Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Is Structural Corruption Inherent in a Capitalist Society?

Maroof believes corruption cannot be eradicated in a democratic polity so long as it is dispensed by an entrenched ruling elite. Maroof's article is followed by an editorial on ways to address corruption

(Dr. Muhammad Maroof Shah, 32, was born in Kunan, Bandipore. He has pursued a career in veterinary medicine and animal husbandry, completing Bachelors's degree in veterinary sciences (BVSc) at the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences and Animal Husbandry (FVSc & AH), Shuhama campus of the Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Kashmir (SKUAST-K), and MA English through the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). He is presently posted as a Veterinary Assistant Surgeon (VAS) at the Government Sheep Breeding Farm in Dachigam. Dr. Shah is the author of two books, and has lectured as a visiting fellow at the Jaipur University on Western Philosophy. In his leisure time he pursues studies in comparative religion, philosophy and literature.)Corruption debate: What it misses?

Corruption is not just bribery and we need a redefinition of it to tackle the menace. Where lies precise locus of corruption and what constitutes it need to be well understood. Let me venture a broader definition of it as misuse of public money or resources by wrong policies or wrong implementation and this involves everything connected with these things such as wrong basis of recruitment to public office, class based economy, wage structure, structure of judiciary etc.

Corruption is so deep rooted and so pervasive that very few are able to sight it and thus all steps to tackle it fall far too short of achieving the target. Corruption is a worldwide phenomenon and if it is not so prominent in certain countries reasons should be sought in indirect and sponsored corruption that affects colonised or economically less privileged nations. Switzerland is, for instance, cited as clean state but it is the hub of big banks that provide safe heaven to black money stolen by the rich in many a developing countries and play vital role in sustaining the politics of foreign aid and essentially unethical unjust interest based financing structure. I analyse modern Indian polity and political economy from aam admi centric perspective to argue that the central cause of corruption is wrong self definition that is at the heart of market driven consumerist culture created by individualist capitalist enterprise that India has been increasingly embracing. We need to note, however, that pre-liberalisation license raj had not been really pro-people for reasons which protagonists of liberalisation largely ignore. Lack of accountability in public sector enterprises that was the cause of their disrepute and “justification” for increasing privatisation is itself a form of corruption that the State both tolerates and sponsors as demanded by those forces that run the show behind the scene.

Most of us assume that causes of corruption are known but this is precisely one important factor that explains why corruption goes on unabated. One important cause that I shall highlight because others are well known is the structure of so-called democracy that we so uncritically admire. The whole structure of Indian democracy is tilted towards the wrong side that ensures corruption in polity shall be the norm. To begin with, there is no entrance test, no qualification – moral or intellectual – as prerequisite for the most important job of governance. There are no academies for training politicians and hardly any effective institutions that can hold them accountable for wrong policies or wrong implementation. Judiciary, contrary to popular belief, is an organ of the State that implements laws that are fundamentally unjust because complicit with class interests of the ruling elite and this explains why there is no justice for the poor who can’t pay for it or because no law can give them protection against the tyranny inherent in the institutions that the state embodies. If there were indeed any pro-people judiciary most Indian politicians and thousands of corrupt bureaucrats would have been hanged by now. There are few exemplary statesmen in the whole of modern Indian history as is recognised by almost all of us when we spontaneously identify politics with dirty game and the politician with power hungry selfish person. We have been led to believe that we must have powerful political parties to run democracy. This is a myth. We need to ponder why all kinds of fair and foul means are being used by all kinds of people to get membership and mandates or important portfolios in party management.

There is structural corruption in democratic polity and it can’t be overcome as long as ruling elite manages to indoctrinate people regarding its indispensability and need of party system while managing to keep most people politically uneducated or even illiterate (how many Indians know their rights or how to get basic guarantees promised in the Constitution, understand the logic of bureaucratism or working of economy or political economy?) How can masses judge and see through the games vote bank politics plays? The basic fact is people are not, generally speaking, represented by their elected candidates. If they were there would have been no interest based banking that mostly extracts the blood of the poor for feeding the rich, no private schools and private hospitals, little debt of foreign or international financing institutions (our debt runs into billions of dollars and we had little need, to begin with, to take foreign aid, very few market commodities as most things could be supplied to public through nonmarket mechanisms, no rhetoric of progress that has destroyed our environment, our organic farming methods, our health and our traditional economy that took care of environment and our moral-spiritual well being also, no exploitation of our lack for huge profit by the companies, few personal cars but better public transport, no need to hire expensive halls for marriage and similar functions, no need of hotels that fleece indigenous citizens for providing accommodation as the State can provide it for all the travellers – to mention only few of the services and goods denied to ordinary people that a well meaning state could provide but is not providing as this would mean hurting the interests of those controlling money power. It is the rich who hire politicians by managing the drama of elections. Market driven party politician administered economy is the basic cause of corruption.

