Thursday, September 23, 2021

Corrupt people

It would seem that as a society we have left no stone unturned to be one of the most corrupt in the country. Whatever be the facts, relativities and perceptions, the reality is that the incidence of corruption is undoubtedly pervasive and high. Tragically, so is its social acceptability. It now stands almost sanctified. In its incidence, corruption is not unique to Nagaland. What had made it unique are the accredited causes and ascribed consequences: it is proffered as one of the main reasons for youth alienation, and even militancy. Also, a consequence has been the indictment of a people: “corruption in the psyche of Nagas”; an attitude which has now come to become an attribute. Corrupt politicians, corrupt administrators and corrupt people! These causal extrapolations are not just problematic but also degrading. Corruption in our State is not merely an individualistic phenomenon where individuals enter into unethical relations or transactions. Rather it is a dense social phenomenon in a volatile and vicious environment. Unlike elsewhere where it is generated in the sphere of business and administration, corruption here is generated and thrives in the world of political relations. It has been a part of the process of governing Nagaland which goes much beyond the transactional corruption emanating in the course of administrative decision making. When placed in the wider context of politics, Nagaland is a case study in political brokerage and deal-making which will put high street investment bankers to shame! The realpolitik of, and in, Nagaland has worked through a web of surreptitious networks created on graft. It is this which provides a fertile ground and catalyses’ everyday retail corruption. The real issue is that there is political corruption here for a reason and a purpose: it has been used to mask democratic authoritarianism as democracy. And it is to this political corruption that attention must be drawn to. It is not only corrosive for political stability, but undermines the foundations of democratic society and brings governance in disrepute. No wonder, corruption has made most of the institutions here bankrupt. The institutional structures, be it political or administrative, belittled by the lack of legitimacy and burdened with the failure to perform are now bound by corrupt practices. Today corruption has become a very particular social construct of the society, which sees it as a compulsive requirement for, and price to pay, to get to power. It has become a political necessity. All kinds of corrupt acts have been made to appear as “normal” under a given political situation and not under any particular dispensation. Over the years, the society has, at different levels, internalized the normalization of corruption and socialized the standards and even the moral principles. This has now been embedded not only in political arena but also in social spaces. If indeed this is so, then corruption will have to be dealt with at all these levels. Otherwise dealing with it as an end product is just optics: the current bunch of corrupt will be replaced by another bunch of corrupt; the reproduction of corrupt and corruption will not stop. To accuse an individual or a group, for example, could just be what is beneficial to the emergence of the new power structure; it will not be about morality but about polity. For, in the existing scheme of things, the corrupted are not “liabilities”; they were “assets”. Given this understanding of corruption and how it has been engendered, any attempt to stop it is not just welcome for what it is — a move towards better governance — but also what it signals. It is an extremely significant initiative to change the dynamic of the bonds and relationships, temporal or transitional, which have been built between the different agencies and agents. These bonds not only underlie, but also drive the political dynamics in the State. If the cleanup is accomplished at this level, it will be a big service to politics of the State and ethics of the society. The Government may do whatever it has to eliminate “individual” corruption, be it among bureaucrats or politicians. For it to be self-sustainable and not just a phase, the elimination of corruption at the individualistic level with a moralistic dimension is for the civil society to ensure. The civil society has to do engender social processes that stigmatize and not sanctify corruption.