(Mr. Shafi A. Athar, 54, was born in Khrew and completed his high school education at the Government High School in Khrew. He graduated from the Sri Pratap College Srinagar, and received a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). He was formerly the editor of the Urdu News Magazine, "Takbeer", and a columnist for the Greater Kashmir. He currently writes for the Rising Kashmir daily newspaper. He enjoys developing scripts for radio and TV programs.)
The Roots of Corruption
Corruption is not an isolated issue in our state. It is a way of life and it cannot be identified with a particular class of people. It has its roots in history. And an in depth analysis reveals that we the people are involved in scams, bigger or smaller, with of course a minuscule minority untouched by the menace.
Why should we restrict the meaning of corruption to draining of money from the state exchequer only? After all there have been areas where money was minted through other sources also. We cannot point our fingers on a particular section of people or officials for all ills in the society when people at large have contributed to the menace in the same proportion.
Refer to the recent period of autocratic rule. If we saw moral corruption by allowing and taxing the prostitution on one hand, we also saw corrupt officers who were given the task of realizing money and the agricultural produce from the hapless farmers. And to escape the wrath of such people like Tehsildar, Kotwal and the Zaildar people have paid through their blood and sweat. With the advent of so called democratic rule people could hardly save their skin from the men in power.
Mehjoor, the Poet of the Nation, was compelled by the events to write the sarcastic poem Azadi.
Steps are afoot to tackle the menace in a more effective way .If the grand old man of Indian civil society Anna Hazare is fighting his way on national level the state craft in J&K is proposing its own methods. The composition of state vigilance commission is on the cards and the process has begun. A process in the right direction. What could be the shape of things to come is to be seen and how effective the commission would be in the future to tackle the menace of corruption can’t be gauged at this moment. But some important issues crop up which have been experienced in the past and which need to be kept in mind while composition of such a commission.
Presently, the state vigilance organization is an all-police affair where key posts are held by the police officers with some support staff from engineering and legal departments. The main controversy regarding the functioning of the organization is that it has taken some steps in tackling the menace of corruption which have had very little impact on the society. The organization has failed on many counts than it has succeeded.
Since the organization is mainly police oriented it has taken very less steps to catch hold of police officers and a minuscule number of police officials both senior and junior level have been caught in net of the SVO.
The organization was mired in the controversy few years back when the then finance minister Tariq Qarra publicly accused the organization of targeting officers of one particular region and community. Notwithstanding the fact that the organization was accused of bias there have been many takers in the valley for such treatment. Officers from the valley have subtly raised the issue and accused the organization of arresting them on such issues while their counterparts from the Jammu region were subjected to the departmental enquiries only to dilute the complaints.
Going through the past practice of keeping the State Vigilance Commission in the hands of bureaucrats, serving or retired, may end up the formation of the commission as another toothless tiger which bites few unimportant and can’t hold the bigger fish within its claws. The bureaucrat manifested organization may again find its hand tied when it comes to the issues involving the officers or the public figures with whom they may have some kind of acquaintance. Having worked with same set of people over many years, against whom they may be required to investigate, can make them weaker.
The composition of the commission needs to be well thought over and not a grazing land for officers wielding influence in the corridors of power. The commission may preferably have a group of people manning the affairs who comprise of people from all walks of life including civil society. Corruption as such can’t be dealt with by a small group of people but societal level endeavour is required for the same.