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Systemic Corruption

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Although most of the complaints about misuse of government agencies by ruling parties these days are motivated by political reasons, there is no doubt that an ugly nexus has always existed. The tradition of ‘encounter specialists’ that were used to get rid of political opponents, as portrayed excellently in the movie ‘Ab Tak Chhappan’, continues in multiple ways with events occurring on regular basis to remind us of the phenomenon. Unfortunately, even the media has been part of the problem, choosing to cherry-pick events based upon the political colours of the perpetrators.

This selective perception is one of the primary reasons why this long existing problem has not been dealt with in the required manner. Had, for instance, the shocking instance of police officials being behind the ‘Antilia explosives’ case taken place in a BJP run state, it would have become an international cause célèbre, ‘exposing’ the authoritarian nature of the ‘Nationalist Hindu Party’. But Maharashtra is ruled by a non-BJP government, so the outrage is entirely missing. The same applies to the phone tapping scandal that has hit the Congress Government in Rajasthan, and the gold smuggling expose in Kerala that has connections with the LDF Chief Minister. The complete collapse of law and order, as well as governance, in West Bengal, gets only passing mention when things cannot be entirely ignored. What the media is all worked up about, these days, is the assault on a Muslim youth in a Hindu temple.

For as long as violence and corruption are considered legitimate weapons for a certain section of the political spectrum and verboten for ‘upstart elements’, this weakness in the system will continue. While political and state violence is practiced to obtain power and intimidate opponents, at the grassroots it results in carte blanche for small time politicians and officials to indulge in land grab, scams of various kinds involving government funds and schemes, widespread bribe taking, etc. Nobody is shocked any more when raids on the homes of even junior officials reveal assets in the hundreds of crores of rupees.

Unfortunately, even the civil society institutions that claim to fight for citizen’s rights, transparency and good governance, are riddled with corrupt operators interested only in obtaining foreign funds – willing to serve even anti-national interests if paid well enough. This has led the general public to put its faith in more conservative elements that promise to abide by traditional, more recognisable, values. However, by not acknowledging the overall decline in social values, neither side of the political divide is being able to deal with the problems of governance that lead to this corruption. Ultimately, this will not happen till there is greater awareness of the problem, itself.