Thursday, November 30, 2023

Trust deficit

The purists want perfection in an imperfect world. That’s the rub. Pure sunlight can give us sunburn and much worse. Distilled water is meant for batteries, not for human consumption. And who went for pure oxygen for his breath unless he was on the brink of breathing his last? Take the Indian Constitution. Almost every article has one or more ‘provisos’ intended to make it practicable; or in plainer words, make it less ‘pure’. So are the rules and regulations formulated by the state. If there is a strict rule to bar something, then surely there will be a ‘provided that’ to allow it. In this meandering confusion what do men in charge do? Conceive the predicament of those responsible for executing diverse developmental works in a fixed timeframe. They had to deliver at all costs. In carrying out the works they deviate from the procedure, take wrong decisions, and commit mistakes. But all that will be forgiven and forgotten if the big job gets done. It can be said that those who are held for wrong-doing fall into two categories – ones who made errors of judgment without any selfish motive and others who deliberately set aside rules because of greed. The state does not spare either of them. The civilians have their rules of conduct and the defense personnel their service regulations. Then there is the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, to deal with the corrupt. Laws are in place to confiscate ill-gotten property. There is the Parliamentary Accounts Committee to oversee government’s expenditure. Statutory bodies like the Vigilance Commission and the Comptroller & Auditor General are meant to keep a hawk’s eye on any misappropriation of public funds. The Right to Information Act (RTI) gives power to the ordinary members of public like you and me to demand – and receive – information from any public authority in the land. There is also now the Lokayukta, an authority at state level which deals with corruption and mal-administration complaints made by the general public. The point is that we have more than adequate provisions to fight corruption. Why then is corruption sapping our economy and enervating us as a nation? One reason is deficit of trust. Voters suspect ministers, ministers their bureaucrats, bureaucrats their underlings and so forth. We find perverse joy in proclaiming to the world that our leaders are thieves and everyone in the public service is out to rob the nation. In this milieu of suspicion, what would an average person in the government machinery do? Indeed today corruption in the country has gained a monstrous shape. It has become uncontrollable particularly in Nagaland due to non accountability in the existing system of governance. The rampant corruption has eaten into the vitals of our economy and caused tremendous damage to our assets. The funds the state receives from centre for different development projects are not utilized in full and drains out due to many leakages in the process. While observing the condition of roads, it looks as if we are living in the primitive age. Is there a remedy to this tragic situation? Indeed there is, but we will have to begin with removing the artificial divide of ‘us’ and ‘them’; the misplaced feeling that only we are honest and the rest are a pack of thieves. We have to conscientiously overcome the deficit of trust to restore the loss of self esteem that those in public service experience in their working life. Let us begin with the premise that all of us are inherently self-respecting, honest individuals and it is only because of extraneous causes that some of us fall prey to the demon of corruption. That granted; if we awaken in ourselves the pride in what we do in the cause of common good and nation building, then each of us would be able to proudly assert we are not corrupt.