December 7, 2015 Print

Photo credit: Jeevika

India has made remarkable strides in the past two decades in overcoming the socialist planning bureaucracy that crippled the country for so long, but there’s a long way left to go. India is currently ranked in 130th place among 189 nations on the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business 2015 Index, and is near last on the list for key aspects like enforcing contracts and obtaining construction permits. To help draw ongoing attention to this pervasive problem, India-based Atlas Network partner Centre for Civil Society (CCS) has created a new website devoted to monitoring the status of the ease of doing business in India.

“Government of India has initiated reforms aimed at bringing India into the top 50 ranks in the ease of doing business,” CCS explains. “Among steps already taken to improve ease of doing business in the country are the withdrawal of the requirement of minimum paid-up capital and common seal for companies, allowing single-step incorporation of companies and integration of 14 government services on an online single-window portal. Cross-border trade has been made easier by cutting the number of forms for export and import to three from seven and nine, respectively. ... Centre for Civil Society looks at the EDB reforms as an opportunity to lift lives of millions of poor both directly and indirectly; directly – by way of deregulating bottom-of-pyramid livelihoods such as street vending, e-rickshaw, cycle rickshaw and indirectly – by way of job creation in micro, small and medium enterprise sector.”

The new CCS website includes sections analyzing both the countrywide rankings and those for individual states within India. It provides a gateway to news articles published throughout the media on the ease of doing business in India, as well as compiling case studies on key issues, such as property rights for street vendors, challenges for educational entrepreneurs, and regulatory barriers for micro, small, and medium businesses.

“Both new governments in Delhi—the state and the Union—are committed to reforming the ease of doing business, the quality of public services including education, and overall transparency and accountability in governance,” wrote Parth Shah, CCS president and founder. “This environment provides us with an important opportunity to influence the next generation of reforms that we believe will set India on a new trajectory of sustained growth.”

A related project is iJustice, a public interest legal advocacy initiative of CCS that was started in the year 2013. It aims at advancing laws promoting personal, social, and economic liberties, while imposing limits on state power through strategic litigation and legal advocacy.

“We are happy to see the improvement in India's rank from 142 to 130 [on the ease of doing business],” said Prashant Narang, senior manager of iJustice. “Most of it comes from an online single-window interface with timelines for licenses, permits, and approvals.  A lot more needs to be done to achieve a slot in top 50, especially in the area of contract enforcement, which remains a challenge.”