Editorial – Checking Corruption

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The report in local dailies today that the assets of ministers and legislators of the state would be scrutinised by a Central government body is welcome. But even if this was to become reality, and the findings were honest and thorough, what we have would be merely the tip of the iceberg of the entire sum of black money generated by corruption every year in Manipur. The corruption network has spread so wide and deep in the society so much so that practically everybody has been touched by it. But all the same, as they say a good initiative, like a good story, has to begin from the beginning. And there can be no better beginning than the ministers and legislators, the top echelon of the leadership of the state, who not only frame policies and programmes for the state, but also are at the helm of their execution. But our caution is, if a genuine push has to be made to curb corruption, the effort to rope it cannot end with the beginning. This effort has to be taken to its logical end, and this would entail also identifying and scrutinizing the black money networks that spread out from the legislators.

As a matter of fact, it would not anymore be possible to get the entire picture of the way money is siphoned off the system and stashed away, without first getting a grip of this huge net. Indeed, the legislators that the investigators intend to probe may have only a small fraction of the money siphoned from the system on their persons, for all the lucre would be spread out to the different nodes of the net. Each legislator would be maintaining a hierarchy of cronies who would have been enriched by the largess extended to them by the legislator in question, and the relationship between these nodes, among themselves as well as with the minister/legislator would be an unholy symbiotic one. The riches that each of this nodes make, it is an unwritten understanding, would also be considered as also belonging to the benefactors of the nodes. This relationship is fashioned ingeniously and the rich nodes would be in no position to renege, for his own continuance as someone who can access public money, would be through his benefactor. Yes, we are talking of the contractors-legislators nexus. The logic is so compelling that today a survey of candidates at every state Legislative Assembly election would reveal to the dismay of concerned citizens, that most of the candidates are either former or current government contractors who have made big money by steeping themselves in the corruption nexus.

Also not to be left at the blind spot of the kind of probe into corruption, is the state bureaucracy. They too have handles to state power, and as the saying goes: `Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely`. When we say bureaucracy, we do not necessarily exclude the police department. Indeed, in matters of minting black money, maybe this department is foremost in the list. Just a survey of the homes that these civil servants build for themselves should be enough indicator of the volume of money they possess. These stacks of money cannot remotely be thought to have been made from their known sources income, in their cases, their government salaries.

It has been said with justice that corruption is the mother of all problems in the state. Even poverty would not have led to the kind of cynicism so widely prevalent today had it not been for corruption. The poor man, if he knows he is poor not because others have stolen public welfare money, and that given the right effort and enterprise, he too can rise and climb the social hierarchy, would consider his poverty not as a given condition but as one which can be overcome. In other words, poor as he may be, he would not have given up hope. On the other hand, if he sees that others who would have been like him have risen by being party to the looting of the system, tagging along behind those in power, and that no matter the effort he puts in honestly, he cannot ever overcome his predicament of poverty, he is bound to get cynical. This cynicism is what has been eating away at the heart and soul of Manipur today. Much of the violent insurrections the state is witnessing today are also liberally fed by this cynicism. Those in position of power should for once wake up and realise that the money they siphon off will not buy them happiness for those on the receiving end of this depressing social spectrum will always be interested in dismantling the system which has allowed this blatant promotion of social disparity. Violent revolutions in history have been always about this.

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