Cure is restructuring economy, saying no to market as far as possible, implementing constitutional guarantees which would mean aam admi’s right to healthcare, quality education, justice, and access to job. Proper medical education or awareness of public and proper spending on balanced nutrition would significantly reduce incidence of diseases and thus need to spend on health care as was the case few decades before when organic home grown food was mostly available. Heavy taxing of obese people, smokers and addicts would finance much of public spending on healthcare.

Little has been done to ensure the health of cooperative sector. Corrupt officers have been tolerated if not actively sponsored to allow many other industries and public enterprises to rot. Educational system has not been designed to develop local skilled labour. Corruption has been tolerated in police department to allow moral fabric to degenerate and to promote drug culture. Public sector has been deliberately ignored to allow private schools and educational institutions, private clinics and hospitals to proliferate which further erode any fellow feeling between people.

I would suggest overhauling present educational system for the long terms solution to the issue of corruption. Students should be taught why the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer, why our environment and traditional agriculture is destroyed for the sake of money, what happens to our money supposedly spent for our welfare, who really elects people and how huge election funds are created from wealthy industrialists that are ultimately repaid by the politician when in power. The cost of progress and the cancer of consumerism need to be taught as the value of cooperatives for defeating market fundamentalism which really breeds religious or ethnic fundamentalisms or violence. Everything should be debated threadbare. Today moral education is not a focus in school education as the ethics that dominant economic system wishes to be propagated is incompatible with it. All the institutions from army to market and banking need thorough appraisal from the perspective of public good and we need to evolve a moral critique of such fashionable ideas as growth, progress, national interest, if we intend to save ourselves from the menace of corruption. Nothing less than total revolution will one day bring an end to corruption and for that we need to educate the ignorant exploited majority and organise all our resources for bringing this slowly and silently by strengthening nonmarket alternatives, self mastery and self sufficiency.

Corruption Cure

The widespread support evoked by Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption crusade augurs well for the prospects of such public campaigns. Jammu and Kashmir, where corruption has assumed monstrous proportions over the years, is in dire need of measures to root out the menace. Earlier efforts in this regard have gone vain primarily for want of transparency in the administration.

With the rot running deep, the officials have been mute spectators to the corruption and nepotism around them. In the name of action, while small fishes are caught the big sharks of corruption are let off. It is indeed not good enough to trap somebody taking Rs 5000 when somebody taking in lakhs is roaming free. The influential persons, who are caught taking bribe, enjoy virtual immunity. The key to address this problem effectively is to ensure that no culprit, howsoever influential, is spared. Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah has been vocal in advocating tough measures to combat corruption. He has already suggested appointment of full-time departmental vigilance officer for all such departments which are prone to corruption. The vigilance officers can keep a constant eye on the ground. It can serve as a starting point to check the corrupt practices in the administration. The failure of successive governments to tackle rampant corruption has meant that it has become institutionalized in many respects. It has almost become a requisite for getting a piece of work done in government offices. There is a sort of inertia that has crept into the offices where nothing moves till there are some illegal gratifications to be made. According to a Transparency International survey, the nations who are relatively corruption-free like New Zealand, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland, their clean image reflects political stability, long-established conflict of interest regulations and solid functioning public institutions. These are the very factors which Kashmir has been unfortunately lacking very badly. The daily struggle of people with corruption tells upon the public confidence in the administration. The successive governments have been making tall claims about good governance, but it is impossible to think of good or clean governance if corruption remains rampant.

Omar has the opportunity to reform the administrative system so that the corrupt elements are isolated. By acting tough against corrupt officials, he can set a deterrent for others. The chief minister also has the opportunity at hand to rid J&K of the ‘second most corrupt state’ tag. While people too cannot absolve themselves of the responsibility to discourage bribery, the buck starts and stops at the government. True, corruption cannot be eradicated through magic wand overnight, but it can be substantially minimized by adopting transparency in the administration.
(Rising Kashmir)

No comments: