CORRUPTION: NEXUS OF POLITICIANS, BIG CONTRACTORS, SUPPLIERS, BUSINESSMEN AND BUREAUCRATS

By Dhanabir Laishram
Source: 
The People's Chronicle (thepeopleschronicle.in) 
Manipur Times (www.manipurtimes.com)

In India people have been disillusioned with UPA I and UPA II. Under the economists Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission (all are famous economists) the country is facing uncertainty, fail to control price rice and confusion. Administration has collapsed. Rampant corruption is running the nation. The 2G scam, commonwealth Games scam, Adarsh housing colony scam are no bigger than the Coalgate scam where the Prime Minister is allegedly involved. The CBI is investigating the Coalgate scam under Supreme Court’s supervision. Miraculously and most unfortunately, 157 files related to Coal scam is missing. Where have the files gone? Coal ministry is not missing, office of coal ministry is not missing, Government is not missing, and then why the files are missing? Ironically the Prime Minister was the in charge of coal ministry in between 2006-2009, where all related files could not be found. The opposition has complained that – ‘to save the prime Minister files were kept hidden’. It is most unfortunate for a largest democratic country that record of the office is deliberately kept out of reach. This is indication of highly corruption in the country. Even in case of the state, some of the offices were burnt down in order to make missing of such files. Manipur is also one of them. What are values of RTI if the necessary files might be missing? 

Corruption is an olden predicament in the world. Every society faced from the evils of corruption in one form or the other. Corruption in the administrators both permanent and political executives have become a common phenomenon in every developing country, and India is not an exception to it. Political corruption cannot be studied separately from bureaucratic corruption, since the two phases are closely associated and, at a certain point, are cause and effect to each other. To embark upon the issue of corruption is also a difficult task. This is recorded by Kautiliya in his treatise of public administration dating back to fourth century B.C. He observed in his Arthasastra that:

Just as it is impossible not to taste the honey (or the poison) that finds itself at the tip of the tongue, so it is impossible for peoples in the government or government servant not to eat up, at least, a bit of the king’s revenue. Just as fish moving under water cannot possibly be found out either as drinking or not drinking water, so government servants employed in the government work cannot be found out (while) taking money (for themselves).

Corruption has a variety of meanings:

According to David H. Bayley, corruption is a general term covering misuse of authority as a result of considerations of personal gain, which need not be monetary.”

In the view of Jacob Van Klaveren, “Corruption means that a civil servant abuses his authority in order to obtain an extra income from the public.”

As defined by Robert C. Brooks, corruption is: “… the international misperformance or neglect of a recognised duty, or the unwarranted exercise of power, with the motive of gaining some advantage more or less directly personnel.”

J.S. Ney’s definition of corruption is very clear and includes every aspects of a corrupt act. He says “Corruption is a behaviour which deviates public officials from the normal duties. This includes such behaviour as bribery (use of reward to pervert the judgment of a person in a position of must); nepotism (bestowal of patronage by reason of ascriptive relationship rather than merit); and misappropriation (illegal appropriation of public resources for private uses).”

In India, lawmakers and legal experts have avoided for defining corruption. The bible of anti-corruption laws, the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1947, contains no definition although its definition of “criminal misconduct” in relation to civil servants appears to be quite comprehensive. Section 161 of the Indian Penal Code covers a vast territory dealing with erring public servants but it also fails to define corruption. To quote, “whoever, being or expecting to be a public servant accepts, or obtains, or agrees to accepts, or attempts to obtain from any person for himself or for any other person any gratification whatever other than legal remuneration as a motive or reward for doing or forbearing to do any official act, or for showing or forbearing to show, in the exercise of his official function, favour or disfavour to any person, or for tendering or attempting to render any services or disservice to any person, with the Central or any State government or Parliament or legislature of any state or with any local authority, corruption or government company referred to in Section 21, with any public servant as such, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”     

Mr. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India also said that the states acting as tax havens for illegal money were reluctant to share information as they were aware of the extent to which their economies had become geared to the flow of illegal capital from the poorer countries. Fifty-three per cent of the countries said to be least corrupt by Transparency International are offshore tax havens, where most of the corrupt money goes. The tax havens include New Zealand, ranked as the least corrupt country. Singapore ranked number five, and Switzerland, ranked number seven.

