EDITORIAL: Vocal Silence

It could not have been due to sheer ignorance and no it could not have been due to sheer arrogance either, but the silence maintained by the common people of Manipur when the whole country was tuned into the voice of protest led by social activist and Gandhian Anna Hazare for a more effective Lok Pal Bill  is simply astounding. This is all that more so given the fact that the Hazare wave had started knocking on the doors of Aizawl and Kohima after sweeping Assam and other neighboring States.

Was it due to some communication gap or were the people of Manipur caught on the wrong foot and were shocked into silence just by the sheer task of combating an activity as “simple as greasing the palms of the powers that be” or have we become so insulated that no man made crisis can seep through our self imposed “bamboo curtains” and give us that “time out” rap on the knuckle? Either way, the seeming indifference of the people to an issue as sensitive and far touching as corruption, is oddly annoying and disturbing. Lest we forget, corruption has been one of the more important factors for the sorry state of affairs here and it is confusing to see the common people being so indifferent to an issue, which otherwise should have shaken the very foundation of the system.

Maybe, this part of the world believes that a social activist like Anna Hazare is a relic from the past, an extinct lot, who just does not fit the description of a social activist as we understand it. The fast has been called off, but Hazare has made his stand clear and that is, the people are sick and tired of the system, which panders only to the well connected and moneyed class, and where the language understood is only the language of money and muscle power. That Hazare has called off his fast as of today, following the capitulation by the Congress led UPA Government is another matter, but the lesson of greater importance which should not be lost on those manning the affairs of the State, is that they cannot fool all the people all the time. Someone will surely come out to bell the cat, a la Wikileaks? after all the noise have been cut out and there is no better teacher than history to lecture us on this fact/possibility.

Given the political culture of the land, it should not come as a surprise that many in Delhi are not in favor of giving more teeth to the Lok Pal Bill. The Opposition parties, with all their lung powers put together, are not any better and the best we can expect from them is some symbolic backing and behind the scene activities which reek of plots and sub-plots, of political intrigues, horse trading and all that which we usually do not put up for public display, ostensibly not to offend anyone or cause a riot. There is nothing original or even remotely connected to something creative, when a Mr. Advani or a Prakash Karat or an Arun Jaitely or a Madam Sushma Swaraj, take to the stand and come out with a series of graft allegations against the Government. It is nothing more than a case of the pot calling the kettle black and given this dicey situation, do not be surprised if the AGP’s offensive against the Congress in Assam, especially on graft charges, backfires and does more harm than good. Too much of a Holy Cow attitude can come to mean that they are cutting off the very branch on which they sit.

In other words, corruption has become so endemic and so pervasive that it is not seen as an exception but rather as something which one will have to take along, if one wants to move one’s file or documents on the officer’s table. It would require more than just this write up or some years in research to map the growth trajectory of corruption in India from the days of Nehru down to the present. Maybe a model may be worked out, which seeks to portray the law of ‘diminishing returns’  being applied to corruption and the smear campaigns that come along with these models, without fail.

Manipur is aware of the evils of corruption. Everyone talks about it. One can hear the price of the post of a Sub-Inspector in the State Police Department being quoted somewhere in the region of Rs 8 to 10 lakhs. If this is the acceptable price then one just need to close one’s eye and calculate the amount of money changing hands, each time, the Government decides to upgrade its man power, through new recruitments, and here we are not talking only about the Police Department. Each contract or supply work come with its share of extra-baggage in the form of percentage cuts, pleasing all by greasing their palms and of course loads of chamchagiri.

It is in such a situation that Manipur slept through the time when the country as one joined hands and unitedly rose to say enough is enough against corruption. The Lok Pal Bill, in its present form, is nothing more than a paper tiger, lacking teeth and bite so much so, that with each passing year, the feeling of complete helplessness and the impression that the main job of the Government is to draft bills and enact laws to ensure the immunity of the political class from any sort of public scrutiny, much less entertain a criminal charge, begins to grow in strength and dimension. For the moment, the UPA Government has managed to buy peace, but this cannot be the solution at any cost. The Nation needs a change, a change in its truest sense of the term, and not the gathering of some wordsmiths to string together a number of words and sentences, which make no sense to the common people, but appear to satisfy those who drafted it as well as those who will okay it.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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