In a Time Warp

Imphal Free Press
June 22 2011

In the time warp that Manipur is caught in, nothing which is happening all around the country and the world seems to matter. No issue it also seems is worth consideration except those that it has been fixated on for a long time now, such as the increasingly sickening hill-valley territory tussle. So while the entire country rages on the issue of the Jan Lokpal Bill to be designed by prominent citizens to control official corruption, Manipur remains blissfully unconcerned although in spirit, though not in volume, it must remain one of the most corrupt states in the country. Little or nothing can make government files move without corruption. Every recruitment to government jobs has a price tag, and those who manage it without paying are those too brilliant to be left out without making it obvious corruption was the key to success. In the past, in opinion surveys after surveys, in talks shows after talk shows, so many supposedly enlightened citizens had come out in the open with airs of feigned disdain that corruption was at the roots of most of the state’s problems, including the insurgency in the land which has now come to be considered in every conceivable circle, activist and academic, as imminently intractable. Yet, when the iron is hot and opportunity knocks, none of those who have been advocating this view all along is bothered to come forward and do the needful to try and make the difference.

The rest of the country is out to fight corruption because it destroys the nation’s economy. If the Indian economy is too big and powerful to be destroyed so easily, what it certainly does is to prevent it from being what it could have been. Various speculations put it that black money volume generated in the country could be as much as 40 percent of the national economy, so that if this money was to become tax accounted, India’s already sizeable economy could be much bigger. There are big time thieves, as we all witnessed in various scandals such as in the 2G allocation and Commonwealth Games cases, unfolding over national television and newspapers, but apart from these there are also millions of smaller scale and very low profile thieveries happening everywhere in the country. Small proprietorship businesses get away with dodged income taxes easily, and the speculation is that the accumulated losses from these would be several hundred times that of what the big time high profile thieves steal from the national coffer.

In Manipur, which today virtually has come to live on doles and grants from the Union government, the issue is different. It is not so much about a destruction of the economy, for much of the money “poured” into the state is unearned, and would in any case come no matter what the ground level performance by the state’s guardians and the bureaucratic monolith. The issue on the other hand is one of a moral degradation and the murder of healthy competition. The harm the first does is a matter of opinion and conviction, but the devastation the latter can cause is a universally accepted truth. Killing competition invariably amounts to contaminating and even destroying the fountainhead of creative energy. Just one example should illustrate. About three decades ago, the medical selection tests were a den of corruption. One year, test results had to be even cancelled as exam answer scripts were found used as wrappers in a tea stall close to the medical directorate even before the results were declared. Only children who more often than not were spoilt and had very poor academic records, but lucky to be of rich parents who could afford to buy these seats, were selected, leaving talented but poor students to walk away disappointed to lick their wounds in silence and helpless anger. At least the medical selection process has been somewhat cleansed, giving back hope to all talented competitors, rich and poor alike. The control of corruption has indeed amounted to the return of a very healthy egalitarianism. But this is still not so in so many other departments of the government, thus they continue to exclude the poor even if very talented, from entering their ranks. The cost for this should not be difficult to imagine. Look at the number of absolutely useless, half literate government employees from the past burdening the state. These include numerous school and college teachers who cannot even write a single sentence correctly, much less hold the fort arguing or developing an idea till their logical conclusion. The harm this has done to generations of youth from the state cannot be pardonable. But the truth is, corruption continues to slow poison our society and few are ready to do anything about it.

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