World Bank estimates of cross border flow of money from illegal activities and tax evasion is around $1.5 trillion, of which $40 billion is bribe paid to government servants in developing countries. Tracing, freezing, confiscation and repatriation of stolen assets is a cumbersome process because of differences in legal systems, high costs in coordinating investigations, inadequate international cooperation and bank secrecy laws.

Thus money come to the states is with full of care and debates. The debates are taken place as in between two devil advocates but more than that money was in the tax haven. This is your India. 

In Manipur also corruption poses a serious development challenge. Its effects on state’s politics, administration, and institutions are enormous. It has become a way of life. It erodes the institutional capacity of state government as procedures are disregarded, resources are siphoned off, and public offices are bought and sold. At the same time, corruption has also undermines the legitimacy of government and such democratic values as trust and tolerance.

Corruption in elections has also been a key issue in the state. Elections are a much fanfare like festival in Manipur. Different political parties show their strength, try to get more attention by creating fuss about small things. Although, Election Commission and its representatives are keeping watchful eyes on the activities of parties and their candidates, the idea is to prevent unethical practices like bribery, intimidation and also a misuse of office and power.  Unfortunately, these are not working. Moreover it led the situation more and more critical. If immediate corrective measures are not taken seriously by all concerned, the future of democracy will be more and more faded. In short democracy seems to be giving and taking of money not giving and taking of powers.

The economic trajectory being followed in the state is also one which necessarily embroils the entire political class in “corruption”. As we all know that the economy of the state has gradually been transformed on neo-liberal lines. But how is corruption linked to current economic trajectory? Neo-liberal reforms have made values pervasive; the force with which corruption has entered our public life has accordingly multiplied. The logic of free-market economy makes the political class the most significant practitioners of corruption. The point is that the entire discussion of the spreading neo-liberal values, the passion for money-making, the intrusion of commoditization into every sphere of life, all of which are integrally linked to our current economic trajectory, has receded into the background.

Now the main issue is accumulated discontentment among the masses from 1949 when the chief commissioner administered the part ‘c’ state Manipur to today’s Government. During that time all the head of departments of the offices were from outside Manipur. Shri Baleswar Prasad, the then chief commissioners & Lt. Governor and other officers, who didn’t injected the ideas of national character to the people of Manipur. Instead he taught corruption, bribery, favouritism and nepotism. The details of the corruption cases had been publishing in every issue of the Manipuri Monthly magazine “Lamyanba”. These were also highlighted in the Manipuri dailies like the Simanta Patrika, the Khollao, and the Prazatantra etc. There were seven such cases against Shri Baleswar Prasad involving Rs 950; Rs 44,800, Rs 5,000, Rs 70,000, Rs 1,30,000, Rs 40,000 and Rs 1,50,000 respectively. One could find three such cases also against Shri Kalyan Sundaram, Secretary (Finance) and Head of Department, Manipur State Transport involving Rs44, 000, Rs 40,000, Rs 7,000 respectively. ( Lamyanba, October 1969pp 23,26, Nov. pp 28-29,1970 issue, For Shri Kalyan Feb,1970 issue pp 25-28, April pp 27-29, May pp26-29). These had made a discourteous shock to the Manipuris. Even today Manipur State Transport can’t exist because of malpractice and corruption taught by outsider’s officers. The same culture was spreading throughout all the departments of Manipur. 

What could the Manipuris do in these cases? The executives were the emissaries of the central Government. Even there was large-scale reaction from educated youths that Shri Prasad tried to misappropriate nearly one crore of Rupees of Public money by making a grand massive mobilization of many battalions of the C.R.P.F and Assam Rifle. This new method of corruption was done in the purchase of all necessary equipments of these forces. The same attitudes, believes and emotion are deeply rooted to our bureaucrats and his subordinate staffs.

