Millennium Post

Mitigating corruption

Sensitive governance emanating from devoted education system can help reducing systematic malpractices

Mitigating corruption

A month is over, and who remembers the crematorium roof collapse of Sunday, January 3, 2021 in Ghaziabad, except the grieving families of the 24 deceased. For all purposes, it is now off the people's radar! The roof that was freshly built just two months back, collapsed. Ask anyone, anywhere, they would enlighten you how the major part of the allocations in construction and repair contracts is siphoned off. In a few instances, that too out of internal bickering, some cases are investigated and a long-drawn process follows.

India stands at 86th place in the Corruption Perception Index, brought out every year by the Transparency International for 180 countries—a fall from 80th place in the previous year. The common man in India accepts corruption as a way of life; he has to live with it. In the roof collapse case, there was routine official activity during the first couple of days, what followed included relief measures, medical teams, expression of shock and grief by dignitaries, accusations by opposition parties, ex-gratia relief amount announcement and all the familiar stuff. Those responsible to maintain the quality and completion of construction of the project promptly became active. Municipality officials pleaded ignorance on having received any complaints, but hinted to have a relook into the files whether these really exist.

Have all of us not grown up listening to innumerable building and bridge collapses, and people dying? Are we not witness to newly constructed roads washed away within days and months? Is water logging not common in metros? Things have become routine to such an extent that people suffer silently, they are convinced that they have to live with blatant corruption, inefficiency and unconcern. FIRs, suspensions, inquiries, charge sheets rarely generate any confidence for justice. Even in blatantly clear cases of shameless corruption, officers may get full support from their brotherhood, and the media would lose interest within days. The kith and kin of the dead shall live a life of grief, deprivation, and emotional insecurity. Who knows how many children would be left to fend for themselves, forced out of schools and colleges, their dreams collapsing completely. All that the families would get is an ex-gratia amount of a couple of lakhs but that is not enough. And who knows when they would get it, whether in full or with cuts?

While I was going through the media reports on the roof collapse and deaths, I found a brief mention of suicide by a 32-year-old teacher in Tripura, far away from Ghaziabad. He was one amongst 10,323 teachers appointed by the State Government in 2014, the appointment was quashed by the High Court, and the Supreme Court upheld the High Court verdict. He too, like others, was left to fend for himself. Think of those who had worked hard to compete, followed the righteous path, but have to suffer only because of the irregularities committed by others within the system. Appointment as a government school teacher is a very coveted and sought-after position throughout the country. Unfortunately, for over the last two decades, these are either inordinately delayed, or taken to courts for irregularities; and that could linger on for years. This savage inefficiency coupled with corruption, inflicts immeasurable pain and agonises young aspirants; and devastatingly demoralises them. There are lesser instances of irregularities in systemic corruption being taken to their logical end. A five-time former Chief Minister and his 51-year-old son were sentenced to 10 years in prison after they were found guilty of corruption in the recruitment of 3,206 school teachers in the year 2000. The Court found these two and 53 others guilty of tampering with the properly selected list. Should this case not have become an eye opener? It could not, and the answer could be traced back in words of Gandhi ji. In response to a query made before independence 'what is the greatest problem of this country', his answer was 'It is the callousness of the intellectuals'. It has only enhanced itself after independence. Civil society remains aloof from concerns that could really help the weak receive fair treatment and justice.

A compassionate, responsive, empathetic and honest system of governance would be a direct product of a truly considerate, committed, dedicated and devoted education system. This is neither a cliché, nor an unattainable Utopia. This organic link is universally accepted and sincerely sustained for practically by most civilised nations. Those in positions of power and authority need to remain sensitive and persistently strive to remove every impediment that leads people to suffer unacceptable practices, throws them to the mercy of the corrupt, and eventually destroys their self-respect. Only those who honestly discharge their social and professional responsibilities in a transparent manner, can inspire younger generations. Only such persons could help reduce corruption and systemic malpractices.

The writer works in education and social cohesion. Views expressed are personal

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