Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why fighting corruption in Mizoram is difficult

Four-day fast by Gandhian Anna Hazare completely shook the Government of India which agreed to constitute a joint committee with equal representation from civil society to draft a strong anti-corruption bill. The civil society led by Hazare wants a Lok Pal who can investigate and bring to justice even the Prime Minister, judges, and every civil servant. The unprecedented support he got from across India shows that majority people want to root out corruption.

“Anna Hazare effect”, as it is called, was felt in far away Mizoram. Leaders from various social organizations gathered at Aizawl to support Hazare’s demand for a powerful Jan Lok Pal, citizens’ ombudsman against corruption. But the effect has not been felt beyond the glorious Aizawl city. In villages, people have not even heard of Anna Hazare or India Against Corruption movement.

It is a long off till we can hear the people of Mizoram say “Enough is enough” to the corrupt politicians and public servants. In fact, as per my understanding, these three words won’t be uttered in any near future. These are the reasons why -

First, it seems that the common people (don’t forget they are also voters) in Mizoram have a different perception of a leader. They think that a good political leader is one who can supply them money whenever they are in need. No matter how the leader does this. They won’t care. Certainly, an honest MLA or MDC would not be able to feed over a dozen of villagers from his constituency each day (almost throughout the whole calendar year) who camp in his house due to medical problems, education etc. Any leader who cannot provide his constituency people accommodation, food (remember, the daily menu must include non-veg) and help them financially is considered “useless”. They would rather prefer to vote for the leader who can provide all these things to them any time! So people won’t object to corrupt practices by their leader and the leader won’t mind siphoning off welfare funds.

Second, the general concept seems to be “Eat and let eat” (inspired by the concept “live and let live”?) where no one seems to mind corruption taking place as long as everyone is getting their share of the pie.

Third, the villagers feel the daily hardships due to lack of basic facilities such as schools, healthcare, drinking water etc but when it comes to making a choice about what they want, majority of the voters will choose “money” over facilities like a school. Money provides immediate solace to their greedy hearts and needy hands while only far sighted ones (who are microscopic minority everywhere) will see the value of a school in the area.

Fourth, there is total lack of accountability or transparency in public life. A BDO would think he is “the boss in his/her territory” and there is no thing called “democracy”. A Store Keeper of PDS godown thinks he/she is invincible. They try to “rule” the people instead of paying heed to what the people need. The ordinary people are voiceless.   

Fifth, the Village Council members think they are the king. They say that “the Ruling Party” can do “anything”, and pocket the welfare funds while the villagers actually believe that “the Ruling Party” can do anything. It is of no use to file a complaint.

Sixth, the role of the media has been weak. There is no powerful electronic media in the state which can sway public opinion. People in rural areas do not read newspapers.

Finally, it is often considered “politically incorrect” to expose corruption when the entire village or community is benefitting from the acts of corruption involving a particular scheme.

The entire country will benefit from the Anti-Corruption Law, if it comes into reality but in Mizoram a battle needs to be fought to take the baby step – that is, to create mass awareness about the negative consequences of corruption. Mizoram needs a “Hazare effect”.

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