Monday, July 26, 2021

Social audit 

It is the fundamental obligation of the State not only to weed out corruption but create an atmosphere of governance where there will be no space for unethical activities. It is also true that the people should actively contribute to eradicate corruption or to at least bring the corruption levels down to endurable levels. Indeed while taking the corrupt and corruption head-on, no administration will succeed unless it enjoys absolute public support. And here is where we as a people are lacking. No institution monitoring bribery or prosecuting the dishonest will make any headway without people’s backing. Our State has now appointed former Chief Justice of Meghalaya High Court, Uma Nath Singh as the first Lokayukta on January 31 last. But the appointment of this anti-corruption body will be meaningless unless the citizens make use of it judiciously. With Lokayukta in place, all public servants will be under the scanner and anyone can file a formal complaint and bring it to the notice of the Lokayukta against corruption and maladministration. But nothing will change without public support and involvement. Corruption hits the common people most and thus it is the common man who can and should make a difference! The people’s support by identifying crooks, locating and reporting dishonesty is a crusade – the ‘social audit’. During the last many decades, successive state governments getting a bad name for intolerable levels of corruption had tried their best to have serious damage control provisions in place. Strengthening of vigilance grid and the establishment of institutions like vigilance commission were bold steps initiated by governments and their political leadership. Right to Information Act also played a much vital role in empowering the people against exploitation and dishonesty. But sadly all these sincere efforts of the state have failed to deliver in the absence of public support. No doubt, certain elements within the system and the all-powerful corruption mafia with its moles embedded everywhere from the day one tried to weaken these organizations against graft. However, if people had avoided playing ostrich and volunteered their undaunted social audit the situation would have altogether changed. What we need to do is to organize under the banner of anti-graft organizations and counter the element of fear created by the corrupt mafia and assist anti-graft agencies in curbing corruption. Indeed people’s social audit campaign can play a crucial role in eradicating fraud in almost all fields of life but there are few areas where containing corruption is impossible without public support. Monitoring of developmental and social upliftment schemes and discouraging encroachments are most prominent areas where people’s support for transparency is of vital importance. Our water bodies, so crucial to the ecosystem, would have never collapsed to present situation if people particularly those living in the vicinity would have acted vigilantly and subjected the matter to social audit. Unfortunately, people very often do nothing. People as social animals cannot run away from their responsibilities and then blame others, particularly the authorities, for rot in the system around us. We all have to play a proactive role and as conscious citizens stand firmly against falsehood, fraud, nepotism and corruption that all leads to exploitation. Today we see people often talk and mention about flawed quality control in developmental projects and bungling in social upliftment schemes but never inquire or investigate on their own or rarely report to the concerned authorities or anti-graft agencies. Even after being empowered to know about the facts through Right to Information Act, we take almost every dishonest practice in our own stride bothering least about the long-term impact of such acts of deceit. Misuse and theft of electricity is one such glaring example that explains our lack of awareness and courage to safeguard the public assets and interests. Almost all of us might have experienced and witnessed theft of electricity in one way or the other but very few might have dared to stop or report the theft. And on occasions, anyone who mustered some courage to report such theft may have to face the anger of the offenders and the taunts of others. All this depicts the sickening image of our mindset vis-à-vis the social audit. Practically every day we helplessly watch encroachment of state assets but most of us turn a blind eye towards such brazenness and rarely report to authorities. Clearly we need to change our mindset if we want change in the system.