Brij Nath Betab
Resolutions have become an integral part of New Year celebrations. Though many of us make resolutions only to break them or forget those within the first few days or weeks, yet these resolutions express our deep desire to endeavor for a better tomorrow and celebrate the onset of a new lease of life. The message is Celebrate life. The eternal message of celebrating the ephemeral gives humans the hope to exist. Be it the global fight against the deadly virus of Covid 19, or a country specific task of halting an adversary’s expansionism, hope will always sustain a better tomorrow.
As we bid farewell to 2020, each one of us must have resolved to do something new or something better. Each one of us must have made a wish for the year 2021 that has just ushered in. By wishing each other a happy New Year we wish that the New Year brings us joy, happiness, prosperity, good health and abundant wealth. As citizens of this great nation Bharat, our foremost wish today is that our brave hearts deployed in Ladakh region return home sooner and safe. As citizens of this world our wish is that humans are rid of Corona.
However, I for one, have a different wish, beyond the above good wishes. I wish that in 2021we are rid of a different type of plague. This plague in common understanding is known as corruption. Corruption is a global problem and the world united against this menace when in 2003 the United Nations adopted a convention and one hundred and forty countries became its signatories after it came into force in 2005. India too is a signatory. Broadly speaking corruption means misuse of official position and also includes bribery, undue favor, nepotism and Malpractice. The menace is not confined to one particular region or society but is a worldwide problem and its complications are grave for societies. If Corona kills humans, corruption kills humanity. Former Secretary General UN Kofi Annan termed corruption as plague that violates human rights. The severity of this plague cannot be described in better words than what late Kofi Annan wrote. “Corruption is an insidious plague that has a wide range of corrosive effect on society. It undermines democracy and the rule of law, …and is a key element in economic underperformance and a major obstacle to poverty alleviation and development”.
In our U T the news about Anti Corruption Bureau proceeding against a particular government servant for possessing disproportionate assets keeps on trickling every now and then. The news does not bother us much as corruption is so deep rooted in our society that it has now become part of our life. We have become so used to it and many a times one considers it better to pay a bribe and get the work done, despite knowing that paying a bribe is equally punishable. But bribery plays wonders particularly for those who either have no resources to seek justice or do not have the strength to follow their genuine case for a long period of gestation or maybe they confront a chronic corrupt person.
Corruption is so rampant that some recent cases indicate that well off persons and highly paid Government servants are so overtaken by greed that they amass property and wealth beyond all limits .The share detail of acquired property enlisted in a charge sheet filed by Anti Corruption Bureau ACB, in a recent case is very alarming beyond being shocking. The amassed wealth includes real estate property at a dozen of places and a fleet of luxurious cars. And all this has been amassed when the UT is facing law and order problem. One wonders if militancy facilitates corruption. Well ACB may have to burn midnight oil to succeed as we cannot pronounce a person guilty unless proved, although we also have to remember that there can be no smoke without fire.
The most important question is how can any official hoodwink all the agencies and for many years and acquires properties at a dozen of places. The apparent show of wealth with so many costly cars should have been the talk of the town.
Every government servant / functionary is supposed to file yearly property statement. Every citizen is bound to file Income Tax Return I T R. No official / employee/ government servant works in isolation. Then how is it that someone escapes all the watch towers.
Corruption in our UT particularly is more dangerous as with reference to Kofi Anan’s observations two things are clear. One is that Corruption undermines government’s ability to provide basic services and the second one is that it hurts the poor disproportionately. To put this in the light of these observations it is the corruption of varied proportions that have destroyed the social fabric and divided our society. Corrupt officials become rich and those who would otherwise be the beneficiaries of government allocations and schemes are not only deprived of the legitimate benefits but this deprivation in our society has lead to encouragement of anti social elements who blame governments for their plight. It is corrupt system that becomes a catalyst of breeding anti national sentiments, because the benefits of government schemes are not reaching to the intended target groups.
Corruption in our times has got broader meanings and includes land grab, tax evasion, employment scams bank frauds and these have assumed great proportions. Rigging of elections is nothing but a sort of corruption to manipulate the popular franchise to stick to power.
In India corruption has unfortunately become part of the system. From corruption at the political level to bribery at the executive level, the menace is such that many big politicians and top bureaucrats have had to face justice and go to jail. Shameful it may sound but the fact is that so called big and tall leaders have been put under the scanner with few still in jails.
Many in our society believe that corruption is a top down phenomenon. They believe that corruption could be eradicated only if we are able to clean the political system. Many believe that demonetization was aimed at that. The digitization of Government allotments / schemes and the direct transfer of funds through digital portals to beneficiaries has largely helped in plugging the lope holes but in a country of our population size, some unscrupulous elements would always manage to play the trick.
As life in the UT, particularly the Valley is disturbed due to militancy, who knows the corrupt may be pleasing someone to purchase peace and protect the booty. And the billion dollar question is will peace return to Kashmir when corruption is allowed to flourish. It is under these circumstances that agencies like the Enforcement Directorate, NIA and ACB have a task at hand in the country. Going by the past history, one would wish that these organizations keep pouncing and pounding upon the corrupt as in the past. All the organizations are empowered by many stringent laws but the political interference and delay in getting the cases to logical conclusions needsto be taken care of. It is important that whistleblowers are sufficiently rewarded and human intelligence is put to use to net the corrupt.
In Our U T the District Development Council and Panchayat members could play a crucial role in curbing this menace. Since they are a direct link between the Government agencies and the public, they can keep a close watch on sanction and execution of development works. They are our new hope and in the New Year one would wish that they in no case should fail the society. And to make them successful a one line resolution for all of us could be a game changer. And the resolution could be that ‘This year I shall work towards eradication of corruption in the society’.
Brij Nath Betab