Corruption no issue

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Corruption has become an obsessive concern of the public in Manipur today. Though there has been no formal opinion poll, it is anybody’s guess all such polls, formal and informal, would be unanimous on this. No newspaper has not written about how corrosive corruption has been, the local tea house talks, social media chatters and every other murmur of public voice, are also dominated by expressions of disgust and despair that corruption has become so rampant in the state in the past few decades. But surprisingly, corruption has never been an issue of significance in any crucial exercise of public decision making, the most vital of these being the periodic elections to the state Assembly. The matter again is unlikely to have any significance in the forthcoming March election. By and large, those who can spend big will have the upper hand, it is as if leadership quality is measured in terms of the depth of the pockets of candidates. Wealth is the undisputed trump card, it makes little difference what the background of that wealth is. Everybody is in awe of wealth, but nobody ever enquires with any seriousness how the wealth had been acquired. So much for all the frets and fusses about corruption: indeed it is this public lack of discretion more than anything else that has legitimized and institutionalized corruption deep in the social psyche. One of the reasons for this inscrutable and incredible public behaviour is perhaps a sense of being overawed by the issue. You censure one politician, or one government official, for corruption and you probably will realize you have hit just the tip of the iceberg, so much so that it becomes somewhat unfair to just single out one when almost the entire system is corrupt. Often there have been allegations against some MLA or the other on the manner the local area development funds each legislator is entitled to had been misused. But the fact is, which legislator can volunteer to reveal where their own crores under this fund have been spent? Unlikely, which is why no politician, even in the heat of these no-holds-barred election campaigns have chosen to pursue the matter. People living in glass houses never throw stones at others, for a return stone can shatter their own houses.

But the other depressing fact is, the electorate seems condemned to select their leaders from only amongst people who live in glass houses, or to be more precise, people who can afford to build glass and marble houses. In any case, the most vehement complaints against corruption have seldom turned out to be driven by moral stance, but induced by disguised envy. The most ardent crusaders against corruption have always ended up co-opted, becoming as corrupt if not more once they have joined the officialdom’s ranks. The history of Manipur’s political leadership has been largely defined by this phenomenon. The incentive structuring of the system has been such that it has induced corruption in every heart – in active manifestation when in position of official power, and as a latent desire when the levers of power are remote from immediate access. A dilution of social conscience has resulted. Corruption today has come to be generally treated more as a service perk than moral erosion. Bribe givers and bribe takers, and so too vote buyers and vote sellers, share the same moral platform, and no longer with any remorse.

How can this dreadful cycle be broken should be the concern of all discerning citizen today. Appealing to public conscience alone will not be enough as this conscience itself has been transformed by overwhelming circumstances. If it is agreed that executive power itself is the corrupting factor, we see no other core to be tackled than executive power itself, and what better way to this than to structure checks and balances to harness misuse of power within the system itself. Whatever its drawback, there is no way the system can be done away with altogether. At best, another system can replace it, and the new system too would be exposed to the same corrupting influences of executive power. We have seen this in so many different forms, haven’t we? Two very effective legislations are today available. One is the Public Interest Litigation, PIL, mechanism, and the other the Right to Information Act, RTI. A citizens’ activism is called for to make these become truly the nemesis of official corruption. If such an activism can rekindle public conscience against corruption, and wealth comes to be qualified by the manner it is earned before it is given respectability, half the battle would have been won already.

Source: Imphal Free Press

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