rated at 8.18, worst than the civil servants at the national level (7.76).
"The issue of corruption has grown and overshadowed the second term in office of the Congress-led coalition headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh," said PERC in its Asian Intelligence report on Asian business and politics.
The government has been wracked by a series of scandals involving the sale of telecom licenses, preparations for the Commonwealth Games, a land scam involving high level military officers, and improper property loans made by state-owned financial institutions, it pointed out.
Though investigations were underway to be followed by court trials, Indians were still questioning whether or not the prime minister has the political muscle to fight graft and whether the actions now being taken were more for show than proof that the government was really cracking down on business practices that were common but corrupt, it said.
Prime Minister Singh has been put in such a defensive position that most of his recent statements have been to stress how he has not personally been involved with corruption, even though it appears that almost everyone around him was, observed PERC.
"This point is underscored by a recent WikiLeaks report that the ruling Congress Party paid off parliamentarians back in 2008 to pass the US-India civil nuclear deal," it said.
The report also noted that the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry was worried that the problem of corruption and the way it was being treated in the media could seriously hurt India's international image and scare away potential investors.
It takes two to tango and the level of corruption in the public sector would not be possible if there were not plenty of private businessmen willing to pay bribes and work the political system, said PERC.