The same trend was followed by Moirang Koireng, the first Chief Minister of Union Territory of Manipur. Koireng and his congress party was charged by the people of that time that they were for the big landlords, black marketers, profiteers and capitalist not for the poor people. One member of Legislative Assembly tabled a photograph showing Shri M. Koireng and some other Congress MLAs took drinks (Alchohol) with big Marwari businessmen (see Defection in Manipur p 19). During his time there was no security of life and property in the hill areas. There was food scarcity due to weak policy of Koireng Government. In the State Trading some five thousand mounds of rice were lost. They didn’t supply sufficient food to the people. They also failed to enforce the procurement policy of food as they wanted to protect the black marketers. Moreover there was no good constructive plan of Agriculture.

Due to failure of crops harvesting for three consecutive years the people had no food for two meals a day. In 1965 hungry students marched to the CM and Chief Commissioner demanding for supply of food grains. There was police firing over the students hunger marchers and five persons were killed as a result of the firing. Prices of all commodities rose unchecked and people could not afford to consume even the basic needs. There were allegations of corruption everywhere in every Government offices. All loans were alleged to have been given to congress workers and relatives of the Ministers.    

With the heavy burden of unemployment, economic backwardness, exploitation by big business class, denial of Manipuris at the top ranking post in the administration, Foreigners problem, political culture of non value base politics, and problems of rampant corruption, Manipur attained fully fledged statehood in January 1972 by the maximum efforts of the people   and all the political parties of Manipur after 23 years from 1949. During the periods of Md. Alimudin, Yangmasho Shaiza, R.K. Dorendra, Rishang Keising, Ranbir Sana, Nupamacha, Radha Binod were so busy in the game of Music and chair for political powers. Maximum of them could not utilize money for the economic development of the masses. They always returned a huge amount of money to the centre from their plan allocation. It indicated the incompetence of Ministers and officials. But during that times, there were schools without roofs and walls, even no common medicines in the government dispensaries, the roads were not maintained and no supply of foods in the hill and remote areas of valley.

In 1982 some of the opposition members tabled Rs 7, 89, 80,128.64 alleged to be misused by the government Rs 1,33,72,250.00 in Medical Department, Rs 4,84,11,580.82 in Electricity, Rs84,90,985.00 in Industry, Rs 7,98,220.55 in Civil Supply and Rs 79,06092.27 in Education. That means corruption was more and more rooted in the administration of each of the successive governments. 

In order to ensure speedy economic development of Manipur, the state government had approached to the centre to provide enough funds for improving all the small roads of hills and all the high ways of Manipur eg. From Imphal to Moreh, Imphal to Jiribam, and Imphal- Aizawl roads. But still all of them are in worsening condition. Some industrial units were also opened in Manipur i.e. Manipur Electronics, Manipur Spinning Mills Corporation, Khalsari Sugar Factory, Silk reeling and spinning factory, Mini cement factory of Hundung and Manipur Agro Industries corporation Ltd. Besides, there were paper mill and Mechanised Dye House. But today all of them are gradually vanishing from people’s sight. Even today’s government didn’t have a single bus plying as city Bus in Manipur.   

In short Manipur is characterized by ineffective, unaccountable and corrupt government. The TII-CMS India Corruption Study 2007 and 2008 found that Assam and Nagaland have an alarming rate of corruption. The study described Meghalaya and Sikkim as very highly corrupt states, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur as highly corrupt states, while Mizoram and Tripura are having moderate level of corruption. Interestingly, the survey also found that bribes are being given not to gain any personal benefits for unlawful activities but rather for services legally guaranteed to the citizens through the public institutions. For example, respondents paid bribes to get a bed in the hospital and to avail diagnostic service and for medicine. The same goes for getting a new electricity connection, rectifying a faulty meter, for installation and maintenance of hand pumps, repair of water pipe and regularization of unauthorized connection. Police are paid for filing a complaint and for issuing of character certificate. Even, movement of files from table to table in the government office has been charged a sum amount like Rs 50 to Rs 100.

