Friday, January 22, 2021

Not vigilant

The Vigilance Awareness Week this year is being observed from October 27 to November 2 on the theme ‘Satark Bharat, Samriddh Bharat’ (Vigilant India, Prosperous India). The observance of the week commenced with the ‘Integrity Pledge’ on October 27. This year’s integrity pledge was: “I believe that corruption has been one of the major obstacles to economic, political and social progress of our country. I believe that all stakeholders such as Government, citizens and private sector need to work together to eradicate corruption. I release that every citizen should be vigilant and commit to highest standards of honesty and integrity at all times and support the fight against corruption. I, therefore, pledge – to follow probity and rule of law in all walks of life; to neither take nor offer bribe; to perform all tasks in a honest and transparent manner; to act in public interest; to lead by example exhibiting integrity in personal behavior and to report any incident of corruption to the appropriate agency.” Observation of Vigilance Awareness Week in our State assumes significance considering that we are one of the most corrupt states in the country. Unfortunately but unsurprisingly we are yet to hear about observation of the week in the State. Unlike previous years, there were also no messages from the Governor or the Chief Minister to the citizens on tackling the menace of corruption here. Unsurprising because our people have become so familiar with corruption that it is no longer a big news now. Sure, every Government had blown the trumpet of waging war against the menace of corruption, particularly on Vigilance Awareness Week in previous years. But accountability continues to remain missing here. Our ruler, whichever party it is, promises to launch all out war against corrupt officials, and to enact law to check the tendencies of unbridled greed for wealth, to bring the State out of the macabre clutches of corruption and corrupt elements, and that eradication of corruption is on top of the Government’s agenda, etc, etc., but nothing happens in reality. Today our society has taken corruption shamelessly into its stride. Unfortunately it is no longer seen as disgraceful. It no longer invokes any trouble. What begs to be seen as shameful is met with reverence and awe. Bribes have become the only logic that works. What efforts and patience and pleading cannot do, bribes do in a jiffy. There was a time when the dishonest needed to hide their faces and did their business under the table. Today, however, it is the honest who need tables to hide under. Wealth, notwithstanding the source, has become the true yard-stick of reputation; wealthy, however putrid, the true bearers of the torch. It seems that most people have lost their sense of reason; perhaps their conscience too. Regardless of what is right, we do what our neighbours do. We have become zombies who are hypnotized by an infernal potion called corruption and barely have discretion of our own. Our people appear to be suffering from multiple personality disorder. One moment we are, “I the most honest and the wisest,” and the next moment we become, “Who cares? Let me take home some quick bucks.” We talk big – oh yes – we love to talk big. We talk morals and righteousness all the time, but what do we do? Soon after we finish talking, we do filth that even devils will be ashamed of. We cry all the hoarse about corruption one moment and the next moment we are found demanding bribes. Today not only do people ask for ‘chai’ and ‘pani’ without any shame whatsoever, they do it with an air of confidence about themselves. When our brothers working in whatever capacity get corrupted it tells on the public in hundreds of ways. So much so that most of our current miseries, in one way or another, have their roots hidden deep inside the very soil of corruption. There is no doubt that corruption has taken hold of our State by the scruff of its neck. The kind of apparent inaction towards rampant corruption makes the matter all the more mysterious. Mysterious indeed is the fact that what demands action on a war footing basis seems to be silently, and at times obtusely, met with inexplicable indifference. Certainly, being corrupt by no means adds any feathers to our cap. Why then is it not met with the response it demands? What are we waiting for?