Tuesday, June 18, 2024

What gnaws

Sombre reflections have been one of the offshoots of the devastating Coronavirus pandemic. We are not even sure if it has truly ended yet ~ recent news emerging from the WHO would seem to suggest caution before arriving at any premature conclusion. Nonetheless, chastening lessons have been handed out to those humble enough to reflect and retrospect. And on reflection, we also come to find that we were already in the midst of a pandemic even before the dreaded virus turned our world upside down and shooed people indoors worldwide. Corruption, as damaging as any virus that gnaws at the core of our society, has persistently plagued human civilisation for ages. It infiltrates nations irrespective of their economic standing, eroding public trust, hindering progress and fostering inequality. India is the 85th least corrupt nation out of 180 countries, according to the 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index released by Transparency International. Contemporary global events, including the convictions of prominent figures like South Korean President Park Geun-hye, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and even United States Senators, underscore the inescapable reality that corruption remains an unrelenting bane on societal growth and prosperity. Throughout history, corruption has taken on various forms, adapting to the changing dynamics of society. Whether through bribery, embezzlement, nepotism, or favouritism, its effects are universally detrimental. Nations struggling on the lower rungs of the economic development ladder are particularly vulnerable to corruption’s grasp, as poverty and lack of access to essential services often lead individuals to engage in corrupt practices. In these contexts, corrupt officials exploit their positions of power to extract personal gains, further perpetuating the cycle of poverty and underdevelopment. However, corruption’s reach extends well beyond economically-challenged nations. Developed countries are far from immune, with recent high-profile cases proving that even those with advanced economies can fall prey to the allure of ill-gotten gains. The varying economic, political and social conditions notwithstanding, the consequences of corruption are always profound and far-reaching. It stifles economic growth by diverting resources away from productive endeavours, undermining infrastructure development and discouraging outside investment. Moreover, it exacerbates inequality, as those with wealth and influence are more likely to escape the consequences of their corrupt actions, perpetuating a sense of injustice among the marginalised and disempowered. This is exactly what has been brewing in Nagaland for decades: corrosion of our social fabric, erosion of public trust in institutions and fostering cynicism among citizens. Either with or without merit, there have been attempts to paint the process of electioneering in the State as the original sin of corruption. There is no denying the fact that this is where the bond of corrupt links between the electors and the eventually-elected are generally established. We have seen ~ and are seeing ~ in Nagaland how, once elected, corrupt politicians and their supporters gain unfettered access to the power of civil service, contractors, government communications, even the media, and other means of in-kind support to both enrich themselves and gain an unfair advantage in future elections. This abuse has led to the entrenchment of those who are able to seize the commanding heights of power, reinforcing existing exclusionary power dynamics. Sadly, this has also put Government decision-making up for sale ~ and businesses, syndicates and non-State actors are more than happy to pay. When individuals perceive that their efforts go unnoticed and that success is determined not by merit but by connections and under-the-table dealings, they become disillusioned with the very systems meant to protect their rights and interests. This erosion of trust can lead to social unrest, political turmoil and a breakdown of societal cohesion. Again, Nagaland is a classic example here. Corruption remains an enduring stain on human society, manifesting itself in various forms regardless of economic differentiations. To combat this bane effectively, concerted efforts are required at every level of society to foster transparency, ethical behaviour and a strong commitment to upholding the principles of justice and fairness. Democracy is not a failed or failing model but a system that must be ceaselessly perfected and protected ~ because it is a system that allows for the accountability of corrupt actors.