EDITORIAL

Opaque Administration

Whenever the subject of corruption comes up (much more rarely these days since it is so rampant) we begin to hear the word transparent and its opposite opaque come up almost without fail. In fact, one could not be faulted for wondering whether the conversation is about corruption or about physics. In any case, many officers of the Assam government (doubtless like their counterparts in other States) are in trouble because they do not know how to explain away their assets that are far in excess of their known sources of income. There is a statutory requirement of the Assam government that makes it mandatory for government officers to file annual property returns. But apparently 237 out of 770 Assam Civil Service (ACS) officers (30.78 per cent) have been unable to submit their annual property returns for the year 2017 because they do not know what to do with property that is well beyond their known sources of income. One way out of this difficulty is the risky device of registering a great deal of land in the name of others. But this is a means of escape that is fraught with the hazard of losing everything if the person in whose name the real estate is registered decides to claim it as his own property. It is because these officers have much to hide that they are in trouble. Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who had made bold claims about combating corruption, must appreciate that the very claim is circumscribed by the desperate urge of some ministers and MLAs to increase their landed property by leaps and bounds during their brief stints of power, because they are dealing with a commodity that they have no powers to increase. The only course of action open to them is to misappropriate government land during their brief stints of power. This is something that must be opposed tooth and nail if we are to prevent what belongs to the State from being usurped by those in power.