There is nothing much to dispute in the proposition that corruption is at the root of most ills of our society. Even the question of law and order can be seen as hinging on corruption a great deal. For corruption is not just about certain men and women in position of official power aggrandizing themselves, but also equally, if not more, about their acts destroying the just order of the society, where hard work, merit and enterprise are the key to success and status in the social hierarchy. In this way, much of the trouble that Manipur faces today is retribution for all the sins that those in various positions of state power over the decades have endlessly piled up. Moreover, not only does corruption turn the idea of justice upside down, it also ensures gradually but certainly that the credibility of the establishment is surrendered ultimately. Can anybody doubt then how crucial this is in any serious project of society building?
It is true that official corruption is endemic and widespread in Manipur. There is practically no department in the government left today where this corrosive culture is alien. From the very top to the very bottom of the official hierarchy, nothing moves unless lubricated by corruption. Although it is no consolation, it would however be wrong to suggest this disease is specific to Manipur alone, or for that matter, the northeast. There is nothing to suggest that the most corrupt politician or bureaucrat in Manipur or northeast would have more black money than many of their counterparts in other parts of the country. It is true, a former chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Gegong Apang, has been arrested for involvement in a Rs. 1000 crore PDS scam, but nobody would believe that there are no such politicians say in Uttar Pradesh or Bihar or New Delhi. The ongoing scandalous Commonwealth Games affairs, or the kind of wealth the Uttar Pradesh chief minister flaunts around, are just a pointer that the scale of corruption elsewhere would make corruption in our region akin to child’s play. Corruption, it seems is engraved in the DNA of the Indian political system. In fact, according to an estimate, 60 percent of the Indian economy is black. The 9 percent growth that the country is proud of today, is accounted for only by the 40 percent which is tax paid. The expanding Indian GDP amounting to an estimated 3.5 trillion dollars today would probably have been much closer to China’s estimated 9 trillion or the US 14 trillion had it not been for this.
But as we have said before, this should be no alibi for the corrupt in Manipur. The other states of India are much more equipped to balance out the ills of corruption, for they also have other very strong sectors and enterprises autonomous of the government. In Manipur, the government is not just about governance alone, but is also practically the prop for all other sectors of the state’s economy. This explains why the Manipur economy literally collapsed when government employees’ salaries were irregular in the early part of the last decade after the pay hike for state government employees in the pattern of the 5th Pay Commission recommendation for Central government employees, without first a financial pledge from the Union Finance Commission. Since this is the case, ending or at least curbing official corruption in Manipur is not just about soul cleansing. It is more importantly about regaining the fabrics of the society that once made it vibrant and strong. It is about the social organism winning back the lost belief in itself. This last point is very important, for today, every indicator suggests the best of Manipur is turning sour and abandoning itself. The exodus of talented people from the state because life has become impossible is just a metaphor of this growing cynicism. It would probably be difficult to convince those at end of the social spectrum who are benefitting from perpetrating the corruption culture, but the fact is, as long as this culture is allowed to continue, in direct and indirect ways it will ensure peace in Manipur remains elusive. The ever increasing number whose futures have been condemned by the system will remain the willing candidates waiting for their time to take violent revenge on the system which has been so mercilessly unjust to them. In other words, this agenda of fighting corruption is not just in the interest of those who have become victims, but also those who are benefitting from it. The sense of social justice fostered by the belief that hard work and merit pays, is one of the most keys to peace. For then, not only would those who succeed in the race be prouder of their achievements, but those who lag behind will not be bitter. Importantly, the latter would also not be deprived of the hope that they can always continue to strive harder to emerge on top the next time.