These are the parts of the history of the Government of our and your Manipur. Recently, you have heard that one officer of PWD Dept, was also beaten up by one MLA and shooting of advocate general by Minister. That means there is conflict between permanent executives and temporary executives. In that situation how they can have span of control, unity of command, cooperation and coordination in their administration. In other words, the main issue is that without integrity within the political society how one could expect partnership with civil society. Nevertheless we have better to see the India’s initiatives for good governance partnership with civil society and how it could be applied to Manipur.

Now the question is that have we made them to remain as it has, because of that we need to see some of remedies of corruption. Before that some of the causes could be mention here:

1.         Lack of national character, which can’t be injected by education and training in the mindsets of the civil servants.
2.         Irregularities of salaries.
3.         Collection of funds through officials.
4.         Poor public opinion.
5.         Unwillingness of the people to complain against corrupt officials due to lack of education, right to information act and genuine desire on the part of better placed people to eliminate corruption.
6.         Ineffective action against corrupt officials.
7.         Double standard of conduct, one for the officials and another for the politicians.
8.         Political leaders didn’t try to bring corrupt officials to book because they seem to involve more than them.
9.         The tortuous and costly judicial procedure.
10.       Charging huge amount of money in case of employment

This can be discussed under the following headings:

Historical Causes: In the Manipur society, intrinsic social values are really commendable. People possess national characters like hard working, sincerity, punctuality, discipline, sacrificing spirit and firm determination. But all are vanished when they were ruled by alien forces like British and India. It seems to them as shifting of ownerships by force. So from the very beginning they didn’t give positive response to the rulers. In the latter part it becomes culture. Basically in the colonial administration, all superior and important positions were filled in by British and outside people and they were paid handsomely. Lower post was offered to Manipuris. Salaries to these posts were very low. So they indulged in corrupt practices.

Environmental Causes: The next important cause of corruption in Manipur is people’s mindset in the fast urbanization where material possessions, position and economic power determine the status and prestige of a person in the society. Since salaries are low and inflation is unabated, poor civil servants fall easy to corrupt practices in order to keep status in the society.

Economic Causes: In Manipur, usually, government didn’t pay salary in time, it is so irregular. Even some of the departments didn’t pay salary more than one year. Many numbers of casual and contract employees are serving in office. So, inadequate remuneration and rising cost of living is probably one of the most important causes of corruption. Another notable factor is that in the market of globalization each of the individual is compel to buy any commodities sold out in the market. Such economic necessity has encouraged those who had the opportunities to succumb to temptations.

Feeble Reaction of the Masses Against the Corruption: In Manipur one may find strong public opinion against human rights violation and anti people policies but maximum numbers of our people have no tendency to fight corruption instead they offer bribes to get their illegitimate claims accepted. For employment they are thronging to ministers’ quarters and bribe for their son and daughters even for relatives.

Inadequate Laws to Deal with Corruption: Indian Penal Code and other laws which deal with corruption cases are outmoded and provide insufficient penalties. It takes too much time to get a corrupt official punished under the laws. Summery trials and stricter punishment should be awarded to end corruption. So laws will have to be changed accordingly.

Undue Protection Given to the Public Services in India: Article 311 of the Indian constitution which provides protection to civil servants, as interpreted by our courts, makes it difficult to deal effectively with corrupt public servants. Reluctance of higher officials to take disciplinary action against corrupt officials due to their collusion with them has further aggravated the situation.

Collusion of big Contractors, Suppliers, and Businessman to Serve their Individual Interest: Big contractors, Suppliers, Businessman grease the palms of civil servants in order to get undue favours from them. Sometimes they share a portion of their ill-earned profit with the government servants.


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