Monday, March 8, 2021

Our faults

We are all quite aware that in Nagaland corruption is prevalent in all departments. From high level bureaucrats and politicians to people at the clerical level, we are all at it. A traffic policeman on the beat simply prefers Rs 50 bribe to Rs 500 fine. The former straightaway goes into his pocket. The latter has to be submitted along with the receipt. Better keep fifty than no profit. And what about the official who hires his not-necessarily-qualified nephew for a high paying job? We can’t have a better example than a government official who takes a bribe and hands out a contract in return – contract of constructing a road, a building or a school. And what is the result is too obvious. The road that should last for 20 years lasts for just 6 months. A bribe to the right person will enable one to pass an exam, get a driver’s license, or land a contract. So where lies the rot actually? Where is the worm of corruption actually placed? In our minds, is the straight answer! The rot is in us – in our body, in our brains and in our hearts. We are driven by forces of dishonesty and immorality. We are greedy and selfish. We turn greedier and amass more material benefits. We mean money – legal or illegal does not matter. What matters is the extent to which we possess it. In fact we are cowards who compromise on the principles of honesty and fair practice! We justify bribery when there is absolutely no justification for illegality and immorality! We turn a blind eye to the deleterious effects of corruption on society and its individuals. We don’t mind if corruption threatens to undermine the very social fabric of our society. We are irresponsible citizens who take resort to corruption so as to have works done hassle-free. We accept corruption as a way of life. We are easily tempted to malpractice. We are tempted by the pomp and show of modern gadgetry which tempts us to accept bribe and procure things illegally. We believe in making easy money and easy profits. This of course puts us financially on top of the world. But in terms of respect, honour and esteem in the society, we are gone and gone once for all. Let’s take a look at the damaging effects of corruption on the society in general and government expenditure and investment in particular. Corruption not only affects the economy of the state but also severely damages the cultural heritage. The effect of corruption on quality of public infrastructure is clearly visible after looking at our roads and buildings constructed by the Public Works Department. Corruption has effects on social welfare and human development. It reduces the availability and increases the cost of basic social services. The unwanted consequences on both the revenue and expenditure sides of the government budget are gravely hazardous. The effects on the revenue side are more recognizable. Paying bribes to reduce taxes, fees, dues, custom duties and public utility charges such as for water and electricity is a common exercise affecting the society. Bribes are also used to make illegal water, electricity, and telephone connections to have access to these facilities without paying for the services obtained. All these result in serious losses of revenue for the government. Fraud, embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds add to the losses. Corruption places severe constraints on a state’s capacity to undertake economic reforms. This is because reforms require greater transparency, accountability, free and fair competition, deregulation, and reliance on market forces and private initiative. Corruption has a direct effect on human rights and freedom straightaway comes under threat. But is there a solution to this grave problem that has snowballed and percolated into every corner of this state? The practice surely has a cure, a solution that lies within us. The first solution lies in accepting that corruption is destructive and wrong as it benefits the unscrupulous and harms others. Eliminating corruption requires a change of heart, rather, a change of many hearts that will ensure fair play and honesty. Perhaps generating a public debate regarding corrupt practices will help overcome the inhibition to discuss corruption issues. A tough hand from above can restore the sense of accountability in the lower rungs. Without doing that everything will fall flat.