Remember the controversial appointment of Lt. Gen. Bipin Rawat as the Indian Army Chief bypassing two seniors in 2016? While there is nothing to prove the exact nature of this appointment, Shiv Aroor wrote in 2016 how “lobbying with bureaucrats or the political class for military promotions and appointments has been a practice since independence.”
In 2015, the country went berserk with political appointments as key positions in at least 14 institutions were filled by the NDA government drawing sharp criticism from Amartya Sen on the “extraordinarily large” interference of the government in academia.
In 2016, the BJP national vice president and in-charge of Jammu & Kashmir was appointed a member of the National Human Rights Commission, which human rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan termed “decimation of accountability institutions.”
In India, the Governor’s office has always been a political tool in the hands of the ruling government in the centre to dictate over the federal states. But the politicization of the army, academic institutions, justice and rights commissions has led to the gross destruction of democratic principles and a sovereign voice of the country’s people.
In Nagaland, the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party is following close on the heels of its alliance partner. While several political appointments have already been made to reward those who worked to bring the parties to power, the State Vigilance Commissioner’s appointment last week has crossed several lines. Objections have been raised from many quarters, including the opposition and anti-corruption bodies, over the past week on the nature of this appointment—not because the person in question is not capable but because the appointment in question is political, threatening to destroy the already-limited capacity of the State Vigilance Commission.
According to the web page on which information about the Nagaland State Vigilance Commission was last updated on April 9, 2016, the Nagaland State Vigilance Commission was established in 1976. The Vigilance & Anti-corruption Police under the State Vigilance Commission is empowered to inquire into or investigate into complaints of corruption, misconduct and misdemeanours of the public servants for omissions and commissions of offences in discharging their duties.
But this investigation does not happen unless the State Government so permits. Given this critical handcuff, the SVC can become a great tool of political gain and vendetta. Bringing in someone from the ruling political party, even if he resigns from the party at this point, to the SVC’s highest post is a decimation of the principles of accountability and justice on which any anti-corruption body should be hinged.
Corruption has plagued every stream of governance in Nagaland. Several tall and small people’s movements have cropped up in the past decade to address this critical issue. RTIs have been filed, committees have been constituted, rallies have been taken out, state wide consultations have been done. From across the state, people have cried out against corrupt practices that have cost people lives and limbs—hospitals remain without doctors, schools without teachers, and doctors and teachers without pay. That most of these movements are in the throes of crisis shows how the battle against corruption is not easily fought, or won.
Whether the current appointment is undone or not, it is obvious that political parties have developed an autocratic edge and are bent on maneuvering democratic institutions to their whims. People’s movements need to step up and set them straight; to hold the SVC and every other state institution accountable to those they belong to, the people.
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