Saturday, October 31, 2020

No governance

Our state is reeling under a steep price hike. The cost of petrol, diesel with other essential commodities has gone through the roof. The common man as such finds himself hard pressed to manage two square meals a day. But this is not what per se is the cause of concern here – inflation remains a fact of life. What is shocking is that the price rise is not a part of the political discourse in the state. One doesn’t hear the state government speak on the issue, nor does opposition pretend to agitate the matter. Leave price rise aside. Take, for example, corruption. The official auditors’ annual revelations about sleaze in the functioning of the state government invite little notice, let alone a debate. In fact, for us the possibility that a mere CAG report can threaten the chair of a chief minister in other states of the country is met with shock. Over the years we have seen chief ministers and ministers in other states, including the central government, resign over allegations of involvement in scams/corruption cases. But not even the whiff of these extraordinary events has reached us. Nor is the state government here perturbed over the emerging new public pressure on governments to perform. And for the obvious reason! Our state operates in a bubble. The state is a self-contained world which for the most part remains untouched by the normal developments beyond its borders. This has rendered us a place where successive governments believe their primary job is the management of peace and little beyond that. Successive governments have taken this philosophy deep to the heart. Nagaland this year has haltingly plodded through with all the government’s attention riveted on managing the COVID-19 pandemic. But in the process the government has got caught in the rut. Governance has not risen beyond routine. What is hard to miss is the sheer adhocism about the government work. What is more, poor governance neither becomes an issue nor provokes any protest even though it might indirectly stoke popular unrest. This in turn has contributed to the growth of a polity that finds in this situation an escape from accountability. No state government feels itself obliged to perform. And corruption which is so rife doesn’t get anything beyond a lip service. Though some governments like the previous coalition pretended some resolve but nothing came out of it. As a result corruption has become a way of life. It is typical case of fence eating the crop. When lawmakers and dispensers of justice become lawbreakers and begin shielding criminals, it is but natural for the lawbreakers not to fear punitive justice system. Corrupt have been emboldened, they can subvert the system at their will. Widespread corruption is sickening, but frightening is unabashed behavior of the corrupt. Earlier individuals were dishonest, now entire system is corrupt. Previously, corrupt practices used to be an exception, its standard behavior now. Honest are in minority, therefore misfit in this crooked system. Very few in present set-up are left with some integrity; most have lost their moral fiber. We regularly read reports of sinking of stretch of roads/highways, damaged bridges, grid stations malfunctioning, etc. But how many times, we get to hear about corrupt engineers losing their job, and contractors put behind bars. The point is despite the widespread perception that corruption is brazen in the state, there is hardly any big scam that has come to light. But a cursory look leaves one in no doubt about the extent of rot in the state. What is troubling, however, is that this has never been an issue in the state. Why will it be so? No, Chief Minister, Minister or bureaucrat will lose his job for corruption or for involvement in a scandal. People, already rendered marginal to this unedifying play of democracy also do not complain and feel sufficiently pampered when some roads are built, or at least 12 hours of electricity is given a day. And as things stand, there hardly appears to be a foreseeable way out of this vicious cycle.