In one and a half months, the term of the current Assembly would have ended and a new government ushered in. In all likelihood the electoral mandate could end up giving the current government another leash of life, given the shape of political polarization in the state today. Things however can change quickly enough to throw up other scenarios to see the party in power shown the exit door. Whatever the case is, and whatever the successes and failure of this government be, one grave stigma will remain stuck to its legacy – that in all its 15 years in power, those at the helm, led by chief minister Okram Ibobi, did not succeed in purging the establishment of the curse of official corruption. In fact, there are enough reasons and first person testimonies to convince anyone they partook in it. The recent rush to issue appoint orders for new recruitments made by government departments just before the election code of conduct came into force, and the bribes reportedly each “successful” candidate had to pay is just the latest of these. Probably this set of leaders in their hearts would be citing the alibi of this legacy not being unique to them, and that all past governments were guilty of the same organized robbery of the state’s exchequer, but this is nonetheless an admission of failure. The legacy probably would live on and be inherited by the next set of leaders, citing in their hearts citing again the alibi that corruption has become entrenched in the society that it is now beyond them to correct. The recourse would therefore most probably be to let things be where they were so that that they too can reap their own harvest of corruption wealth.
In our own bit of resignation to this leviathan, we might even say, let it be so long as it does not touch certain vital and indeed existential values of our societies. That is, let the corrupt politicians, salaried employees and contractors in this corruption nexus, continue with their ill-gotten opulence. Let them wallow in their self-absorbed sense of importance which they think their expensive cars and villas have bought them. Let them keep their respective percentage cuts from the slices of the state’s developmental funds they siphon off ingenuously through dishonest public infrastructure investments. In this milieu of corruption in the state today we might even consider these as their service benefits and perks which they deserve. However, every conscientious citizen must stand up to protest and resist this corruption when it encroaches upon, and diminishes hope and aspirations of the younger generation. It must be realized that when this happens, what is at stake is the health and survival fitness of the society in the long run.
Indeed, corruption in certain fields not only creates eyesores of underserved opulence, but also corrodes the social fabric dangerously. This is particularly so when it throws into the winds the idea of achievement and human excellence. Wealth ought to remain as by-products of these qualities, but today the idea of achievement and recognition has come to be defined by money regardless of its colour. Under the circumstance, the premium that all progressive and forward looking societies accord only to the idea of discovery, exploration, research, diligence, creativity, etc., have all been rendered meaningless. Innovation that once marked traditional occupations is now dying a slow death, usurped by even the lowliest and least creative of government jobs. There is yet another more profound and immediate way corruption strangulates a society. It kills hope. This happens especially when bribes becomes the criteria for job recruitments. Today, children of parents of modest incomes no longer aspire for government jobs as they know it is beyond them to afford one, their bribe values having touched the sky. Can anything be as cruel and self-destructive? Perfect income equality is not possible in any society and maybe it is not desirable either for it would kill all initiatives in individuals the drive to improve. But if justice is not about a guarantee of equality in social status, it definitely should be about equality of opportunities to earn that status. The poor mason’s daughter must know it from her heart and believe without doubt that if she works hard, equips herself with good education and is meritorious, she can reach the very top. One example has already demonstrated for all of us how hope works. Once upon a time, the much sought after medical profession was out of reach of the average citizen, for selection to medical courses was an auction bazar. After the 1980s, some structural changes came about to marginalise corruption in selection, and merit was put at the fore once again. The eclipse of mediocrity that ended then is seen in the rich crop of talents in the medical profession today. Our appeal is, even if corruption cannot end immediately, let the corrupt not dare destroy hope. Let them also not dare tamper with the understanding of achievement amongst our younger generation.
Source: Imphal Free Press