By Bidhayak Das Purkayastha
In recent times, if we go through newspapers and news telecast by local TV channels, the stories that make headlines are those of scams and corruption. Every day or the other, government officials of various departments, right from APSC to Social Welfare department, Agriculture to Forest department, Irrigation to Police department, and many more are arrested and even caught red-handed while taking bribe. In each and every government department and public sector undertaking, a perceptive decline of ethical, moral, social and spiritual values has taken place all over the State. This degradation has become a hindrance to the progress of various States and the tion as a whole.
The stories of corruption in Assam remind me of a discussion that took place five years back in the capital city of Tamil du between me and a group of renowned faculties of a prestigious technology institute. It was a tea-table sort of discussion, in which the topics varied from politics to development, religion to education, culture to sports. The other members expressed their inquisitiveness to know the reasons behind the backwardness of Assam and Northeastern region in comparison to the other regions. I tried to explain and answer to their queries, highlighting the problems of negligence by the Centre, linguistic and religious atrocities, insurgency, lack of educatiol facilities, poor industrial growth, lack of medical facilities, etc. Listening to my clarifications, one of my friends in the group remarked, “You have missed a vital point, that is corruption.”
“Corruption has become an integral part of our democracy. Not a single State of India is free from its clutches, the only difference is the rate and grade of corruption,” he added. For instance, he cited the example of South India as a whole, where 80% of government fund, revenue and other sources of income generated are utilized for development of the States while 20% of the fund goes to the pockets of concerned officials, politicians and their agents. But in case of Assam and other Northeastern States, the reverse is in practice, which is the root cause of all backwardness. He also pointed out another important and interesting fact that the people of South India are politically conscious. They change their State governments from time to time. As a result, the vision and mission of every government, whichever party comes to power, is to work for the development of the people and the State to the best of ability so that the common people accept them and give them another term. So a competitive spirit develops among political parties to chalk out their strategies and plans with which they want to proceed in order to enhance and develop their State in the five years they are given.
Corruption nullifies all sincere efforts and planning designed to march ahead in the path of development. India being a member of the Third World has received billions of dollars of loans and aid for all-round development. As per the World Bank, India with 17.5% of the total world population had 20.6% share of world’s poorest people. In Assam and other States of India, the functioning of government departments has been designed in such a fashion that corruption exists from grassroots level to ministry level. It is this system that helps politicians and their agents, bureaucrats and officials to open Swiss Bank accounts.
It will not be wrong to say that the general tendency and weakness of human beings is to place persol gain above all. The policy makers are responsible for creating a favourable atmosphere in which this tendency has flourished and reached the point from where it now permeates every sector of Indian society. Official chair and power is now considered a ‘marketable commodity’ to be bargained and not as a sacred trust. Corruption has become an economic necessity in lower and middle levels of bureaucracy. Government officials are salaried persons, their purchasing powers are limited; but by virtue of their ‘chair’ they gather a valuable ‘asset’ – their official power. They use this asset as a weapon to extract money. In the higher level of bureaucracy, corruption is more often a ‘social necessity’ than an economic one. Top bureaucrats are still considered prominent figures of society, so they normally strike friendships with persons of the affluent class, business tycoons, politicians, etc. As they move and blend together with this elite class, they live an extravagant life, which is well beyond their legitimate means. The end result is to resort to corruption.
Black money plays a vital role in the country’s politics. Political eminence is determined by the ability of a party/politician to accumulate party funds not by the qualities of statesmanship he or she possesses, but through nexus with corporate giants, bureaucrats and middlemen. This trend is not at all a healthy sign for the State and country to march ahead, rather it makes the socio-political environment a poisonous one. This system prevents getting ‘the right people for the right job’ and welcomes unwanted persons who have no dedication, determition, honesty and commitment towards society.
The powers-be should give emphasis to develop new policies with transparency and accountability. New standards of official honesty and ‘dignity of chair’ should be introduced. Faulty rules and regulations should be replaced by people-friendly ones. Above all, it is the mindset of the people that governs the path of success. If the people really want a change in the socio-political-economic system, then definitely they will try to find out means of transformation. Once the people decide to do so, they will achieve it at any cost and no force on earth can resist them, because there is an end to everything as every dark night is followed by a new dawn.
( The writer is a Social & Human Rights Activist and can be reached at 9435484221 / 8761016660 ).